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