Friday, 26 February 2010

The Square

Forget those things that aren't worth remembering.
Tim Foley

A memory is what is left when something happens and does not completely unhappen.
Edward de Bono

A retentive memory may be a good thing, but the ability to forget is the true token of greatness.

Elbert Hubbard

Memory depends very much on the perspicuity, regularity, and order of our thoughts. Many complain of the want of memory, when the defect is in the judgment; and others, by grasping at all, retain nothing.
Thomas Fuller

He who is not very strong in memory should not meddle with lying.
Michael de Montaigne

Memory [is] like a purse,--if it be over-full that it cannot shut, all will drop out of it. Take heed of a gluttonous curiosity to feed on many things, lest the greediness of the appetite of thy memory spoil the digestion thereof.
Thomas Fuller

One must have a good memory to be able to keep the promises one makes.
Friedrich Nietzsche

Nothing fixes a thing so intensely in the memory as the w
ish to forget it.
Michel de Montaigne

Memory feeds imagination.
Amy Tan

The true art of memory is the art of
Samuel Johnson

The taramosalata was so good and it wasn’t even on the menu, however they gave me a second helping…that much I remembered.

6-10 Bruton Street
London W1J 6LB

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Jashan (Wembley)

I don’t need to remind anyone of the fact that omnivorous individuals like myself have little or no problem in complying with having a full veg blow-out when the need calleth. And no that’s nothing to do with satisfying the whim of a dining companion who’s vegetarian either. If I were forced into a corner and forced upon to be a veggie then I’ll shall demand that the blindfold be removed and FGS put that damn pistol away from my head, I’ll eat Indian vegetarian for the rest of my life. I’m no health freak but I strongly believe that there is only so much meat (especially red meat) one can consume. So for every one week in five I try my best to abstain from meat; your bod will thank you for that and I don’t care if that hoohah has been mentally derived. I profess that I’m no fan of vegetarian dishes that have been cooked the western way (quite often I find myself lying through my teeth and saying, yes it’s very good when it was actually lacking the essential joie de vivre of eating). The Chinese have the wonderful tau foo (tofu) as an ingredient, but it’s normally intended to be served with meat or fish in a stir-fry, soup, stew and so on. But on its own, tofu epitomises blandness like there’s no tomorrow and even then some vegetarians dismiss it as desperate. Oh I don’t know, give the Indians some tofu and they would surely create a world class dish out of it; but then again they don’t need tofu as they have their own paneer.

I don’t do bland food. If I’m steaming some broccoli or cauliflower then chilli oil is called for. Veg dishes need spicing up and what best then to leave the whole procedure to our Indian friends. They’ve been there and done that, they know how to convert the die-hardest carnivores. And before you start to wallow needlessly, Indian vegetarian is not just about saggy aloo, tessa dhal and aloo gobi desert.

I’ve been coming to Jashan for the past decade. Its location requires an epic trip that involves four bus changes from the Westend, but once reached a rewarding experience awaits. This part of Wembley is hardly photogenic, but it’s home to the Gujaratis, Tamils and Sri Lankans; it’s the understated Southall of North London. Like most Indian veggie restaurants in London, the décor is a pure supplementation- you come here to eat, you’re charged very little for it, so why nag, just carry on. And quite often restaurants like Jashan gets misconstrued for their service, if you wish to witness a bit of grovelling like a certain Mr Winner then this place is painfully at odds with your expectations, go to Bombay Brasserie instead. Oh I must add that tap water in jugs is for the taking and the Nepalese Gurkha manager is a right gentleman.

The menu is long and confusing, there are smatterings of both North and South Indian favourites plus some unorthodox Chinese dishes cooked the Indian way. Just take your time and don’t order too much as you can come back here again and again to complete the task.

Here’s a pictorial rundown of a meal I had recently.

Makai Paneer Ke Pakore- beyond moreish sweetcorn and cottage cheese fritters.

Dahi Batata Puri - mini puris filled with potatoes and drowned with sweetened yoghurt.

This dish is served at below room temperature, it’s coldish and it’s spicy to boot! One of my favourite dishes at Jashan.

Cheese Pao Bhaji (mashed spicy veg and cheese served with buns)
Not recommended, boring but filling.

Mushroom Chilli- Loved it, fried battered morsels. Again very spicy!

I’ve always believed that the Indians and Persians cook the best and most perfect rice. Just look at that bowl of pilau!

Kaju Mutter- Cashew Nuts and Peas curry in background. If you thought vindaloo this and that was fiery well you haven’t tried this. Dish that thrives on the expression, it hurts so good!

Pudhina Paratha- excellent mint flavoured layered bread. The pig as I always am I can never finish the bread once the bowl of rice has been emptied.

Like all Indian vegetarian restaurants, it’s unlikely that you’ll leave Jashan reeling with hunger.

Cursory afters of Kesar Bandam Bahar- saffron infused almond kulfi.

Dosa Mysore Masala- rice crepe filled with spicy potatoes. If you’re coming here for the first time then order this as it’s a dish that bodes well as an intro to what Jashan has to offer.

Fried Haka Noodles- a strange twist on chow mein, eminently spicy but downright acquired!

Jashan replenishes my well being admirably and it ever so gives me wings as well. Highly recommended.

1-2 Coronet Parade
Ealing Road, Wembley
London HA0 4AY

Thursday, 11 February 2010

The Mother of Burgers

I've learned to hate Russians

All through my whole life
If another war starts
It's them we must fight
To hate them and fear them
To run and to hide
And accept it all bravely
With God on my side.

With God On Our Side, Bob Dylan Copyright ©1963

Well I’ve been loving the Russians* ever since November 2008 for they own Goodman. Like Harwood Arms and Lantana, Goodman stands out and it deserves a second posting. This reminder is in gushworthy praise of Goodman’s outstanding burger and brilliant set lunch menu.

Boys come here (and dare I say the girls will eventually) for the steaks. The stakes are high! ‘Scuse the pun, but perish the thought, Goodman is so damn perfect you shouldn’t have any worries about gambling your hard-earned dosh on a meal here. I’ve been here loads (not saying how many as it’ll only incite the usual sour grapes misconceptions!) and the place has never let me down. I don’t care much for the business-like ambience but the service (under the Strauss übermeister) like the food is exemplary.

It’s because that Goodman is a steak destination (deservedly so) we all tend to forget about what else is on offer from the rest of the menu. And one of them is the Goodman Burger, it escapes most peeps' notice and ends up as a second fiddle to the usual and redoubtable cuts of beef. Came here recently with my Most Favourite Daughter (the others being less human but a smattering of vintage and still revolving turntables).

MFD started with six rocks. She loves oysters and her favourites are the Colchester Natives. I love to wind her up about how could she possibly devour those live, helpless, screamless, and bloodless creatures without the melancholic tunes of an unaccompanied cello playing in the background. MFD chose to ignore the taunt and rebutted by declaring ‘Dad, you know Theo, well, we’re now an item’. MFD is good at killing conversations. I helped myself to one of her shellfish, for a bog standard oyster it tasted fresh and encourages ‘let’s have another dozen’. The accompanying mignonette sauce was the best I’ve had and that includes Paris.

My starter from the set lunch menu of beef carpaccio and rocket. Melting slices of delicious beef that doesn’t cryogenically abuse or aggravate my dodgy but sensitive teeth (a common cock-up with beefcarps when served immediately from the freezer) and the salad was correctly dressed with the right amount of balsamic vinegar, coarse salt and olive oil. Perfect starter for lunch.

This is it. The Goodman Burger.
It comes with lettuce, pickle, tomato, onion and chips as standard plus the following extras (take it all or pick some of it) at no additional cost: sautéed mushrooms, cheddar, bacon, fried egg, and fried onions. Given that I don’t usually carry a kitchen scale the patty looked at least 8oz of pure beefy heaven. As recommended by the waiter (they love to dictate how your beef should be cooked here), the burger was cooked medium. Just to point out I did order the Full Monty (all ten items); excellent bun (Helen!) and trimmings aside the burger was in a word, hedonistic

MFD pointed out that a burger is a sandwich and it must be eaten using your hands. If it needs cutlery then it ain’t a burger.

I don’t care if I’ve been preconditioned by the fact the burger mince was probably made from off-cuts of USDA Prime, Scottish grass fed or more recently Irish Black Angus Grass Fed Barley Finished from O’Shea’s; this is the best burger I’ve tasted (I haven’t been to the States yet, the Spanish Inquisition procedure at the US Consulate dissuades me there and then). And it was cooked in a blessed Josper! Spurt, rave, spout, gush, drool, Charlize Theron or whatever…Londoners, jump for joy, the bestest burger resideth here at Goodman. 12 quid for this dish, unreal…dreamland so obviously exists for the burgerati. I rest me case.

Set Lunch mains of 225g / 8oz USDA New York Strip with chips and peppercorn sauce. My British chums (Antoine de Caunes, hi if you’re reading), flying the flag is one thing but if you’re coming here for the first time, do plump for the USDA variety and please put your bleeding prejudices aside. You can always have your Scots, Welsh, Hackney or neighbourly Irish beef anywhere else and anytime in Blighty. The hard-to-find USDA Prime tastes like the Blue Fin tuna of beef except that it’s not going to end up like the dodo (Wagyu in comparison is too boutique-like for norms like me). Anyway, nice waiter said I should have the striploin cooked medium rare.

Chips are good but I'd rather have fries with my steak or burger anyday.

Does that retouched or Paint Shopped photo lie, no it doesn’t. This little piece of steak was awe-inspiring. I’m a big fan of the Yankee steaks at Goodman (and The Palm as well, despite the stupid prices and battering reviews). Think for a moment, a New York Strip steak (350 g/12oz & a bit) from the a la carte costs £27 and that’s without chips! Therefore if two courses from the set lunch menu set me back £18 (£22 for three) then Goodman will be grimacing when they read this stir of mine. A marvellous steak frites fix.

These days I just don’t have the room for puddings or perhaps it could be down to the desperate need for a puff and leave the premises pronto. We walked on to Covent Garden and ended our meal with my favourite cuppa.

Goodman is exceedingly good value for money. I shall be despondent if you find it somewhat lacking. Currently the best burger and steakhouse in London (well until I’m swayed by some freak wind…).

First meaty review at Goodman here.

*To a degree of course as I dislike Chelski (sorry Gastro1!).

26 Maddox Street
London W1S 1HQ

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Byron (Soho)

Food porn can never be the bane of our lives. And to prove it, this is the clearest example (veggies et al withstanding). From that capture alone I learnt that Byron had opened a branch in Soho and there was this off-piste special called the Big D. So much for reading blogs or nosing around twitter, but I found about the two things from my Flickr friend/contact that’s Mark. Being the soppy fart that I am this post is dedicated to him. Click again (his shot deserves a million hits).

First came here with my daughter. We were both relieved that we didn’t have to go to either the King’s Road (pretentious and poncey diners) or Westfield (I hate malls and she’s perfectly happy with her little Brent Cross) branches. She went for the eponymous Byron and I, the Gruyère. Unlike our experiences at Westfield, the burgers were cooked perfectly medium and decent eating; in fact I think it’s Byron’s policy (well at the Soho branch anyway) to have all burgers cooked medium unless you insist on having yours charred to death. The accompanying fries whilst edible looked underdone, pale anaemic yellow as opposed to goldenlicious. No worries as it wasn’t too apocalyptic, like father like daughter, we’re both not the greatest champions of carbs.

Byron is fine as a whole and certainly better than the other ‘proper’ burger chains like GBK. As for the latter the original West End Lane branch was a revelation but then it started to go downhill when the subsidiary decided to expand its interests across blighty. Give Macs its due at least their burgers taste consistently and perhaps brilliantly approximate. I wait in anticipation if and when Byron goes nationwide and then heaven forbids, complacency sets forth.

Dinner would be a perfect time to devour an 8oz patty. Came here again with two hi-fi geeks, Pete (anti-foodie) and Lowey (possessor of a bird-like appetite). And it was just as well that I booked, the restaurant was packed (I didn’t even know they took reservations as there was no indication of it on their website and in any case I only called a couple of days earlier to ensure that the Big D wasn’t a mythical tease). The evening crowd (a Friday in this case) was quite different to the sedate lot from my first visit. It was devoid of both kids and more mature lost souls like the three of us, the diners were vibrant and complimented the cool that’s Soho.

Don't you just love those tentacles of anglepoise lamps encroaching above the diners

Likewise the friendly and competent waiting staff, especially the waitresses (I’m sure looks play an important part if one is serving here). Word of advice if you’re allocated one of those diner style tables along the Wardour Street side, you’ll need to be super slim as the tight seating is a bastard to negotiate if your waistline exceeds 34". You’ve been achtunged!

The Big D premium does not appear on the menu, you’ll need to enquire about it or maybe even reserve one or two in advance. It’s made from bespoke bovine meat supplied by London’s Number One Premium Butcher (they coined that, not moo moi). As you can gauge it’s not extravagantly bigger than Byron’s usual, but it did provide a hint of luxury about it.

Once again perfectly medium, but even more moist and gregariously beefy. I’m convinced that this is more than a very good burger and so should you, let’s just hope the Big D becomes a permanent fixture on the menu. A triumph for a chain, well-done Pizza Express, oh sorry Byron!

Hang on sec, Pete said it was good but…

But what???

Well it’s a burger it’s needs some bacon and cheese. It’s… you know a bit bland.

No I don’t know, that’s a serious patty there on your plate, it doesn’t need more than the lettuce, tomato, onion and gherk. Sometimes you must take the purist route and wakey up.

Bloody snob, bloody foodie!

So what’s the best burger you’ve had then?

That place you took me to in Camden

Haché? Oh yes that’s rather good as well*.

Pass the bottle please…no you #*%!, the ketchup!

Meanwhile Lowey was struggling with his 6oz Byron burger (c/w dry cure bacon, mature Cheddar, Byron sauce) and to which I’m sure Pete was gawking at. Lowey said his burger was very good but a little too much for him to finish.

The Home Made Skin-On Chips were better cooked than the fries from my first visit, the bowl of Courgette Fries was emptied in no time and the mediocre Coleslaw wasn’t a patch on KFC’s (no, I’m not going to spell it out).

We all skipped desserts but Pete had a tasteless cappuccino, Lowey, his bedtime hot choc and I finished off the bottle of the ever so-so Italian Kabbs Soveeonn.

The location, the service and most important of all, the burgers are good enough reasons for Byron Soho to get my fat thumbs up. Food. By Mark thank you.

*When burger baiting I can’t help but wallow on a debate about where the best burgers can be found in the capital. My next post will showcase what I believe is the best and that’s at Goodman.

Byron At The Intrepid Fox
97-99 Wardour Street