The Perennial Plate episode 175 is The Bite House, a private kitchen-restaurant in Cape Breton owned by chef Bryan Picard. What caught my eye was the intro post:
Many restaurant cooks have had the thought: I just want to cook for a dozen people, four nights a week, making the food I love and then take off during the winter. That is the dream.
Because that is a dream. Ever since the first time someone at work took me to a private kitchen, something like 20 years ago, that’s a dream. I’m glad Chef Bryan is able to achieve his dream. His dad makes the bread, his girlfriend and other friends serve. On his days off he forages and enjoys the outdoor life.
Arguably it’s easier at Cape Breton. He can forage in the forest and at the beach. His house is big enough to be converted to hospitality space. Living standards are probably reasonable there. Still, there’s something captivating about the chef, the food, the place. Two minute short video.
Looks like the type of place one has to immerse oneself in, not just a few hours’ visit for dinner. As Chef Bryan describes it:
This was one of Marina O’Loughlin’s last reviews for the guardian and found its way to londonist too. I’m talking about The India Club restaurant at the Hotel Strand Continental.
The Hotel Strand Continental, despite its location on the Strand, is nothing to write home about. It’s looks rundown from the outside, and the entrance is next to what used to be a newsagent/Indian shop and is now apparently Gregg’s. I must have walked past it a couple of thousand times because of its proximity to King’s. But I never ever gave it a second thought. I asked mm and other KCL friends and no one remembers it.
Oh what a missed opportunity. The restaurant has been there since 1946, when it was founded by Krishna Menon, the first Indian ambassador to the UK. Its poximity to India House, both King’s and LSE, Fleet Street, and so many chambers means it’s a favourite for academics, judges, lawyers, journalists and embassy staff. The prices seem to be from 1946 too. The menu is a plastic sheet and full of familiar south Indian fare: masala puri chaat, lamb bhuna, butter chicken, masala dosa. Nothing to write home about, not instagram worthy, and they may or may not make their own naan. But BYOB and £15 per head average. Ms O’Loughlin said she’d go back again and again, not because of the food, but:
out of deep affection. I love it in the same way I’m drawn to the novels of Anita Brookner or EM Forster; to small films set in run-down Roman apartment blocks and gloomy Indian call centres; to side streets in unknown cities where old milliners and haberdashers miraculously survive, their windows shielded by sepia-coloured film.
It’s no Dishoom, but seems more the vibe and atmosphere that Dishoom wants to emulate and “modernise.” And the fact that it’s not modern seems to be the charm. £15 in central London? Right next to our beloved college? Definitely a must-visit when we finally make it back to London. I hope that it’ll still be there because it’s in danger of being swallowed by greedy property developers. There’s a petition and a project to get English Heritage listed status for the building. Good luck to them.
This was the first semi-final of Bake-Off Crème de la Crème (ie the professionals). One of the tasks was to live plate a dessert in front of the judges. Not only must the dessert taste good, they were also marked on the theatrical element. A lot of prep, planning and teamwork went into creating this experience.
The idea of plating a dessert on the table originated at Alinea. Of course. I should have guessed either them or one of Heston’s. It was the last course of of a 20-course menu. With meals starting at US$175 and going up to US$385 for the kitchen table–per person, before wine and must be pre-paid like theatre tickets–diners expect a lot. And with Grant Achatz, I bet they do.
Someone on reddit was posting about showing a pic of this to their SO and complaining about how people are supposed to eat it. SO replied:
You’re supposed to eat this with your eyes.
Food? Art? Foodart? Art food? That’s bordering on very deep.
Had a meeting in the morning, don’t want to jinx it by giving too much away.
I finished around noon, so I was on the lookout for a quick lunch. Wandered around and the candidates were the usual diners, one that has pasta and a glass of wine, or this ramen shot that usually has a big crowd outside waiting. When I went to the ramen shop, it was just 12.05pm and there were counter seats. So ramen it was. The name of the shop is Yokohama ramen, but I don’t think there is anything special about Yokohama.
Watched the chefs make the ramen and they were authentic enough. The ramen were from Japan and the broth made from pork bones. I had one with the charsiu in cubes as opposed to the usual sliced. Overall, enjoyed the meal. When I left, there were already more than 10 people queuing outside.
Met with sis and gis for lunch at jinjuu. Korean place with ayce starters and we can choose one main dish. They gave us one of each of the starters and then we can order extra. Sort of fusion korean food: beetroot cured salmon, dumping soup, chicken skewer, grilled corn with sweet spicy sauce, kimchi arancini, grilled prawn. The salmon was too tart, too much vinegar in the cure. The dumpling was good, with a little bit of theatre as the broth was poured in from a teapot. i thought the chicken was tastless but gis liked it. I liked the corn but since they didn’t like it I ended up eating their portions so I didn’t have to order extra. The arancini and prawn were the two better starters.
For mains I chose barley bibimbap and I had may be 3 spoonfuls. The taste was okay, but nothing spectacular, underseasoned. The greatest thing about every bibimbap is the crust, and this one had zero crust. I didn’t mind that it was all vegetarian but the execution was disappointing. Sis had ramen and she said it was boring. Gis had a rice doughnut filled with bulgogi beef that she said was okay. Mum had the best main dish, of fried chicken.
Dessert was one plate of a mixture of ice cream, sorbet, and two cones. The ice cream was meh, the sorbet was okay, it was all a melting puddle when it reached our table.
For an additional charge sis and I had the 2hr freeflow drinks package. I started with a spicy kimchi mary which was a bloody mary with kimchi flavours and pepper flakes stuck to the outside of the glass. The flakes were useless and I could barely taste the kimchi. Not bad as a bloody mary. I moved to prosecco and ended up drinking quite a few glasses. They ran out of prosecco and for my last glass they gave me champagne, moët too. I liked the prosecco better.
Jinjuu is in london too and Jay Rayner described it as
and the brainchild of celebrity korean-american chef Judy Joo. It seems that neither Mr Rayner nor Fay Maschler of the Evening Standard were that impressed with the london branch.
Expensive too. Brunch for 4 people came to local$2200, or US$280. Okay, two of us added drinks but actually the drinks was the best value because we took full advantage. I don’t shy away from expensive meals, if they are good. I just don’t feel like this was value for money at all.
The silver lining I could muster is I was too full to have dinner so I can argue the cost covered meals for one whole day. Not very convincing, right?
There seems to be two totally unrelated factors going on here. First, many of these good and “famous” burgers are not common and garden fare. Daniel Boulud’s db burger, made with sirloin and has fillings like black truffle and foid gras, debuted in 2001 at $27. It’s now $35. There is an emphasis on quality ingredients and care in cooking, partly to justify the high price and partly because we’re talking restaurant chefs, not Mcdonalds.
Second, the off-menu aspect. For example, In-and-Out’s secret menu isn’t a huge secret. There’s probably some psychological high reached when people perceive they are getting a better deal than other customers. Or it’s an opportunity for oneupmanship, to show off, or in general be cooler, hipper, than one actually is.
There is cultural currency in speaking the language and knowing how to get the good stuff.
That said, it’s interesting to read about the burger eclipse effect. Like
if you build it, they will come
the rule is, if there is a burger on the menu, customers will order it. It’s predictable, it’s familiar, it’s satisfying. But it also means customers are not ordering food that the chef may consider more special, more worthy, more interesting.
One chef who has a great burger on the menu is April Bloomfield of the Spotted Pig, who another chef described as the queen of burgers. It’s been almost a year, I can still taste it.
Late lunch with mm, she had an appointment nearby so I walked down to the simplylife at festival walk. I’d already had lunch at home so we shared the meal. Spinach & mushroom pizza was nice, thin crispy crust and good flavour from the chanterelles. They initially brought us a chicken pizza and when we flagged a server down they realised it was for the table next to ours.
They have a really great selection of breads and cakes. It’s the same place I got the raspberry truffle cake and chestnut cake for mm’s birthday last week. Today we had a chocolate jaffa tart. Their chocolate pastries are good! The ganache was rich and the sweetness was balanced by real mandarin pieces. I found some frozen chocolate shortcrust pastry in the freezer the other day, I hope I can still use it, make chocolate tart.
Anyway, she wanted to go home to rest so we walked around the mall a little then she took the train. I stopped quickly at the supermarket and got tomatoes and carrots. I have an oxtail in the freezer, I want to use it this week.
Sis treated us to lunch at ON dining. It’s busy at lunchtime, good to see that business is good.
For starters I had pork knuckle carpaccio, which is pork terrine sliced very thin with an emulsion of egg and herbs topping. Mum and sis got an amuse bouche of soup since they didn’t order starters; gis had onsen egg with black truffle sauce.
Mains Sis and I had pigeon with foie gras. Perfectly cooked pigeon, delicious. Gis had beef and mum had hake.
I got a surprise birthday cake, their raspberry & yuzu that was on the menu. Mum got the same cake for dessert. Sis and I both ordered cheese so we got a large cheeseboard of comté plus six strong, oozy, yummy, cheese.
Met mm after lunch. We were going to have drinks but I thought we could get haircut since that was our original plan for saturday. Even better, because sam said he was pretty booked on saturday.
Early dinner at frites. It’s rugby sevens weekend and friday and we didn’t have a reservation. If we sat at a table we’d have to give it back by 7.30pm, but we were free to sit at the bar for as long as we wanted. So I picked the bar. We shared a plate of fried camembert and a pot of mussels. I had a beer and mm had a glass of red wine. Really lovely. The manager gave us each a complimentary shot of tequila for birthday, and I got a discount card too.
It was a nice birthday. Everybody made an effort and I felt blessed and loved. I just wish I felt better and more cheerful inside.
My great-aunt from canada called out of the blue this morning. She’s visiting for a week. Turned out she went on a last minute cruise with some friends. Now the coincidence is, they were on the Star and boarded in Auckland on the 18th!!! That’s exactly the leg after ours and we actually got to Auckland just in time to see it sail off that day. I showed her this pic I took as the bus was turning into britomart and she was there on the ship. If only we’d known. Their itineray was changed too, but at least the azipods kept on working. Theirs was a 19-day cruise that took them back to Sydney then to cairns, darwin, bali and singapore.
We treated her and her friend to lunch at the traditional restaurant spring deer. Shark’s fin soup, peking duck, minced pork and pastry parcels. Way too much to eat, we took the duck carcass and leftovers home. Lovely to see her and we enjoyed the food. Not too expensive, local$ 1600, around UD200, for 4 people. I remember going to this restaurant with my grandparents, it looks the same and the food is the same high quality. Okay, it’s controversial to have shark’s fin soup nowadays, we don’t really make it a habit. The soup was mainly a chicken soup with depth of flavour; shark’s fin itself is bland.
Visited Papa in the afternoon. No taxi on the way down so we started walking, luckily one came by around 5mins after. Chatty driver, sigh.
Early dinner at pizza express. We were there around 4.30-5pm for a 6pm reservation so we totally took our time. Sis had a voucher for a free pavlova, which turned out to be a ginormous portion. Delicious too. For mains I had mushroom truffle pizza, it was pretty good.
Went to collect rent with mum. So stupid, why do we have to go in person? No one heard of autopay?
Went to the supermarket to order christmas turkey. Yes, there’s only the two of us and before only 3 with dad. But don’t think those are normal sized turkeys, they’re more like large chicken. And cooked too. We freeze most of it, I take the carcass for stock.
Walked through the park with mum, it’s now a omanyte nest so pretty fruitful. We were looking for something to eat at teatime and walked past the luxurious AYCE japanese place we like, and made a reservation for dinner. Of course it was only 4pm. Sat for a while at a pizza place (shared one slice) then went back to sit at the park. The jap place was completely full! The sashimi were very fresh and they also had uni. The best dish for us were plain congee (with dried scallops) and movenpick ice cream.
Went with mum to the clinic in the afternoon and ended up having shabu shabu dinner. This was an ayce place and we could choose soup base and quality of beef. Usually with mum or mm I pick the second cheapest option, which comes with freeflow soft drinks. I splashed out today and picked the third cheapest option, of Australian beef. It turned out to be a great choice, the meat was tender and not fatty. The kind waitress gave us lean meat when we said we prefer it over fatty meat. She seemed surprise that I keep thanking her whenever she came to clear our plates or give us extra meat. Are manners that lacking in our society? Anyway another benefit was freefow Asahi in additional to soft drinks. May be this third cheapest is an option for next time I go with mm.
Wrote a little after lunch before we went out but the bulk of today’s writing was done after we got home from dinner. Wanted to get 3000 words for the day. The MCs are enjoying their alone time too much but I made one of the suspects call them up and arrange a meeting, so more to come and we can get back on track with the mystery in the next chapter.
Wrist update: under control. Foam rollering and wearing the brace to bed are effective remedies.
KCL88 group dinner. This is a group I haven’t seen for a long, long time. One of the members very kindly did all the organising and made the reservation at Chez Moi, a french private kitchen. No corkage so we all brought lots of wine. Some people brought brandy and whisky too.
I shared with Dixon, so we could try more of the menu. Foie gras and scallops for starter, then a mussel, saffron and leek soup and sorbet. For mains we had two steaks, a rib-eye and a sirloin. We ordered rare, the rib-eye came medium rare and the sirloin was more medium. Still tasty. Dessert were walnut tart and pancake french toast. Long evening, lots of very loud talking and a great time. Way too much wine, I stopped after a while. Had a sip of brandy and whisky. It was a Singleton, and it’s a shame I didn’t finish it, didn’t feel like more alcohol.
It was midnight when we finished. Certainly a case of time flies when you’re having fun. Five of us shared a taxi, poor Dixon had a bit too much to drink and a couple of the guys got him home and settled. Wonderful friends.
Errands after work: bank, cancel internet and book holiday with mm. Our first choice dates didn’t have flights but the helpful agent helped us get alternative dates and the hotel we wanted. Time to do research.
Dinner was at a korean chicken and beer place. The chicken wasn’t really that great, frozen and lacking in flavour. The sauces were good. The beer was expensive.
Walked to v-park for vulpix and also got a few others. Bus home.
Went with mm after work to the computer centre to get her mbp repaired. Her hard disk is almost dead and last time at the genius bar it was taken out of the body completely. So the aim was to a) get the HD into an ext casing and see if it still works; b) install a new HD into the mbp. Got quotes from a couple of places and went to the first one. The technician was very helpful and knowledgeable, we wandered around the mall for an hour whilst they did the repair. I bought a new screencover for the iphone, the old cover had cracked.
As usual, mm had a million questions but the technician was very patient. Almost 8pm when we left. I was pretty tired and hungry by then.
Went to a nearby building and first looked at a korean restaurant then decided to go to the thai place one floor down. Had beer, chicken wings, grilled squid, whole grey mullet, cabbage greens and roti. The squid, greens and roti were good, the chicken wings and fish less so.
Walked to a nearby gym and got our golds. Didn’t even know there is a park at that location.
Met sis to deal with Papa’s stuff. Lunch at Beef & Liberty’s. I had the bacon cheeseburger and substituted salad for fries. Sis had sweet potato fries so I grabbed a few. Really great burger. Ordered medium rare and it came nice and red inside. I don’t usually eat onions but the caramelised onion jam was the star of the dish. We felt like wine, which surprisingly went well with the burger.
Met mm for early dinner and ended up at a Japanese café. Also had burger. Definitely a few notches below the lunchtime one. They didn’t ask how I’d like the burger cooked and it came dry and well done. The onion wasn’t caramelised so I gave them to mm. The potato chunks had no colour and no colour = no flavour. It filled me up, which was the only good thing. Just as well, we went pokéhunting at the nearby park and it was a couple of hours of walking and rushing from one side of the park to the other.
A couple of eating out places. First was an Italian casual bar restaurant in the food hall. This was in the location of the tapas bar and the restaurant seems so new that I can’t find it listed in the directory. We shared a cold meat starter and I had pesto gnocchi. Nicely cooked gnocchi, and we all agreed the portions could be bigger. Shared a pannacotta and lemon tart for dessert. Sis and I also had a glass each of their house red.
I went back to my flat to check mail and open windows for ventilation. No potential tenants yet, sigh. Was meeting mm and our friend B for drinks, I was early so I stopped by the new Calbee plus store. Aside from rows upon rows of Japanese snacks in brightly coloured packaging, they serve chips for eating in-store. Chips with soft ice cream too. More hype than substance, I won’t try it again. If I’m hungry in that area, there’s a starbucks opposite where I can get muffins.
I did get some snacks, they had a few good special offers.
Mum and i went to a new ayce Jap place. More expensive than our usual but we agreed, it’s worth coming back even if it means we don’t eat out as often. The sashimi was super fresh and lots more choices. Our first round I didn’t even order salmon because there were hamachi, geoduck, scallop, two types of clams, two types of prawns and two different white fish. Uni sushi, the best grilled ox tongue, small sweet potatoes and lots more.
Dessert was the only slight disappointment even though it was fine. Ice cream, macaroons, panna cotta.
Then we went to the bank, the supermarket and finally home by dinner. Too full for dinner, which was fruit.
Laundry in the morning. About 10mins’ walk towards 14th street ACE stop. Good to take a rest. Visited Myers of Keswick, which sold British goodies like Marmite, brown sauce and pork pies. But no Walkers. Everything three times the price of the UK.
Lunch at the Spotted Pig. There is no excuse for not going, since it’s 5 mins’ walk away. Beautiful building, all red bricks and plants everywhere.
I got there just before 12pm when it opened. No reservation so people were milling around. I asked for a bar seat and ordered the burger and their bitter. Their burger is supposed to be the best in town. USD25, not bad price either, for a Michelin-starred place. And it was a great burger: medium rare as I requested, the roquefort really added to the flavour and the shoestring fries had rosemary and garlic in it. I forgave them for not having mayonnaise.
Back to Broadway for Matilda. Saw it in London and wanted to see it again (um, not only because it’s a challenge item in 101.1001). I should have realised that matinée in July = 50 million kids. There were 3 queues to get into the theatre and they all went around the block. I waited near the entrance to allow everyone to get in first, since I knew I had an aisle seat. I was probably the last person in. Luckily the people next to me were fantastic, not part of a group. The group behind was loud and talked throughout the performance, teenagers who should know better. The group in front of me was younger and instead of talking, there was copious fidgeting and standing up. Still, it didn’t detract from the show. I had sort of forgotten the story, and now after a second viewing it’s much more memorable. Lovely songs and performances by all.
Walked a long, long way to 30th and 12th towards the entrance of the High Line. By the time I got there I was really tired, so I was glad that section had shade from nearby construction. The High Line is a park located on an abandoned elevated railway track and extends all the way to 13th Street. Mostly wildflowers, which added to the charm. Some sections of the track were still visible.
Left the High Line at Chelsea Market, wasn’t sure where to go for dinner. The seafood, wine and cheese shop made the decision for me: get food to cook myself. Made a nice 4 course dinner: topneck & littleneck clams; kale & spot prawns with kale; small cheeseboard; blackberry & sorbet. Opened the bottle of wine Carleen gave me.
Dinner with Sis, G and Mum for Sis’ birthday. We were all going there separately so sis decided on Jamie’s Italian, so it’s easy for all to go to.
We got there early for happy hour. Not a great discount (less than 20%). We started off with cranberry soda, so unlike us to go for something non-alcoholic. Fear not, pretty soon we moved onto wine.
Some of the starters were at happy hour prices too so we ordered a plank (because Jamie) and arancini. For mains we had pasta (truffle for G, prawn for mum, crab for me) and sis had the garlic prawn starter. The pasta, we all agreed, was slightly overcooked. Next time we’ll make sure we say al dente. Too full for dessert.
The place was packed for a Thursday night. Okay, granted it’s the night before bank holiday. It was a great evening, very very happy with the chance to gather with family.
After church mum and I went to the noisy vietnamese place near the market. They were so short of staff that it was a long wait for tables, for someone to take orders, for food. That it was busy despite the slow service is a sign that the food is good.
We enjoyed our lunch, even though my iced tea came after I finished my meal and we had to share a table with a young couple. Mum had beef phở, she said the broth was very good. I had ox tongue bún thịt nướng: cold vermicelli noodles; I can drink that nuước chấm sweet spicy fish sauce like soup.
Made braised pork with mushroom and daikon at home. Did two loads of laundry. Sent out a bunch of gcls emails.
Ran some errands with Mum. Around teatime we were tired and wanted to sit down somewhere. Headed to the small market where there are a few small cafés that opened recently. Fruit teas and waffles seem to be a trend.
We each had a tea set with waffles. I had red bean and matcha ice cream and Mum had mixed fruit and vanilla ice cream. Came with an iced fruit tea. The waffle was a bit dense and tasted like it was prepared earlier. Definitely not as good as Belgian waffles or the ones at the green waffle place we went to for Mum’s birthday.
Drinks then dinner with Sis at the FCC. I probably went through 3-4 glasses of this Spanish wine, should have ordered a bottle to share. Sis had fish curry. I wanted one of their special items, poached lamb, but they were out. Went with the traditional calf’s liver and onions instead. One food I miss a lot is calf’s liver.
Took great-aunt for lunch at the cheapest michelin-starred restaurant in the world. Where she is staying with her friend is just a few minutes’ walk from the restaurant and her friend sometimes buys takeaway meals there, so it’s not like it’s fancy restaurant or anything.
A small menu, all fit on one order sheet. We had the famous char siu bun and then a selection of all good dimsum dishes.
Walked around the mall afterwards, it was too hot to go outside. Great-aunt flies back to Tornoto tonight, we’ll miss her.
I must take mm to this place. Weekday high tea at a small café in a shopping mall. A little out of town but easy enough for both of us to travel to on the train.
This was a set for two, for local$99 or around $12. It’s a sort of self-service café so no service charge. Two pieces of sweet and savoury teatime food and some non-traditional teatime food. From top: banana tart, salmon on rye; strawberry custard croissant, green tea ice cream; tuna sandwich, egg mayo vol-au-vent, raisin danish. A standard hot drink also included.
Taste-wise, not the best teatime food by a long stretch. But good value and nice atmosphere in the café. Perfect for chatting. They also have a tempting selection of cakes, breads, pastries and ice cream. A discount for seniors when buying their bread too, around 40%.
Sunday lunch was at a busy, noisy vietnamese place. Mum had pork chop glass noodles and I had the three-way rice: red rice with chả lụa pork rolls, chicken wings and lemongrass pork chop. Came with a drink and I could upgrade to one of the special drinks. I opted for salted lemon and ginger ale. I should buy some lemon and salt and make my own preserved lemon.
Monday lunch was homemade butternut squash soup with leftovers. I made the soup by spending the entire Sunday afternoon making turkey stock from the usual suspects: bones that have been sitting in the freezer, carrot, celery, onion, garlic, peppercorn, random herbs. Roasted the butternut squash while the stock was simmering. The soup did not need any seasoning, it was sweet from the squash and there was enough salt from the bones (was from a roast turkey). Bulked up using leftover alphabet pasta, ‘hairy’ courgette, pork chop and tofu that has also been in the freezer. Yep, frozen tofu is so totally different from regular tofu, it’s
sturdier, chewier, more flavorful
and gives another texturual dimension to a soup. I call it presentation!fail but delicious.
Took my great-aunt out for lunch at our favourite all you can eat Japanese place. I was busy ticking all the items on the menu. The sashimi was fresh, they had uni sushi and truffle hamachi sushi. Also had grilled stuff, salad, onsen egg and a salmon & tomato hotpot.
Lovely that my great-aunt is visiting, we’ve been seeing her a few times and always enjoy her company.
Mum and I went to this dimsum place that is like a diner/noodle place as opposed to a regular restaurant. We ordered by ticking our selection on a menu sheet. Prawn & vegetable dumplings, stuffed tofu rolls, fish congee and a new item: long thin spring rolls filled with cheese and prawn. I can taste the prawn but couldn’t see or taste any cheese. Crispy on the outside though, so not bad. The congee was excellent, we’ll order it again. I was trying to figure out what 泥鯭 is in English, and have mixed results. It’s some sort of spinefoot, or rabbitfish. I’ve seen it described as slimy spinefoot or mottled spinefoot.
Some sort of attempt at fusion I guess. There’s a big trend towards fusion dimsum nowadays. Mostly, it’s interesting and sometimes it works.
Dessert was steamed ginger jelly pudding. Very gingery, we liked it. Bill came to under £10 for two.
Met mm for lunch. Didn’t want her to drive ryan so just met her in town. We went to a japanese restaurant called sushi shota that she visited once before with ex-colleagues. New for me. Quite upmarket, lunch sets were local $160-380 (USD20-50).
We sat at the counter (the best place to sit at a japanese restaurant) and both went for the mid-range Hokkaido chirashi set. Salad and chawanmushi to start; the sushi bowl had an abundance of fresh and delicious fish: salmon, salmon roe, uni, striped jack, fatty tuna, whelk, scallop, spot prawn. Sesame ice cream to finish.
Great to take a leisurely lunch and catch up. I really miss her, and I think/hope she misses me too although she seems to be way too busy with exams, coursework and other obligations.
Ran an errand or two–had to change my credit card for my mobile and internet autopays, remember my credit card got compromised and I had to get a new one?
Anyway, perfect timing to decamp to a happy hour place. My suggestion this time: HMV café. They opened a huge 3-storey store and we walked around looking at CDs, DVDs, vinyl records and headphones before finding a bar table at the bar-café. She had a black coffee and I had the house red. It’s a fantastic happy hour meeting place: convenient location, quiet restaurant, decent drinks selection and music that is present but not overly loud.
R is an investor in a new restaurant called maison eight that is a three-in-one food & beverage destination: a huge bar space called the Ballroom including a cocktail bar opened by a celebrity bartender, an intimate French fine dining restaurant and a private function room. Soft opening this week, so we went off to try.
The bar is definitely huge and swanky, to the point of gaudy. Apparently it can hold 300 people and also has an outdoor terrace with harbour view. Large selection of drinks and specially created cocktails by Salvatore, the celebrity bartender from London. R had a couple of their cocktails, Sis had lychee martini and I had an old fashioned. Nice drinks. The bartender even made a raspberry mocktail for my niece.
The restaurant is small and intimate. Largely French with 4 steaks as mains. I had lamb, sis had lobster, my niece had salmon soufflé and they made a risotto for R. Oh, they started us with 2 amuse bouches: duck and potato & cheese croquettes. We all loved the croquettes.
My lamb rack was small–must have been a very, very young lamb. Suitably pink with braised vegetables. The salmon soufflé looked good too. The lobster according to sis was nice and suitably puffy when served. R ordered a bottle of wine, but they couldn’t find it, nor the second bottle he ordered. They served us a glass of house wine to tide us over.
I had rum baba for dessert, it’s been a while. The other desserts–pannacotta, almond cake–were all good.
I can’t imagine what the bill came to, even with investor discount. Must have been astronomical. Definitely a special occasion place.
On the way home with Mum, we’ve been stopping off to have dinner. We’ve had a set including chicken, vegetables, pork chop. I thought I was quite good to avoid the set that came with a can of coke or coke zero. I’m not 100% off coke zero, probably about once every week.
We’ve also had pasta. Tonight we went to Café de Coral, a local fast food place. Mum had baked pork chop and rice and I opted for a winter special: individual hotpot. Quite a generous portion and the soup is heated using tiny burners. Beef, dumplings, tofu, mushroom, lettuce, udon. The soup was a bit too salty for my taste but I was very full afterwards. Good meal, inexpensive too.
Fast food and hotpot seem to be oxymorons, but it worked in this instance.
Pre-birthday dinner with sis and gis. Went over to their place in the afternoon to have cake first. Sis bought ice cream eggs from haagen-dazs that was extremely nice and rich. Not a traditional birthday cake, I like it.
Dinner at the Pawn, where I’ve wanted to visit for a while. I follow chef Tom Aikens on instagram and see him posting pics of them making sausage or bread quite often.
We went early and it was surprisingly quiet, only 3 tables occupied. I had the set dinner: ricotta & herbs, tuna tartare, grouper with fennel & orange, crème catalan. They were also nice enough to let us try a little of the Nebbiolo, fortunate because we didn’t like it and opted for a bottle of Pinot Noir instead. The grouper was slightly overcooked for my taste but the rest of the menu was good albeit not stellar. Enjoyed the evening and spending time with sis and gis.
Meeting mm for dinner, decided to go out early: a) to take old clothes for recycling and b) to explore one of the happy hour places near where we are meeting.
One of my newest go-to places is food street, which is going through a revival. We normally go to Simplylife for tea, sis and I went to Minh&Kok for Asian, mm and I went to Coast once for an attempted happy hour (she was so late the place had turned to a restaurant). There are new places serving burgers, steaks, mediterranean food, tapas, coffee, gelato. I ended up at Coedo taproom, which serves craft beer from its namesake brewery located in Saitama Japan. They have 12 beers on tap (5 of their own plus 7 guest beers) and a page of kushiyaki. Everything is quite expensive, I guess it’s the location.
I had their beer flight, 150ml servings of their 5 beers. I had about an hour to kill, so I was able to slowly sip each one. Each had a colour assigned to it:
ruri: blue pilsner — light and crisp, easy on the palate
shiro: white hefeweizen — nice wheat beer smell but a bit bland
kyara: brown IPA — one of the better tasting IPAs I’ve tasted, hoppy but not killed by the hops
beniaka: red amber ale — expected to be my favourite and it was, rich and smooth
shikkoku: black lager — smell and look of very dark beer but not heavy
The beers are about double the price of beers at neighbouring places, especially at happy hour prices. It’s marketing at work: “hand”-crafted beer vs standard tap stuff although the beers at the burger joint looks already quite good: 1664, Asahi, Guinness.
HMV opened up nearby, with almost a whole floor dedicated to a bar-restaurant. Wasn’t very busy when I went up, another possibility for happy hour and to meet up. We normally meet at the sofa section at Ikea, so having someplace else to sit down with a drink is great. They have Estrella on tap. Beer selection will never be as good as a British pub, but is miles ahead of American bars with their beer-flavoured water. I think that’s why craft beers are getting so much attention in the US: people are used to bland stuff (Bud, Coors) and when they are offered a bit of flavour of course they will be wowed. Compared with UK, Belgium, Germany where the beer already taste good and varied, the newer craft beers are merely one more choice.
Dinner plans was originally karaoke, which would have ended up mostly mm singing and me forced to participate in a few songs. We decided it was for another time so searched online and found an AYCE hotpot restaurant. The food wasn’t that good, it’s hard to screw up hotpot but they did it: meat was too fat or looked brown & watery, veg wasn’t washed properly. Definitely not going back there again.
The movers dropped a few boxes in the morning so I could do some packing myself. Books, filing cabinet, desk, stationery, cds, dvds, wii, towels, beddings, bathroom stuff and clothes except for those on hangers are done. I’ll leave hanged clothes for the movers, they will bring large boxes.
Had to run out to the station to hand over half a dozen cups to a buyer. Definitely selling at a loss, the cost of the bus fare back and forth was 20% of the selling price. I wish I can find someone to buy all the candles.
Dinner with ex-colleagues at a place called lab eats. Nothing experimental about it, fairly standard food. This group tends to share, even western meals. Hmm. One of the ex-colleagues know the owners so we got a 12% discount. Had a nice bottle of wine, beef carpaccio, a great pork chop, wagyu steak, paella, risotto. The group initially wanted the wagyu steak done medium, crikey!! I intervened and ordered it medium rare but it came overdone anyway. Dessert was mango & lychee cheesecake and chocolate fondant.
We were chatting till quite late, it was good to see them. The food was good but not stunning. Mostly expensive ingredients, which I guess is the selling point. How it was cooked IMO didn’t do the quality of the food justice. Just look at the sides for the 2 mains: potato croquette and a sad combo of beans and baby corn. Gravy that tasted like it came out of a packet. My favourite dish was the pork, and also the creamy risotto. Again, they justified the price by adding foie gras on top, but I could have just eaten the risotto on its own. The beetroot crisp on the side was excellent.
Lunch with sis at a vietnamese/thai restaurant. It’s on a pedestrianised street nicknamed “food street” with lots of different types of restaurants. Aside from this asian themed one, there’s simply life, mediterranean, tapas, burger, steak, a taproom and around the corner a posh chachanteng and a gelateria.
We had the set lunch with a choice of noodle dishes: laksa, pho, bun vermicelli, fried noodles. There’s an optional starter platter of rice roll, spring roll and satay. We ordered one starter, supposedly to share but I ate all of it. Sis had laksa and I had bun vermicelli with pork which is a cold noodle with crunchy salad and the ubiquitious nước chấm sauce.
All very nice. Sometimes it’s hard to find good vietnamese / thai places that are one step up from street food. This is by a large conglomerate, but done pretty well.
CNY dinner was at an Indian vegetarian restaurant. I saw a poster that they are having a promotion every Monday in February: eat and pay as you like. They don’t take reservations for this promotion so we got there at around 5.50pm. There was already a queue on the street. We were lucky enough to get a table. The restaurant was full, but everyone was polite and orderly when getting the food (no mainlanders, that’s why).
I filled up my plate on my first visit, with almost everything available at the buffet. The familiar paneer, aloo gobi (cauliflower), aloo chaat (potato curry) and the less familiar idli sambar (white cake with sauce) and medu vada (fried doughnut). For dessert there were the very sweet gulab and gaajar ka halwa, made from grated carrot, milk, sugar and we tasted something like semolina inside.
We asked for something not spicy and the manager brought us a huge dosa. That was definitely the highlight of the meal, crispy and flavoursome.
We had a couple of bottles of wine, nice but a bit pricey. The pay as you like was a bit strange, they presented a bill together with an empty lai see envelope and didn’t explain anything. Apparently the amount on the bill is the suggested payment and you’re supposed to put it in the envelope.
Overall, not a bad meal. Didn’t blow me away. When we left at around 8pm the queue downstairs was still going strong. Looks like they will have a very full house.
Arthur’s café is in Dalston, it’s the sort of neighbourhood caff that everyone is nostalgic for. Arthur Woodham is in his 80s and still runs the place his father opened. Fresh, honest food. Daily specials that are set like clockwork: meat pie on Mondays; liver and bacon on Thursdays. Great recent review. A bit far for us to travel, but I’ll keep it on the list. Never know.
And the results: Rox Burger won. Their menu looks great. All fresh ingredients, interesting toppings inspired by the Brazilian chef-owner (jalapenos, chorizo). Nice to see local places run by enthusiastic chefs get recognition.
My uncle and his friends invited us to a dinner. We met them last year at my aunt’s funeral and shared a table at lunch. A mutual love of food sparked conversation and the invitation. The venue was one of those unassuming, untidy, diner places in a working class neighbourhood. They go there apparently often. The food was a mix of specials made by the chef and seafood brought in by the friends.
It was a feast! Started with fried plump oysters and whelks. Then chicken, a huge plate of roast pork, razor clams, giant abalone, fish. The seafood was fresh and simply cooked, mainly steamed.
The oddest thing was, someone brought a bottle of royal salute 21. I think I’ve had a tiny taste at a duty free, but this was the first time I properly drank it. As befitting the unassuming surroundings, we had it in a normal water glass. It’s very good, caramel-y on the nose, smooth tasting, not a lot of legs though. I’ve never had whisky with a main meal, the whole bottle was almost finished at the end of the evening.
News from one of my most favourite restaurants, Hawksmoor.
They are 10 years old. From humble beginnings in
what was then quite a dodgy East London street when we noticed a FOR SALE sign above a boarded-up kebab shop
to 6 branches in London and another in Manchester is well impressive.
Now they announce that they will be opening in New York in 2017, as the flagship restaurant at the new World Trade Center. So my US friends will be able to see why I rave on and on about them. Self-depracating as usual:
we’re aware that the track record of Brits stateside isn’t all Beatles and Bond. For every Posh & Becks there’s an M&S, for every Downton a Tesco, for every Cowell a Cole.
And as if we can’t love them enough, they just bottled their own whisky! A 16 year cask from Craggenmore they are calling Clerk of the Works. Hee. Some bottles available for purchase at £80. Not sure if I’ll get a chance to buy, I’ll remember to try it at the bar next time I visit.
My niece flew to the UK to spend christmas with robert and his parents. Sis isn’t going, so she asked me to go with her to drinks and dinner tonight, otherwise she will be too worried about my niece on the plane.
We started off with prosecco and I also ordered a baked camembert to nibble on. Quite nice, but the bar didn’t have happy hour. We moved to another bar that had happy hour at the hotel next door. Sat outside, it was just about warm enough not to need a coat.
Dinner was at a german restaurant called Berliner. Sis had two vouchers, one for a free cocktail and the other gave a discount, both had to be used by 31-dec. The free cocktail was a sweet gin and juice concoction. For mains we had sausages and more sausages. I ordered the huge sausage platter, ate around 1/3 and took the rest home.
We visited Nha Trang Thanh, which consistently makes lists such as the best cooked food centre restaurants around. What does cooked food centre restaurant mean? It’s basically a stall inside a wet market building, the type of place that is messy and just that little bit not-so-clean. This place has apparently one of the most authentic phos and vietnamese food around.
The owner was a very friendly and chatty auntie, apparently they are returnees, having emigrated to Canada and come back. She treated us like we were visitors in her own home, helping us order and making sure we have everything. I ordered lime soda and she told me to wait while she ran downstairs to the market to buy limes!
We ordered a starter plate of chicken wings, pork chops, vietnamese spring roll and cha lua (pork roll). At her suggestion, we ordered the beef pho, bun bung (noodles in tomato soup) and bun thit (cold vermicelli). The soup that the pho was served in was a broth made from beef bones boiled for many hours, it was tasty and yet not oily. Very nice.
@newopenings had a twitter competition to find the best steak restaurant in London. The finalists, to no one’s surprise, were: Goodman and Hawksmoor. Hawksmoor won by a small margin.
My love for Hawksmoor is well known and well documented. I’ll take anyone and everyone there. If I can’t take them, I’ll recommend the place. Their steaks are from the ginger pig and chargrilled to perfection. Their sides are great, their bone marrow heavenly and their sticky toffee pudding…no words. Plus £5 corkage on mondays.
I’ve also visited Goodman and their steak was excellent too. Personally I prefer the atmosphere at Hawksmoor, and I’m more used to it.
The closest to Austin I have been was to Dallas/Fort Worth, and meeting my friend DS (who lives in the Austin area) at Waco–halfway between DFW and Austin. If I ever visit Austin, I’ll want to give counter 3.five.vii a try. Interesting concept: a 25-seat restaurant where diners sit at a counter whilst the chefs work in front of, and interact with them. The menu consists of three tasting menus of 3, 5 or 7 courses, with or without wine pairings. The eater video shows typical 5- and 7-course progressions. Extremely modern cooking–menu changes weekly, they grow their own microgreens, there are foraged ingredients.
More interesting concepts: there are no servers and no tipping. So the 5-course, at $80, is really $65 with a 20% tip. Very decent reviews and very much a special occasion restaurant.
Anyone who was ever a student in London, rich or poor, would have eaten at The Stockpot. It’s an institution. I remember three: one around the corner from Harvey Nicks, one at Haymarket and one at Old Compton Street.
The prices were affordable, especially for Central London. It was comfort food: spag bol, roasts, liver & onion, fish & chips. Plus puddings, ice cream, jelly and custard. Notice the spotted dick on the menu.
A sign of the times, that the last time we were at a Stockpot, in 2011, we had grilled halloumi–gasp, so cosmopolitan. Luckily the staples were still around. I had roast beef, mm had sea bass and we both had apple crumble. They even gave us extra custard. The crumble was good. The roast beef was on the well done side of very well done. But hey, lots on the plate and swimming in gravy too.
I did notice when we were in London earlier this year that the one at Haymarket had gone. We had other dining options, so we didn’t go searching out for the others. Now I read that the last remaining one at Old Compton Street has closed, as its owners retire. I guess it was inevitable, I just mentioned that we had plenty other dining options in London. It belonged in a different era, that it was:
part of a tradition that went back to Lyon’s tea shops – restaurants where the cooking was not really that important. You went for the gossipy atmosphere or for sustenance or because you wanted to be back in the Soho of Lucien Freud and Sebastian Horsley and this was the nearest you were going to get.
The site at Old Compton Street will be taken over by yet another hipster, modern casual burger restaurant. Times change.
Sis and I went out for lunch and dinner last week, the day when I was looking after my niece for part of the day. Lunch was at Jason Atherton’s Aberdeen Street Social. Downstairs is the more casual bistro. I had what was on the menu as sea bass “BLT” which was seabass, pork belly, sautéed cabbage, mushroom and a tomato sauce. The seabass was really nice, fresh and flakey. They should have served it with the crispy skin though. For a small additional charge, it came with a glass of wine and dessert, which was chocolate cake.
Dinner was at Mr & Mrs Fox, a sprawling modern industrial-looking bar and restaurant. Noisy happy hour folks downstairs at the bar; we ate upstairs at the restaurant. Started with oysters, which were fresh but disappointing because they seemed to have washed them before serving. To me, that’s sacrilegious as all the taste of the sea is gone. My steak was a 16oz bone-in strip; rare and perfectly cooked. Soft and flavourful too. Their house wine came in draught form, so we could order any amount we wanted. We’d had wine already earlier so it was just one glass.
For gis’ birthday this year she picked lunch at jamie’s italian at the weekend. She even sent the email to all of us with the details. I’ve only been to jamie’s italian in the UK, so was wondering if the menu ported over well. First of, the restaurant was huge, must have cost a pretty penny in rent. We started with cauliflower fritters and arancini to share. Everyone ordered pasta for mains. Mine was supposed to be the daily special of mussel spaghetti (I think it’s spaghetti, we had problems understanding the waitress’ english). Definitely in the can do better category. The entire dish was bland, as if no salt or pepper had been added. The shells of the mussels were broken and the greatest sin of all, the pasta was overcooked. An italian restaurant that doesn’t know how to serve al dente pasta, argh. Everyone’s pasta was overcooked too, and we had to ask for olive oil to loosen the pasta.
The dessert redeemed them a little. Gis had pavlova, parents had cheesecake and I had gelato: vanilla, chocolate and sea salt caramel. Gave most of the chocolate to parents and they really liked it. Originally I was going to look for a camera with gis but she was tired and wanted to go home. Mum and I did some food shopping then went home too.
It’s a special-for-this-year-only public holiday today, which has zero significance for me except mm has free time. We drove out to one of the beaches, sigh, it’s terrible with the public holiday crowd. No street parking so we headed straight to the paid car park.
My original intention was to walk around the beach then explore the shops around the town. I remember there is a cheese and wine shop that is interesting. Instead, we plonked ourselves at the outdoor bar at the beach and ordered a couple of glasses of wine. A cab for mm and a german pinot for me, both were good. Chilled, in chilled glasses, which was strange, but in the heat everything got to room temperature quickly.
Mostly mm did the talking, telling me about her new classmates in her new course. My job is to be supportive and to tell her to chill out a bit, it’s only been a couple of days, no need to get frustrated at people who aren’t perfectionists.
Didn’t go anywhere else after the bar, we were both hungry so we took ryan back to mm’s car park and took public transportation to a korean bbq. We noticed that no koreans ever tend to go to these buffet places. We had beef, lamb, pork, chicken, sausages, mushroom as well as lots of lettuce and chili sauce. The banchan wasn’t impressive, only the pickled cucumbers passed muster. Nice to have a day out to chat and catch up anyway.
Went with mm and a couple of ex-colleagues to an italian restaurant owned by a friend of one of our ex-colleagues. It’s only been open a year or so, the decoration looked straight out of something old school. Lots of tableside service items, the caesar salad was made tableside by the manager. He had a nice light touch, explaining the ingredients as he added to the bowl and the dressing was just thick enough to coat the salad leaves without being stodgy.
We also shared a salmon pasta with cream sauce and a mixed grill of prawns, lamb chops and pork chops. They also offered spaghetti carbonara cooked tableside, the pre-cooked pasta was brought out and warmed, then added to an entire wheel of pecorino. The heat of the pasta is enough to melt the cheese so it acted as a sauce. We saw other people have it, didn’t order it for our table.
Dessert was the ultimate tableside dish: crêpe suzette. Again, the manager’s light touch was appreciated, he made the caramel using sugar and water but only added a small knob of butter. Lots of orange juice and two flambés: brandy and grand marnier.
Since our ex-colleague knew the owner, the wine (an average bottle of italian cab), coffee tea and dessert were free. Quite nice to go to an old school place and try the food. The staff there were attentive and the food was pretty good.
Mum decided we should have japanese for lunch. Casual japanese restaurants are almost all all-you-can-order buffets: they have a thick stack of order sheets for various categories of food and we just tick what we want. We had 3 platters of sashimi, some sushi, tempura, grilled food, salad, soup, grilled pineapple, ice cream mochi. Drinks included too, mum had soft drinks and my dad and I ordered loads of hot sake.
This type of buffet normally has a time limit of around 2hrs at dinner. At lunch, they gave us 3hrs. Even better.
The sake got my head spinning a little when I got home so I decided against going running. Too full for dinner, just had some fruit.