Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Apostrophe (Baker Street)

Usual start of the week Grade 'C'- I'm used to this by now.
Almond Croissant- pretty decent for a chain. The dusting of the icing sugar is a cause for concern; coughing fits in abundance!
Despite the 'Eat In' status, I was breathing in the lovely fumes from the outdoor table on Baker Street.

Cure for Monday blues? Free WiFi and mains- what more folks, what more?
Average capp, a struggle at 'C'

19 Baker Street
London W1U 8EQ


What I'm snacking on #1

The soybean is an amazing source of complete protein. My dear friend Cumbrian Steve, who’s never been to Germany and also a vegan, simply cannot exist without it.

Marks & Spencer Edamame Beans. Rich in phosphorus and magnesium. As well as flatulence inducing.

Sunday, 29 March 2009

Hix Oyster & Chop House

I’ve decided that fasting can indeed be beneficial and most certainly rewarding in the end. And no I don’t mean abstinence based on religious or medical reasons either. What I’m conveying is that if you were to be invited to a lunch hosted by Augustus Gloop, it’s best that in everyone’s interest that you refrain from eating anything else the day before. Otherwise you run the risk of missing out on the whole raison d’être of the enthralling onslaught of food laid before you. In short, come prepared with a hefty appetite.

Hix Oyster & Chop House was chanced upon after reading Yuet Ling’s howling review. I also found her review to be improbable, it simply conflicted with the findings posted by the mere mortals on London Eating. And to prove that the review was influential to say the least, Little Miss Imperturbable (you are I hope?) herself, Hollowlegs, confirmed that Hix’s was indeed worth the trouble. So based on the latter’s visit and mine today, Yuet Ling’s review have generated at least 250 quid worth of business for Hix’s; Mark please waive the pudding of blood orange and gin jelly with ice cream the next time she’s there please.

The location of close proximity to London’s Smithfield Meat Market can only be a good thing, especially so with illustrious neighbours like St John, $tarbuck$ and Vinoteca.

Tiles are the main elements in the rather classy (in an utilitarian manner) dining room.

The service this afternoon was nothing short of exemplary, whoever is managing Hix’s deserves an accolade or two.

I came here for lunch today and initially thought the idea of Hix actually dishing the food out at 2pm rather offbeat or idiosyncratic. But with hindsight, it actually makes an awful lot of sense- tis’ Sunday afterall and chilling out without a care in the world is final and absolute. The idea is to come in early (they open at midday) and knock a few Bloody Marys (tea in my case) to tickle the appetite before lunch is served.

As you can peruse for yourself, the menu for Lunch today. It’s a heck of a lot of dosh so it’d better be good.

Parsnip crisps- If only I’d known they were so delightful I would’ve smuggled a container of some sort to take the rest back for nibbles later.

The Dining Companion (DC) sprinkled some salt onto the crisps, he was right with the salt complementing the intensity of the sweet parsnips.

It’s only bread I hear. It was fresh, warm and utterly delici…stop, in fact don’t eat it at all as I’ll divulge in due course.

DC and I were debating on what starters to go for, the last thing we wanted was to duplicate the orders. (It’s a foodie thing to try out as many dishes as possible) Lo and behold these things were suddenly dumped on our table without even a smoke signal sent! ‘Excuse me…’ in my best possible Antony Worrall Thompson Hugh Grant voice, ‘…but we haven’t decided on what to go for yet’ ‘Sir…’ said the lovely waitress, ’this is part of the Set Lunch at Hix Oyster & Chop House, all three choices are included, so enjoy’. She left our table with a smile and we were left nonplussed. Woah, that’s some layout!

Jellied ham hock with piccalilli

Chunky porky excellence.

The cauliflower in the excellent piccalilli was properly firm and crunchy.

Gladys May (DC thought she was a breed of duck!) duck’s egg mayonnaise- now you know whenever this kind of egg is on the menu it’s going to be rich. It so was, the yolk within was buttery and the mustardy mayo was brill. Thank goodness it was only half an egg each!

Brown crab on toast- a true highlight of the three, large pieces of ever so sweet crabmeat were in evidence.

This pot of goodness as far as I can allow myself to give tongue to, can be had for breakfast, lunch, dinner and perhaps even in one’s dreams!

It was that good.

The Roast rib of Herefordshire and Yorkshire pudding- Usual positive things of provenance and a well hung period apply to the beef here.

Cooked medium rare, need we ask? Scrumptiously beefy and melt-in-mouth.

I’m pretty sure QE2 and her family would’ve approved of this dinner with glee.

Roast potatoes, purple sprouting broccoli and roast parsnips- these ubiquitous trimmings were beautifully cooked. Except that we only had three potatoes and a couple of parsnips between ourselves, we were by now dangerously stuffed. I blame myself for gorging on the bread and toast in the beginning. DC said it was the bloody duck’s egg that did it! The guilt that floors me whenever excess food is left untouched is profound. Ouch!

Right couple of things with the puddings; unlike the starters they don’t all come in droves without your dictum (you get to choose your sugar or cheese fix) and if there’s a word that describes this course, it’s anticlimax.

DC’s Amedei chocolate mousse- I thought this was rather pretty and it tasted more than ok. DC (a Valrhona disciple) begged to differ, he thought it was too glass and a half full for his liking, the cocoa said he, was sadly amiss.

My Shipwreck tart with clotted cream- this was the anticlimax for me, not in terms of quality but portion. It was mercilessly titchy and obviously Liliputian in size. Imagined that if one was skimping on the starters and mains just to make room for the pudding, they’ll be gravely disappointed with this.

I assumed that the word shipwreck would constitute a right mess, I imagined something along the lines of an Eton Mess Tart! As per usual I was wong (actually still am). This tart contains cider brandy and it came from this bottle; the brandy in question was matured in barrels reclaimed from a shipwreck.

How quaint, except that I’m supposed to be alcohol free!

It was actually out of this world, it was incredible. This nutty tart reminded me of a bespoke pecan pie and much more. Heroic. The chap who was supervising the room took heed of the words concerning the size of my pudding, he did offer us some more without fuss. I declined, as I was genuinely glutted.

You’re probably wondering what we had to drink as well. DC had English Mineral water (he’s too posh for the fluorinated variety) and I had English tea. And very nice it was as well, real tea leaves, strainer… Save the tart, entirely alky free. I am every restaurateur's nightmare, I exempt myself from reading the wine list.

Yes all quite expensive, but it was very good though. If someone decides to foot the meal, don’t even ignore this place, you’ll love it in its entirety. I intend to come back here, pre-starved obviously and possibly on a solo basis (I need to read my papers without distraction), the Sunday Lunch here meets that requirement perfectly. Highly recommended.

36-37 Greenhill Rents
Cowcross Street
London, EC1M 6BN


PS Tonight’s dinner whilst I’m typing this, is another one of my hats. I wanted to prove to both YL and Lizzie that they were erroneously misled with their reviews, I ended up eating humble pie hat. I dedicate this review to the both of them.

Saturday, 28 March 2009

Tierra Brindisa

Saturdays are precious to me, it's the time I get to see my daughter and spoil her rotten with her teenage must-haves and a half-decent lunch. You could say that I'm one of those people who like to plan an itinerary ahead, a Plan A of anything will always have an insurance of Plan B to supervene upon should the need arise. My admiration for Angela Hartnett has always been steadfast and I’ve yet to test the water at her Murano restaurant. Unfortunately my request for a table for two at Plan A was turned down, likewise the Plan B idea of another Ramsay eatery that’s Maze couldn’t be fulfilled. All this on a Saturday when the G20 demo march commenced with an indifferent pomp, an occasion when all the good (albeit cash strapped) middle class folks should be staying at home instead of fine(ish) dining! And precisely, the mere mention of recession is pure folly as both Murano and Maze were fully booked!

Precursor to lunch of books and shoes

Plan Cs are often the most reliable, they never fail you; one just saunters into the restaurant and demand to be fed, knowingly without a reservation or notice. Tierra Brindisa is one such example. In fact it’s also a Plan C for a different reason, if I fancy a Spanish type repast it’s always third in the pecking order to Dehesa and Barrafina respectively. This is not to say that Tierra Brindisa is inferior to the other two. It’s not. It’s simply down to that conclusive phrase of primus inter pares. Situated in a no man's land of Soho, one could quite easily walk past the unassuming shop front without a second thought. Unlike its nearby neighbours of Fernandez & Wells making a statement of the legs of ham in their window and Mrs Marengo's similarly but with cakes instead, Tierra Brindisa reminded me of an understated tearoom in a forlorn seaside town.

Crunchy Times

When this place first opened in October last year the hype surrounding it was spectacular, the reputation brought forward by the success of its older sibling Tapas Brindisa at London Bridge was second to none. If you ever considered yourself to be a serious foodie you would be foolish not to make an appearance here. The dining room is split in two zones-

The front part is all quite dark and done up in such a way that it wouldn’t look out of place in the John Lewis furniture department

The second zone towards the back is where I would aspire to settle. The skylights wonderfully light this room and it’s also where the open kitchen is situated. There’s something assuring about sitting in close proximity to the nerve centre of a restaurant. Service is purely matter-of-fact, and the usual indistinct blabber of Ingleesh is as ever present. (Oh the waitresses here are all rather dishy as well- nice touch!)

This is my third time here (I’m not bragging, just making sure that my previous reviews still reflect the current visits) and I’m pleased to say that lunch today was very enjoyable.

Aragon olives with paprika- all very pleasant and mildly spicy but not as wholesome or satisfying as the ginormous Gordal olives.

Country toast with allioli (Catalan spelling)- I know it’s only garlic and olive oil, but that Aioli was fantastic.

Montanera lomo ibérico bellota

The jamón would be twice the price, but the lomo (loin) was sublime, sweet and very nearly melting.

Cauliflower salad with orange, coriander and chilli dressing- I absolutely adored this and it also incensed me to nag on my daughter to have more greens. Why do kids instil the pointless fear of eating veg unto themselves?

Salt crusted fillets of Sea Bream with fennel salad- Pure utter Mediterranean heaven, the fish was mightily fresh and wondrous tasting.

The zesty fennel salad was perfectly dressed!

Grilled Poussin with taboulé (sic)- The chicken was beautifully tender (a dish that’s so often overcooked to dryness) and the seasoning was spot on.

Daughter didn’t care much for the couscous, personally I would’ve preferred cracked wheat for the tabbouleh. Together with the fish, these were both tremendous highlights.

Dark chocolate fondant with saffron ice cream- A fifteen minutes wait was required for this pudding.

We both agreed it wasn’t worth the wait for it was a trifle too bitter and uninspiring. Daughter said strawberry ice cream would’ve been better suited than the saffron.

I still prefer the ambience of both Barrafina and Dehesa, the quality of the food at Tierra Brindisa is thankfully right up there with them. As pointed out earlier there’s also more chance of securing a table here as well. I like this place enough to embrace it. Hand on heart recommendation.

46 Broadwick Street


My previous encounter at Trusted Places.


Ibérico ham croquetas

Country toast with tomato

Red mullet with oven potatoes and black olives

León chorizo with piquillo pepper on country toast

Ibérico pork cheeks with butterbeans

Gordal olives with orange and marjoram

Joselito Gran Reserca jamón ibérico bellota

Prawns cooked with garlic and chilli

Deep fried Monte Enebro goat's cheese with orange blossom honey

Orange sorbet