Thursday, 31 December 2009

Out with the Noughties and hello to the One-ders.

An optimist is an ill-informed pessimist, so on that account alone 2010 can only be a stonking one. Happy New Year everyone!

Saturday, 26 December 2009

A Fairytale of NW6

The walk to Kilburn from Marble Arch took an hour and a bit (thankfully I was given a lift from Islington to W1). On arrival Msmarmitelover confounded me by saying that it only takes her half the time! Hell all that performance-enhancing properties of the turtle blood soup diet I’ve been having in China was a waste of time, nah I don’t believe her, and she’s obviously Lindsay Wagner in disguise.

Fact (and thus sobs)- I’ve never had an actual home-cooked turkey dinner during Christmas, ever. I’ve always fantasised about mimicking Bob Hoskins' character in Felicia's Journey to cook an entire turkey just for one person but as fantasies go I think of myself as being too much of a chicken to do so. Anyway after the past three years solo-dining kebabs on Christmas Day, MsMarmitelover insisted that I should stop this self-inflicted lack of joie de vivre and pop around sa maison instead. Biased I may sound, but let’s be honest who gives a floss, the evening was wonderfully delightful. It was to me a homecoming triumph. The delicious food served was endless and made mockery of one of the seven deadly sins. The salmon en croûte was huge (bloody hell, I thought turkeys were big but this fish took the biscuit!), superior AGA roasted veg (the general consensus is that conventional ovens don’t quite provide the same results when roasting your spuds, parsnips, salsifys, etc), magnificent cheese boards that made me go gaga, Pavlova with passion fruit and salted caramel (I passed on that and opted for a sneaky puff as an alternative) followed by C. pud and the most accomplished home-made mince pies I’ve had. The intimate setting was more than a blissful accessory. The fellow guests proved godsend- the Taiwanese chap and his Italian girlfriend love-speaking in Spanish, a dizzying blonde from Estonia called Ulrike, a most measured Frankfurter who’s now Kingston based that’s Ursula. In addition there was MsMarmitelover’s teen (beautifully attired with a kind of Victorian discipline) and parents (handsome looking couple that makes you look forward to growing old!). I was gobsmacked by two individuals- Alice (who also brought her parents from Nottinghamshire), a Cambridge educated mathematician who has an allergy to WIFI waves and there was MsMarmitelover’s sister, Imogen, who I was sure was singing The Snowman’s Walking in the Air whilst I was incapacitated by sloshing both reds and whites. These gorgeous ladies are perfect catalysts for livening up any parties or dinners. As for MsMarmitelover, just how do you do it? 4-5 days preps required for every event, like I said before, rather you than me. Marms, thanks for the invite and you’re übergorgeous and all.

NB Ursula, thank you for the lift back to W1, you saved me from the leg cramps.

My prez from the Teen and Marms- is that a hint I should start tweeting or twittering?

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Merry Christmas Meemalee…

…and to everyone as well. To be honest I couldn’t be arsed about posting but thanks to the above it’s the least I could do. I think I may have up to 70% (don’t ask how that percentage was arrived as I too found it baffling) of my olfaction back. I can’t detect dill or galangal (immensely irritating!) and to make matters worse, a cup of Kenyan AA tastes the same as a Colombian- blogging about coffee is currently stalled. Despite the lack of reviews I have been eating well, from a blow out dinner at The Square to one of the best supper club meals I’ve had this year that’s the Joginder’s Supper Club. I will write about them at some point.

The above is a photo of my daughter’s pressie. She wanted a Strat but I got her an uke instead. She needs to convince me with some George Formby renditions before she can realise her Jack White aspirations.

Alas, my abstinence from grape juice is now history. After 14 months of being teetotal I couldn’t resist taking a peep at a couple of cases of Chateau l'Evangile (1990, for those nosey winos) I had in my possession (‘once an alk always an alk’ is fair do’s). Pinot Noir and Argentinean Malbec currently besot yours truly. The above also shows what I’ll be drinking this Christmas break. Christmas Day will be spent helping out at a homeless shelter followed by an epic walk from Islington to MsMarmitelover’s for a glass or two of Burgundy.

The Muji bear may look childish as a prop but it’s my pressie from my daughter. It’s hardly a ‘Shit Xmas Present’! I love it, thank you Bron.

Meemalee, I’m back, albeit hindered; but thank you.

Friday, 16 October 2009

I’ve lost my sense of smell…

…and taking a long holiday off doesn’t help much either with keeping this blog updated. Just as the blog is coming to its first anniversary I think it’s worth crediting the people on why I started to pursue the pastime in the first place. So it’s with thanks to Niamh and Su-Lin and their blogs that pushed the button in the first place as well as Auntie and Krista with theirs (according to my doctrines these four are one of the pioneering London food bloggers). Food blogging during the past year has been rewarding; my acquired friendships with both MsMarmitelover and Thora (I’ve yet to meet you!) are invaluable and it was additionally bestowing to have met Lady Gray, Michelle at Lavender Bakery, LMR, Mark, Kake and Laura at RGL, Lizzie, Chris, Kang and others I’ve failed to mention by name.

The advent of new and incredibly well written food blogs is immensely welcoming as well dampening my desire to continue with mine. My current and hopefully undying read-list of foodie blogs includes the following-

Tamarind and Thyme
Meemalee’s Kitchen
The English can cook
Scrambling Eggs
Food. By Mark
Dos Hermanos
Bitching in the Kitchen
PigPig’s Corner
Family Styles

Blogrolls are ever so potentially contentious but let’s be honest there are only so many blogs that one can read with intent. Apologies to those that have been omitted (and subsequently being de-listed from the respective blogrolls is understandable).

If and when I regain my composure I’ll undoubtedly resume this blog but in the meantime I shall carry on with my other one that’s the Pissing Prawn. Thanks for reading and see you anon.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009


I'm taking a'll be glad to know (or perhaps not).

Taken at 30,000 feet. London to Kuala Lumpur.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Midnight Steak Out

One of my best nights ever was experienced here. I'm not well versed enough to put the joyous evening into words so I'll leave that to MsMartmitelover. Marms, thanks for dragging us along, I'm a blessed toad.

'A Rare Event And The Steaks Are High!'
Quote taken from MSO's Facebook page.
Irish Rib Eye shown)

Edamame served with G&T

Statuesque and achingly beautiful.
This is goddess-like Amanda, our host and the cook.
Boys, only in your dreams!

Gratin Dauphinois

The idea was to serve and eat the potatoes and veg first. Amanda being such a purist, wanted the steaks to be savoured on their own. Hear, hear.
The gratin was terrific, the girl obviously knows more than a thing or two when it comes to tasting and seasoning. I don’t normally care much for secondary dishes like potatoes but this was massively memorable.

The labour of love begins with a touch of glamour.

MsMarmite's perfectly marinaded tuna alternative.
Expertly cooked and it tasted heavenly.

This was what I came here for.

Medium as requested.
The best homecooked piece of cow I've had.

Dessert of almond cakes resting...

...and finally served with raspberry sauce and cream plus fags.

Just past midnight, there's always someone among the guests who can provide a bit of entertainment.

He was a very good piano player too.

In addition to acknowledging the wonderful host, I would also like to thank Tracks, the front of house. I was gobsmacked by her efficiency and coolness. It was also a pleasure to revel in the company of the other guests, especially the gorgeous June (I hope I got your name right!). I’m not entirely sure if Amanda intends to have the Midnight Steak Out as an ongoing thing, if she perseveres then this leaves you no option. You need to go. Highly recommended.

A suggested donation of £25.00 was advised. This amount is way too cheap for the level of ingredients and proficiency observed, ought to be at the very least another tenner more.

Midnight Steakout

midnightsteakout dot

Monday, 7 September 2009

The Counter

The above at its new location

The Counter is expanding!

It’s a great pleasure to put my tuppence worth on this place. Three words precede the rest of the review, what a find! With thanks to Nicola and James H for the heads up re The Counter café.

If you don’t live in the immediate area or drive for that matter, the quickest way to reach The Counter is by buses 276 or 488 from either Hackney Wick or Bow Church.

Come 2012, it’ll be a lot easier to come here as The Counter is located within a dessiatine of the new Olympic Stadium. The current state of the café’s location can be described as that of an industrial estate but urban wasteland chic is more apt.

With the exception of under lit and dingy basement establishments, I’m one of those people who can easily adapt to swish places like Le Gavroche or the uncontrived rawness of places like The Counter.

The deliberate omission of discipline when it comes to the décor and furniture is nothing short of heroic. This place projects an ambience of ‘easy like Sunday morning’ calmness about it, and that includes all the other days the café is open on as well. Architects and interior designers should come here and draw on the no nonsense meaning of urban-rustic ease.

The Counter is owned and run by the lovely Jess (although her Kiwi twang made it sound more like Jizzz).

Like Lantana, this is also one the very few discerning and independent coffee shops that offer cooked breakfasts and lunches. As it’s in the case with the current coffee culture in London, the people who come here are often young and energetic, which then makes me geriatric. Well I don’t give a monkey’s, if I end up with a Zimmer frame, I’ll still wheel myself here because it’s worth the bleeding effort.

I’m not giving any prizes away for guessing who supplies the coffee here.

A* Flattus Maximus made by Aussie Will.

The Big Breakfast

The homemade beans and tomato chutney were excellent.

I'm not exactly laden with oestrogens but I wanted to try out the mochaccino.
Sod the hot chococlate this is miles better!

I'm definitely coming back...
Second visit.

Another perfect flattie to liven up your day.

Mumbai Spicy Scramble

Typical Kiwi improvisation.
An audacious alternative to the usual smoked salmon. Stonkingly sublime.

Addictive homebaked ANZAC biscuit.

Purposeful Long Black to ensure that I stay awake for the rest of my wonderful Sunday here.

I’ve had three memorable experiences so far in 2009 and The Counter is one of them. This place is unavoidable, it may well be the holy grail of coffee places in London. A recommendation of paramount importance is thus deserved.

7 Roach Rd,
Hackney Wick
London E3 2PA

Costa Azul

I first heard about this place from the highly reliable Su-Lin. An underrepresented cuisine always tickles my fancy as it provides a reprieve from the ‘everything with chips’ treadmill.

Costa Azul is an Ecuadorian restaurant and it’s also likely that Full English fry-ups are served all-day as well. Its location on Old Kent Road might put some of you off, so banish all anxieties, as it’s less harebrained than Oxford Street. This part of London is also close to the cultural capital of Ecuadorians in the UK that’s Elephant and Castle. To confound issues Costa Azul sits next to a Columbian parrilla (barbecue) joint. On a whole it was a pleasure to meet the people who work here as well as the mainly South American diners; these folks are genuinely warm and friendly.
I first came here after an epic walk from Broadway Market via Tower Bridge. To quench the thirst I tried a Colombian soft drink…eewh.

Started with Camarones Envulto. This is essentially a spicier version of tempura prawns. The chilli sauce tasted very much like a generic sweet Thai variety. Pretty good and stunning value, £3.50 is very little for six king prawns, considering the average Japanese joint charges up to £9.00 for 4!

My mains of Arroz Marinero. Seafood fried rice or approximate paella by any other name. This was huge, way too much for one person and wait for it, I counted there were 15 prawns and that’s not including a gazillion little shrimps plus other sea life. Although not as sophisticated as your usual Spanish paella, it was rather good eating. Again good value at £11.50.

This nice geezer is tucking into his Encebollado; tuna soup made with cassava. The novelty to me was the accompaniment of baked corn; both popped and unpopped.

I came back here a second time for dinner and the ambience transformed quite literally from a quiet café to a raucous rendezvous frequented by our South American brethren. Take heed of the the following observations- loud music, lively hollering, clashing of beer bottles, plasma screens showing Latin American soaps and the supposedly extinct disco lights. I know we’re not in Nicaragua, but I kept getting an impression that Nick Nolte was going to burst through the front doors with his cameras seeking some kind of refuge. In that respect Costa Azul was reminiscent of some border town bar.

My rattled dining companion felt ill at ease during the entire meal (he’s the sort that thinks civilised Gooners like myself are hooligans).

Our Ecuadorian soft drinks. Both tasted like carbonated cough mixtures.

We shared another predictably large platter of chargrilled seafood. The Parillada Mariscos is enough for three.

As Su-Lin stated in her review, those prawns were massive. There were three fillets of lemon sole and some well-cooked squid. These three selections of fish were delicious enough to justify the price tag of £27.00 the dish was charged. However the mussels were a waste of time as they tasted of nowt and the two large hunks of tuna were hopelessy overcooked. A bowl each of salad and fried plantains accompanied the fish. Lest I forget, don’t expect mayo or tartare sauce, you’re given a no-option and seriously hot chilli sauce to go with the fish. All in; good value and honest tasting tuck.

Brace yourself...


...and blinded by the lights!

If I do come back here, I’ll come back alone for lunch only (not my friends’ kinda place). I enjoy the simplistic approach to the dishes and the value is second to none. Costa Azul, I’ll be back.

190-192 Old Kent Road
London SE1 5TY