Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Burnt Enz

Been there, done that and I can finally die happy!

So what is or to be precise, was Burnt Enz? 

Well, digest the following and you’ll get the idea:

i) Superb ingredients
ii) No frills, home-style outdoor cooking
iii) London’s homage to the legendary Asador Etxebarri (but at a fraction of a cost).
iv) Barbie-meister extraordinaire, David Pynt.
v) Perking up our gone-to-the-pan summer.
vi) The most temporary of all pop-up restaurants.

Skinny geezer and hefty stone ovens.

Child friendly.

Beyond spoilt-for-choice menu.

Prep till you drop.

White coals and nowt but the whitest!

I thought about Babe and therefore; 
“There was a time not so long ago when pigs were afforded no respect, except by other pigs; they lived their whole lives in a cruel and sunless world. In those days pigs believed that the sooner they grew large and fat, the sooner they'd be taken into Pig Paradise, a place so wonderful that no pig had ever thought to come back.” 

I’m pretty sure this piglet was an utterly happy and boisterous free-ranger, and he did go to heaven after all. 

Leeks and elephant garlic aioli
Not exactly the same as partaking in a calçotada but the cooking procedure was essentially the same.

Hot and spicy chicken wings.
Sublimely juicy and tender, beautifully spiced but not chilli-hot enough for me.

Fore rib of beef.

Served only medium-rare or go home and cry for mummy instead!

Charred gems and onions.

Black cod, samphire and fennel.
Nobu charges 42 quid for his version with miso. 
Burnt Enz’s own was only £8 and it had three times more fish portions than the former…I digress.

Couldn't finish the 1kg beef, cancelled the famed sanger of brisket, onions and watercress, and made my own sandwich instead of leftover beef, sourdough bread, gem lettuce and mustard there and then to take away.

Let us keep our fingers crossed and hope that Burnt Enz reappear again next summer. Highly recommended.

Where’s the receipt? BE doesn't do receipts as cash is the undisputed king so there you have it!

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Brasserie Zédel

Brasserie Zédel reminds me of a huge and upscale dining room which belongs to an ocean liner (I’ve never been on one but I’ve seen The Poseidon Adventure countless times). Thankfully the class tradition of the latter has been done away with at BZ. Here, the relaxed and egalitarian dining experience prevails as expected of any worthy brasserie. 

Authenticity relating to Parisian brasseries is admirably maintained by the predominantly French speaking waiting staff wearing “le rondin (a black waistcoat with many pockets) and the long white apron”, white linen on tables, assured service and of course, “le menu”. The menu is of the love-at-first-sight category, tantalisingly embrace-able and excellent value for money (some of the dishes are cheap as chips). 

Oh, if the likes of tomatoes & shallot salad or cold poached fillet of salmon sound more sophisticated and romantic than salade de tomate à l’échalote or Saumon ‘Belle-Vue’ et sa macédoine respectively then your prerogative is granted. A menu in English exists for that reason.

I've been here a few times now, so the low-down about the grub follows-

Uncouth I may be but I thought the baguettes were more memorable than a Poilâne Loaf!


Cuisses de grenouille.
Two pairs of legs, they were tender, sweet and propelled immeasurably by the garlicky and intense parsley sauce. There was none of the usual watery-chicken texture I normally associate with frog legs detected here.

Soupe de poisson et sa rouille
Brilliant fish soup. Who needs the Provence when one can delight in a faithful rendition of a definitive Mediterranean dish at 15m below sea level in grubby London Town instead!

Soupe du jour. 
Of leeks and potatoes, can’t go wrong with that, be it canned or freshly made.

Escargots au beurre persillé
There was no middle ground present in this dish, the parsley separated on its own like an antisocial bugger, the snails tasted like previously-chewed-flavourless-and-thus-discarded-fruit gums and there was the despondency surrounding the neat Pernod. The latter was somewhat just chucked in huge quantities and not flambéed; the whole dish ended up unnecessarily intoxicating as well as a big fail. 

Talking of snails, my daughter was freaked out by the presence of the winkles and whelks on the plateau de fruits de mer. But she did enjoy the briny oysters, plump prawns, “I Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside” cockles, sweet Palourde clams, the muscley mussels and the all-important mignonette sauce. I thought the platter was an absolute bargain!


Confit de canard, pommes sautées à l’ail
It was really good as it gets. In other words the duck was crispy, robustly flavoured and the meat falling off the bone with ease.

Choucroute alsacienne
A marvellously well proportioned dish that was additionally generous and effectively bargainous. The choucroute was quite possibly my second most favourite dish at BZ after the malodorous but majestic Andouillette de Troyes.

The choucroute garnie consisted of the following-
Belly of pork served two ways; cured (deliciously fatty and buttery) and smoked (crack-like slices of Montbéliard sausages). 
An alarmingly incandescent-looking frankfurter that was otherwise quite out of this world.
Boiled spuds- they were proper and all.
Sauerkraut- far too much in quantity for yours truly to finish. It was less acidic than the German variety and so by default, certainly less of an acquired taste. A win-win situation I’d say.

Steak haché, sauce au poivre et frites.
Technically a well-cooked and well-seasoned burger served without a bun. It came with a bowl of average fries (would’ve been hugely better if Corbin and King replaced them with Le Caprice's celebrated pommes allumettes instead) and the most amazing pepper sauce I’ve tasted for a long time. 
Incidentally this chopped steak dish is also BZ’s cheapest mains on the menu at £7.50.

Thursday’s plat du jour of boudin noir aux pommes.
It was just ok, an extra sausage wouldn’t go amiss and besides one and a half apples on the plate were way too sweet for comfort. 
I might be biased but no boudin noir will ever compare to the coarser, full-bodied and more delectable black puddings of Bury and Stornoway any day.

Friday’s plat du jour of marmite de poissons.
It was lamentably bland and positively dull. It was a dish created for those poor souls who suffer from a fear of flying and given the chance to taste the plainest of plane food without the need of experiencing airport security or let alone put their seatbelts on. 
Poor, poor, poor beyond belief!

Carrelet meunière, pommes vapeur
No plaice like chez BZ…the French are good at cooking fish. Perfect.

Pâtisseries et Desserts:

Baba au Rhum.
It wasn’t as moist or as drowned as the ones found lurking next to the skewers of raw meat in a kebab joint but at least it had real rum. 
For that reason alone, it was entirely passable.

Profiteroles au chocolat chaud
A nigh on magnet of a dish to attract the lurch of tourists meandering in and around Piccadilly Circus! 
BTW, the cream puffs were stonkingly good!

Millefeuille à la vanille
The two layers of crème pâtissière were too thick and heavy going, and the icing on top was preposterously replaced! 
Tant pis!

BZ is also the home of the best praline éclairs this side of Paris.

Brasserie Zédel is good. And that means it’s good enough to give Tragus Limited sleepness nights if Messrs Corbin and King have aspirations about expanding BZ to places like Manchester, Leeds, Bristol, and Edinburgh. Recommended.

20 Sherwood Street
Piccadilly Circus 
London W1F 7ED

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Saturday, 4 August 2012

The Hand & Flowers

If Michelin can award Lonesome George three stars just for moulding mounds of rice and piggybacking pieces of raw fish on them then I have absolutely no problems with the same accolade being bestowed on pubs in Blighty serving decent food. Let’s be honest, creating a Scotch egg from scratch requires more Einsteinian skills than a horrendously costly piece of otoro sushi. 

Don’t be shy about ordering a pint as The Hand and Flowers is after all a pub.

First disappointment- 

Enticing menu but Chef Kerridge wasn’t in the kitchen. 

The subsequent absence of the chef de cuisine in the kitchen clearly resulted in the hits and misses I experienced during my meal here.
Service was polite and terribly well spoken (young Tories and all).
Ambience was basically a pub but without the big screen or the usual bad smells.

Freebies of sprats and bread courtesy of the absent chef.
The whitebait was fresh and crispy but undeservingly underseasoned whereas the breads were simply divine.

Second disappointment- 

Parsley Soup with Smoked Eel, Bacon and Cheddar Tortellini.
The soup had far too many complexities and strong tasting ingredients applied to it. It managed to baffle the taste buds and corrupt them enough to render the whole bowl pointless and sadly unappetising. This was one soup worries wouldn’t go down better with!

NB (1) Why were the flowers there?

First marvel- 

Glazed Omelette of Smoked Haddock and Parmesan.

A superb starter or an Omelette Arnold Bennett by any other name. 
This dish had a lovely lightness and delicacy touch to it and that’s despite the use of heavyweight ingredients like smoked haddock, eggs, butter, béchamel, Parmesan, etc. 
It was pure eggy goodness that can be engorged without restraint!

The second marvel-

Salt Baked Potatoes with Garlic and Parsley Butter.

What initially resembled like a stone of an avocado was in fact one of those rare Heritage potatoes (and just in case you were wondering, two further ones were burrowed inside). This was a wondrous creation and almost a hearty dish unto itself. It more than championed a certain Ms Winfrey’s quote of- 
“My idea of heaven is a great big baked potato and someone to share it with.”

The third marvel-

Line Caught Cod with Pastrami, Morels Herb Crust and English Asparagus.
It was a near perfect dish except for-

NB (2) Why were the flowers there again?

Third disappointment-

Essex Lamb “Bun” with Sweetbreads and Salsa Verde.

Good points- 
The lamb cutlet was gorgeous, tender and as expected of a starred joint, rightfully pink.
The accompanying gravy was nothing short of amazing.

Bad Points-
The pastry was as hard as rock, unsophisticated and utterly inedible. No wonder the word bun was adorned with inverted commas!
Whatever barding that was involved in the cooking the lone piece was lamb was equally disappointing. The combination of the cabbage, forcemeat and shreds of poultry were stringy, crude and disconcertingly challenging to the palate.

Exceedingly poor value at £23.50!

Fourth marvel- 

Warm Pistachio Sponge Cake with Melon Sorbet and Marzipan.
 This was one conversation-killer of a dish, my dining companion enjoyed his dessert in silence and gobbled the whole thing in less than five minutes. He smiled and suggested that the entire meal was to some degree, redeemable.

Fifth marvel-

Hand & Flowers Chocolate Cake with Salted Caramel and Muscovado Ice Cream.

This was my highlight of the meal and that’s saying something from someone who’s not an advocate of the pudding course. It was sinfully calorific but blissfully scrumptious! It was without doubt one of the best non-sneaky-fag courses I’ve ever had after a main dish.

The Hand and Flowers has the ability to serve astonishingly good pub grub and yet fails when it tries too hard. And what with the two Michelin stars? Well all I can conclude is that the food here is nice but flawed.

126 West Street