Friday, 30 November 2012

Burger & Shake [Launch Review]

I was honoured to be asked along to the Burger & Shake launch last night for a feast of milkshakes, burgers (unsurprisingly), lobster rolls and wings. They have set up shop opposite the Brunswick Centre just down from Russel Square tube in a little unit just down from The Marquis Cornwallis pub at 47 Marchmont Street.


Monday, 26 November 2012

Pitt Cue Co: Still a BBQ Champion

This post is almost redundant as Pitt Cue is not new, has a million and one reviews and is widely accepted as one of the best BBQ places in town (not a huge amount of quality competition to be fair). So why the post? Well, I've been a fan of Pitt Cue since the days under Hungerford Bridge and visited it numerous times the first few months after it opened. Due to work finishing times and busy weekends, I hadn't been back for quite a while and so thought a view as to how it is settling down may be in order.

Pitt Cue has navigated all the major issues of a new-opener. Waiting list system is locked-down, bar service upstairs is slick and the turnaround of punters is kept fairly quick as to facilitate maximum face stuffing by the number of London's carnivores. The buzz has died but the loyal and curious still flock to the doors. It has become a favourite, a staple, a solid choice; rather than 'that place you have to try near Carnaby street that has that huge queue'. The menu is becoming more adventurous and the guys behind the scenes are having a ball rearing their own piggies just for the joint. The quality of the food remains incredibly high.
Pitt Cue - Sunday 11:55am: The queuing begins

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Wenlock and Essex: 30 Very Good Reasons

Burger season is upon us it seems and in a bid to out-do each other some of the Big Names have stepped up their game.

The latest to throw their hat into the ring is James Morgan of the Wenlock and Essex. Some lucky people may remember him as the kitchen behind the Two Nights Only events that created the infamous 40 Burger early this year. That burger supposedly involved 100 people in its conception and even the pickles were hand collected from Boston itself. Excessive food-miles if there ever was, but so worth it for a few extra inches to sea-levels. Recently he has unleashed the 30 burger. Thirty day dry-aged beefyness with a 30% fat content and only available for a month. Although its nearing the end of its run, the point of this review is to publicise the quality of James' cooking and his knowledge of how to deliver a great end product. There's even rumours of another special burger in the works so keep an eye on this one.
30 Burger - Oh the joy

CASK Pub and Kitchen: Missing Oomph

CASK pub had recently come onto my radar and a friend dragged me there despite setting my eyes on having ramen on one of the few free weekdays I have had recently. I'm always game for a good burger (as this blog does and will continue to attest to), and so we made the trek to a slightly baron part of Pimlico to see what these guys could do.

The outside of the pub is a rather grotty 1960's-style monstrosity, its interior having had an overhaul along the way. CASK, as the name betrays, is just as focused on its impressive selection of beers as it is on their burgers, served up by a group calling themselves 'Forty Burgers'. The bar-front is full of a myriad of pumps, with more on offer in the way of bottles. There is something for every taste and I would readily go back just for a tasting. Commercially cross selling of selected beers with certain dishes/burgers could be leveraged to a greater extent. Now this post should have a disclaimer that they haven't been serving burgers all that long and readily admitted on twitter that they are listening to comments and tweaking the specifics. Which is all rather refreshing considering what can happen to a blogger these days.


Monday, 5 November 2012

Burger Breakout: Close to perfection

I'd been looking forward to coming to Burger Breakout for a month due to missing their opening due to work commitments. I'd heard frankly outstanding things from some serious burger fans and my expectations were set pretty high the night I managed to get over to Holborn.

Dave Ahern is the head chef at the Old Crown Public House and has made a culinary journey that mirrors my own imagined path through life. A respected food writer turned chef in early middle-age, he put down his pen and snide remarks about smears and foams and put on a apron. I've read his blog all the way through and felt a certain kinship with someone who finally had to balls to get behind a grill and see if he could do it better. 

Old Crown Public House

Chisou: Exceptional sushi, for London

Despite the recent burger revolution in london, sushi is something that people immediately conjure in their heads when you say you are a food-lover. Japanese food has been, and continues to be, something that is fawned and obsessed over by food-porn addicts across the world. The superlatively clean flavours, the expert use of salt, sour and umami that transcends anything traditional Western cooking Larousse or Bocuse could ever concoct. The gap has been narrowed in the recent years with the Spanish and pioneering British chefs transforming the food landscape and challenging long-held beliefs. The Japanese however have been plating up food like this for hundreds of years and modern day sushi is the embodiment of their search for perfection through simplicity. 

With nigiri there is no where to hide. It is just the delicately seasoned rice and the fish put in front of a customer and it is this unapologetically transparent 'cooking' that has always spoken to me.

Chisou is a favourite of my mother's, who lived in Tokyo for several years before me and my siblings were born. Truly authentic sushi is almost impossible to come by in London and although Chisou does not fulfill that brief in the strictest sense; what is does deliver is exceptional quality and so far, incredibly reliable. It is owned by a husband and wife team, one half of which is Japanese. They used to found front of house but have been absent in recent years. Their replacement is an Indian gentlemen that has the staff on a such a tight lease that the atmosphere has suffered. Japanese places always have exceptional service but I always like when there are glimpses of personality that shine through. Chisou unfortunately lacks this individual touch and is too mechanic.

Fried baby octopuses

Sunday, 4 November 2012

London Markets Tour: Kerb, Berwick, Real Food Festival

Working as I do over in Canary Wharf, I am in a street-food wasteland. There is one Wahaca van and a market once a month that is so full, crowd surfing above a sea of suits ad ties is the only way to get across it. In general, the only time I get tasty lunchtime treats are on weekends. Enough was enough and I took Friday off work in order to partake in a bit of a London tour and visit some of the major markets in London.

Kerb was the first on the hit list with some great traders due to be serving that day. The better half and I neglected breakfast in order to make the most room for the feast that awaited. Unfortunately a freak issue with power meant that when we arrived at 11:30am, we were told that it wouldn't be until 12 that we could eat. Safe to say I wasn't the most popular boyfriend right then.

Everything we ate was between £3-7. Overall it was a pricey day but then again most people don't eat like I do. For the experience, extra engagement with traders and friendliness of everyone we met, the value is superb.

We started off with  fiodena from the fabulous Gurmetti boys. A toasted and crispy foccacia with wafer thin wild ham and onion jam. Such a great sandwich on a cold day like this. The ham had bags of flavour and the fatty slivers that hung out the sides were gobbled without mercy. The onion jam was sweet and so moreish. Sharing was difficult. A photographer for the Evening Standard was taking pictures of London markets and yours truly may be in the paper next week receiving the below beauty from the boys from Parma and Turin (UPDATE: I wasn't :/).
Gurmetti boys

Franco Manca: Definitely Not Sour

I've been to Franco Manca's several times without blogging, both in Brixton and also in its recently opened Clapham Junction venue. Its has been widely praised in both the mainstream media and food bloggerati. It is famous for its soft chewy sourdough bases and simple, high quality toppings.

The owners Giuseppe Mascoli and Bridget Hugo opened in the enclosed Brixton market in 2008 at a time when London could really do with a smile and the joy a great pizza brings. They have brought sourdough to the masses and have turned those used to crispy but flavourless crusts, back into the light. Today, with four venues and a growing fan base, the dough is still made with the military precision that it was in 2008 and the ingredients still sourced with care. Prices may have risen over the years but at between £6-8, its still amazing value.

The pizzas are cooked in a brick oven at 500 degrees and take a mind-numbing 40 seconds to cook. This is basically as close to Naples as you are likely to get while sipping your organic lemonade and sitting next to a couple that fell through a Jack Wills catalogue.

Chorizo and mozzarella pizza

Alyn Williams at The Westbury

The Westbury is one of the fairly grand hotels of London tucked away in side streets just off Regent Street. I am not usually a fan of hotel joints as they seem a little stifled in their creativity and act merely as bolt-on of the hotel itself like an attraction. As high quality hotel restaurants go, The Westbury is fairly standard. Dark shiny wooden panelling, beige cushioned couches, soft lighting, black hole-like atmosphere and old men dining with impossibly beautiful young women. These places serve a specific clientele and something that I enjoy in strict moderation. The venues lack individuality and become a blur of floor to ceiling wine racks and oak cheese trolleys.

That being said, Alyn Williams is another Marcus Wearing protege (see James Knappet at Bubbledogs), which immediately excites as Mr Wearing is known for his impossibly high standards. The cooking is an array of techniques, colour, and clean precise flavours. However, it lacks the joy and passion that Knappet clearly displays over at KT. The tasting menu we had started great but faltered as the evening wore on. Still, it was a great display of Alyn's skills.

While enjoying a £12 gin and tonic we were brought blue cheese pastry puffs that were rather heavenly and if I'm honest, I may have had about 6. The house bread was hit and miss, the soda bread was great but the aniseed bread with caraway butter was far too overpowering and unsuited with its flavours and felt a little odd to begin a meal with.

Cheese puffs.