I travel a lot but I never go on holiday. This is a balance that I am keen to reset, downtime is so important to reset a frazzled brain. Travel for work is wonderful but it is always work. From first light to when I switch off the lamp at my bedside, I am on. Looking for every photo opportunity, taking notes, looking for that little something different that maybe others don’t see. Every meal is an analysis, for quality, for difference. Every flavour good or bad, is a string of adjectives, a story possibility. Of course I enjoy it, but switching off is a joy and it is all too rare. At times it feels impossible.
This post was published in partnership with Rennie, but all opinions on jerk chicken and joyful carnivals remain truly my own. For more information on Rennie, antacids and managing bloating or trapped wind, do check out the Rennie website.
For my first few years in London I went home every bank holiday weekend. I was unsettled and I missed my friends, and I took every opportunity to immerse myself in my culture, the one I missed. Still a displaced immigrant even though it was my choice to come, I wanted to live in London but I had yet to find my slice of home here. Of course, I have it now, 15 years in, although I still miss Ireland, the laughter and the nonsense, the fun. But I want to live here.
Who wouldn’t want to live in London? It is a city for all people, with all things, you just need to find your bit of it. That takes time for most, and London is expensive. Most of us make compromises to live here, and this is something that you can be ok with for a while. Expensive rented accommodation (the dream of a tiny home of ones own is still there but not feasible right now), commutes, and what are savings? But we love it here, the opportunities that it brings, be they work or fun or the many cultural things. For me, that is all three.
This post is published in partnership with Bombay Sapphire, who sponsored this post. It is the second of two posts. In the first, I shared my preview of The Grand Journey from Bombay Sapphire and shared my Saffron and Coriander Crusted Lamb Chops recipe which featured two of the 10 botanicals. Here I share my experience of The Grand Journey itself. Enjoy!
An evening on a train with expertly crafted gin cocktails and food from a Michelin star chef sounds like a pretty perfect evening. Add that this train, the Laverstoke Express (named for the home of the Bombay Sapphire distillery) brings you from Spain to Tuscany to the Moon.
The Grand Journey details were kept firmly under wraps and turned out to be a multi sensory experience in a vintage style train carriage in London’s Banking Hall, led by hugely entertaining hosts serving expertly crafted food and drink featuring the 10 botanicals from Bombay Sapphire. It was a fun and surreal immersive gin filled evening showcasing the 10 botanicals used to flavour Bombay Sapphire in both food and cocktails.
On arrival, we were presented with a G&T in a signature Bombay Sapphire G&T glass with bright blue stem. The train was beside, complete with steam and train noises. The lights were low, and the mood dark, spirits were high. We were beckoned in and took our seats in the low light. I wondered, why so dark? Once we were all seated it was immediately obvious why. Film of the destinations was broadcast on the windows and also on the tables. Koi carp swam around our plates and Moroccan tile patterns danced around one of our drinks.
I won’t apologise for waxing lyrical here. Asma Khan has been cooking some of my favourite food in London for some time now, and her gem of a restaurant Darjeeling Express finally has a permanent home in Kingly Court in Soho.
Opening night at Darjeeling Express in Soho! Asma on her food, and the food we ate on the evening (it was impromptu so forgive the sound quality, I will do this again with my microphone).
As with her many pop ups before this, at Darjeeling Express Asma and her terrific all woman team of cooks are cooking authentic food from her Bengali childhood as well as the food of her father’s region Uttar Pradesh, and the food of her Royal Mughlai ancestry. The result is an exciting menu where the food of royal kitchens meets the street food of Calcutta.
As an Irish food writer in London I have a responsibility to guide you to the best and most authentic Irish eating experiences in the capital. There will be Irish menus everywhere but where are the best contemporary ones that accurately reflect that emerald isle of ours? Don’t worry, I’ve got your back!
Bentley’s Oyster Bar & Grill
One of my favourite London spots, Richard Corrigan’s Bentley’s Oyster Bar & Grill is a perfect place to go on Paddy’s Day. There is their annual Feast of St Patrick’s lunch, which is held tomorrow with live music, proper Irish stew and the unofficial Irish national dish, bacon and cabbage. But it is sold out, so if you don’t have tickets for that make a note to get them early next year, and head to Bentley’s anyway to the bar or restaurant for their menu packed with Irish produce including oysters from Carlingford and Galway and terrific grilled sirloin of Irish heritage beef.
11 – 15 Swallow St, London W1B 4DG
It is time to grip your oyster card tight and hop on the northern line to south London to take yourself to Milk in Balham. Yes, even you north Londoners with a fear of everything south of the river. (Right? I mean I used to be a north Londoner, but I did travel south!). A local café for me, but a London destination for brunch for many Londoners. Milk is one of the best cafés in London for both coffee and food, with a creative exciting menu and weekly specials (well documented on my instagram as I am a regular there). I am sure that Milk has been on your list but you do need to start paying attention now as Milk have raised their game with Milk Lates.
This post is a carefully selected sponsored post sponsored by Craved London, who asked me if I would explore their offering and share the results with you. I loved it. Craft have gathered the best craft food and drink produce from the UK and will deliver it to your door. Would you like 20% off with which to try it? Just use the code LOVENIAMH on the Craved website – http://cravedlondon.com/ – and enjoy!
I love craft. From cooking to pom poms, my life has been steeped in it since I was a small girl. It is that passion for craft that led me to start this blog. Craft cooking and shining a light on the most interesting people, places and producers that I find.
I mourned the loss of The Dairy deli, where I used to buy their excellent bouncy boules of sourdough bread, bright pickles, bone marrow butter and house smoked trout. I particularly loved the piccalilli. Alas, it is gone, and now in places of shelves, there are bar counters and stools. Where there was a fridge displaying all sorts of goodies and a proud cooked ham sitting on top, there is a large wooden bar from behind which a tight team of cooks deliver a seasonal selection of small plates and one dessert. And it is even better.
The Dairy’s Naughty Little Brother
Counter Culture is a relaxed space for The Dairy to deliver their house cured salamis and ferments and pickles along with vibrant small plates. Billed as The Dairy’s naughty little brother, and located next door, it is a fun space with just 15 seats (and you can book!). George East is at the helm here (overseen by Robin Gill next door), and Coco Crean (previously of Paradise Garage) is front of house. It is characterful and exciting, and a friendly place. The food is very good, and for now, it is BYO. Yes, BYO. So, why are you still sitting there?
Let’s talk about the food. I have been twice, once for the opening and once since with a friend. Prices are excellent, everything is under £10 and like The Dairy, everything looks deceptively simple, but on every dish there are layers of flavour and technique. The menu changes a little from day to day, this is the kind of thing you can expect.
Sour potato flatbread with ‘nduja and cultured cream. The Dairy is deservedly respected for their house bread, enter now the potato bread. A chewy gorgeous slice with small chunks of potato spiced and enriched with Calabrian ‘nduja on the side (that wonderful powerfully spicy spreadable pork sausage) and cultured cream. £4.
Sweet promise mackerel, sour escabeche, salted blood orange (£8). A beautiful dish, just to look at, the bitter treviso a lovely counter to the fresh sweet sour mackerel and the blood oranges cheery, sour and bright.
Purple artichokes and smoked cod roe (£7.50) – a gorgeous dip approaching taramsalata (and the proper stuff not the bright pink terrifying one in the supermarket), creamy and rich with lovely tart lightly pickled artichokes to drag through it.
Cellar ferments and pickles (£3.50) – fresh from the Dairy cellar where they have been fizzing and pickling for months, these are excellent. I loved the romanesco particularly.
Crab crackers with Korean spiced brown crab dip (£4). House crab crackers (think prawn crackers but with crab with a lovely rich crab dip and wakame. Lovely.
Bambi dog with sauerkraut and crispy shallots (£8.50) – a divine venison hot dog with piquant sauerkraut and crispy shallots on top. Just what it says really and very good.
There is no booze on sale but there is BYO (yay!) and there are some alcohol free cocktails like fizzy banana kombucha (£4) and peach and ginger cream soda (£4). BYO has a £4 cover fee.
My first visit was on the opening night, on my second we ordered almost the whole menu between two of us at and it came to approximately £40 each with BYO corkage and service. I recommend it very highly. You can book online, which I recommend you do, as it tends to be busy.
Happy weekend – get down there.
What you need to know
Open Tues – Fri 6pm – 11pm, Sat 3pm – 11pm, closed Sun – Mon
Book online: http://www.countercultureclapham.co.uk/
London hasn’t been short of great Neapolitan style and sourdough pizzas in the last 5 years. I love a pizza, but what I never could understand was why nobody had applied the same approach to great handmade pasta. There are restaurants serving very good pasta in London, but mostly at the high end. Pasta takes effort and expertise but isn’t necessarily expensive so that wasn’t making any sense to me. At last someone has opened a pasta restaurant, and it is great. All hail Padella.
Padella – handmade pasta at Borough Market
Padella is from the team behind Trullo, an Italian restaurant and local favourite in Highbury, which has become a destination too for their pasta and fiorentina steaks. I really enjoyed it, but it is a little far from my corner of South London and so I have not made it as much as I would like. Padella, on the other hand is a short hop up the Northern Line, and wedged into Borough Market by the entrance.
I say wedged, but what greeted me was a bright stylish space with high ceilings, and a gorgeous clash of black and white in different patterns. Black and white honeycomb tiles and black and white marble counters (very instagram, but also very Italian). The chefs cook behind an open bar, and the seats are arranged by the window and counters with one larger table upstairs. There is a downstairs area with more tables too.
I had just hopped off the plane from Ireland at London City Airport. I had my suitcases, but I also had a strong desire which overtook any sensible need to get home and unpack everything. I wanted something very good to eat, something swift, and relatively inexpensive. I had a list of places that I wanted to try and Padella won.
I grabbed a perch in the bright window, it was a lovely sunny day. The menu is short and sharp with 4 starters, 6 pastas and 2 desserts. There are 2 London beers on tap, 2 red and white wines on tap, prosecco and bollicine by the bottle, 3 cocktails and some digestifs. Coffees are espresso based, and the prices are all very reasonable (wine is £3-5 by the g;lass, cocktails and £5-6). I liked that the pastas had variety both in shapes and sauces, and also that they weren’t entirely wedded to Italian regional pastas, and were being quite creative.
Beans are so underrated and often sad, served bloated from tins soaked in salt and sugar and rendered flavourless by their time there. I adore beans, dried and fresh. I have a whole section on them in my first cookbook, including batch cooking them. I always have lots in my kitchen. The borlotti beans on the bruschetta starter here were plump, proud and stretched out in a salsa rossa, served on crusty bread. An excellent beans on toast, and a perfect appetiser.
It is rare to see cacio e pepe on a restaurant menu in London, and here it is served with handmade pici which had a wonderful texture. A little misshapen and toothsome, caressing the cheesy sauce. Cacio e pepe is one of the 4 pillars of roman pastas, traditionally made with pecorino romano and black pepper, made fluid with some energetic tossing with the pasta, along with some pasta cooking water. Here, (I heard the server tell the person next to me), they use parmesan, black pepper and a little butter (in Rome where it is from they use pecorino, and usually just pasta water). It was excellent, soothing anguished parts of me after a tiring (but great) weekend. The portions are on the small side, but the prices are too. With a starter too, I had enough though. And I never need much of an excuse to try a second plate of pasta, especially at that price.
On the side I had a Sicilian red, a Nero d’Avola, on tap (£4.50 for 125ml). A little lunchtime pick me up or maybe knock me down. Either way 125ml wouldn’t do me much harm, and it was great with the cacio e pepe.
My bill with service came to £16.88. I wanted to try everything on the menu, and I will be doing that. Padella has no reservations, but it is open all day, which means it is actually possible to eat there if you are willing to eat outside normal hours. Too many times recently I have had to spike intentions of eating in some of London’s new restaurants because of waiting times upwards of 2 hours. I love food, but when I am hungry, I want to eat. Right?!
Stay up to date with my restaurant and food adventures by following me on instagram (occasional pictures from restaurants and my kitchen) and snapchat (eatlikeagirl there, so much fun and lots of little cooking videos too). I am always on twitter and facebook also!
What You Need to Know
Padella, 6 Southwark Street, London, SE1 1TQ
The first time I went to Beijing Dumpling there were no dumplings available that day. I am a little dumpling obsessed and I left disappointed wondering how a dumpling restaurant could have none. It was early days and there must have been some teething problems. My subsequent visits have been a lot more successful, and filled with them.
On Lisle St in Chinatown, you will first notice Beijing Dumpling when you see the chefs making dumplings fresh in the window. Small careful xiao long bao filled with a flick and finished with a gentle twist. Chefs work from a large lump of dough and a bowl of meat and produce stacks of bamboo baskets filled with dumplings ready for steaming.
The menu is large with lots of Cantonese dishes and hot pot. I have heard that the beef ho fun is very good, but I always max out on the dumplings getting a mix of Xiao Long Bao and the Seafood Supreme Dumpling, always with a pot of tea. The Xiao Long Bao are small and come in four flavours: pork, spicy pork, chicken and pork & crab. All are £6 for 8 except the crab meat which is £7.
I go with spicy pork, which are very gently spiced and as I like a kick, I prepare a dipping sauce of approximately 2 parts soy sauce, 1 part black vinegar and about a teaspoon of chilli oil, all of which are on the table. These little plump dumplings never burst, nevertheless I take great care as a burst XLB fills me with sadness and longing.
The Seafood Supreme Dumpling arrives with great ceremony in its own tray in a little steamer and a joyful orange pop of roe on top. How to eat it? I had no clue. This is a large delicate wobbly dumpling. I asked and was told to remove the tray, and then on reflection they went and got me extra napkins. Which filled me with confidence in the task ahead. I carefully removed the tray and placed the dumpling on the spoon, very carefully (it was far too big for it). Then I bit the side and sucked out some of the broth. Gorgeous and light and very fresh. A treat.
Spicy Chicken Dumplings in soup are large and unwieldy. Again, the spicing is gentle and the broth is light. These don’t have the same impact as the XLB, but they are pleasant, and good for a dark day or a cold one. A plate of wok fried choi sum (£8.50) on the side adds a little brightness to the meal.
Dumpling comfort and joy. Cosy & affordable. I heartily recommend that you check it out.
Beijing Dumpling, 23 Lisle St, Chinatown, London WC2H 7BA
You have only got 11 days in which you can sample the food I am about to tell you about, so pay close attention, and then book it swiftly. Asma Khan’s food at the Sun & 13 Cantons is some of the best Indian food in London right now, and you have to try it. I have been twice and I will go again before it closes. Twice more if I can.
When Asma moved to London in 1991 from Calcutta, she didn’t know how to cook. She was trained in law, but she missed the food and went back to her ancestral kitchens to learn the royal Mughlai and Nawabi school of cuisine from her father’s side, and the food of Calcutta from her mother’s side (and where she was born and raised). It wasn’t long before Asma started serving her food from her popular supper club at home in Kensington. For the past year she has been in residence at The Sun and 13 Cantons. If you follow me on social media you will have seen my posts from lunch and dinner there (come join! instagram | twitter).
Asma’s food is a joy. There is street food like papri chaat (spiced potato and black chickpeas on a bed of crisp papri dressed with tangy tamarind sauce, garnished with sev). The idea is to pour some of the lovely tamarind dressing on to the potato and chickpea in the crisp shell, and immediately wolf it down. Gorgeous.
Then there are masala fries. Very simple, proper hand cut potato chips spiced with chilli flakes & crushed sea salt. Served with tamarind sauce. The tamarind sauce is the star (and that is from a potato obsessed Irish person). The beetroot chop was a surprise highlight, grated beetroot deep fried in a croquette served with smoked chilli & sesame chutney. So light and spritely. Mutton shikampuri kebab were gorgeous little aromatic spice minced mutton cakes served with yogurt.
For mains, the methi chicken was as perfect a chicken curry as I have ever had. Chicken cooked on the bone, so rich and moist, but served boneless with dried fenugreek leaves & tomato. Goat khosha mangsho, a 6 hour Bengali goat and potato curry was gorgeous, deeply flavoured and cooked in the dry style. On the side, each time, a tamarind dal, lentils tempered with mustard seeds & curry leaves was perfectly balanced and velvet smooth with just the right amount of tart tamarind.
To drink, we had Nimbu Pani, a freshly made lemonade with sugar, a touch of Himalayan sea salt and garnished with fresh mint leaves. I had two, in fact. My friend is a fan of masala chai, and loved Asma’s version, a spiced Indian tea cooked with garam masala & ginger. Dessert of Khoobani ka Meetha, stewed Hunza apricots served with clotted cream and garnished with pistachios was a perfect bright finish.
Over the course of my visits there I have chatted to Asma about her food and her story. She is fascinating, and I hope to share more of Asma’s story via my soon to be launched podcast (Asma has kindly agreed to be a guest). We chatted at length about her village and food culture, and about what it means to be a second daughter there. Asma is a second daughter and most of the women working with her in London are second daughters also, just by chance.
Asma says “The culture in our society is to value boys more than girls and the birth of a second girl is often a cause of sadness rather than celebration in most families, irrespective of the class, caste and background. We send back a large percentage of our profits back to educate girls, particularly the second daughter. We let families know in the villages we support that we will support their baby girl, that she should not be seen as a burden and that one day she will make the family proud and could be the breadwinner of the family, like many of the women working with me at Darjeeling Express.”
It is International Women’s Day and I wanted to shine a light on Asma and her wonderful food, but also her generous and kind spirit and the wonderful women in her kitchen. We should also spare a thought for all of the women worldwide who don’t have our good fortune, our easy access to education, our health service and everything we have that we take for granted, and that we should be fighting to protect. When I think of all of those refugees pushing with all of their might for better lives, I am only ashamed. It must be terrifying.
Asma is an inspiration and her food speaks for itself, you should visit while you still can. Her supper clubs will still be running, although you must be swift to get a spot, and she will also be at Druid St Market during Ramadan.
Darjeeling Express at The Sun & 13 Cantons, 21 Great Pulteney Street, London W1F 9NG
On my last trip to Japan after a gorgeous meal in a lovely neighbourhood restaurant, I spoke with the chef about the food and his inspiration. We had had some wonderful dishes, a particularly sublime sandwich of sliced lotus root sandwiching minced chicken and fried in a marinade / sauce of soy, sake and mirin and wonderful rice. He told me that the most expensive thing in his restaurant was the rice, as it was the most important thing. Painstakingly sourced and executed with care and precision the little bowls of rice served there were bowls of perky joy soothed with all sorts of gorgeousness like that lotus root sandwich. TĀ TĀ Eatery want you to think about rice too.
TĀ TĀ Eatery centre their food on their rice, both as a vessel for eating and in congee. From Zijun Meng and Ana Goncalves, both former chefs at one of my favourite restaurants (that is sadly no more) Viajante, and the Chiltern Firehouse after. They are a street food favourite at Druid St Market where the serve ricewiches (rice sandwich with things like short rib, carrot and kimchi) and previously at Broadway Market where they were serving congee with Galician beef floss, egg and piri piri oil. I am still furious with myself that I didn’t run up there and get a bowl. For the month of March they are serving an all day brunch menu with a strong Asian accent at the lovely Newman Arms. I went on Saturday.
I was keen, to put it mildly, so much so that I was stopped mid order and asked if I really wanted to order that much. Yes, I did! I didn’t want to share my congee so we need two, and I don’t want to share my XO egg with katsuobushi either (who would?!). But I paused and reflected and took a couple of things off. In the end, we had the perfect amount of food.
Congee with chicken stock, herb sauce and crispy chicken skin with dough sticks started us off. A bowl each. Natch. The congee was gently and soothing with pops of crunchy intense skin and spikes of flavour from the herb sauce which had a Scandinavian flavour to it. Crowned with the slices of dough stick, chewy and gorgeous as they were.
Braised peanuts with edamame and celery didn’t last long. There was something very more-ish about them. I love a cooked nut. House made fermented vegetable salad was intense and vibrant with lots of small contrasting sharp bites with an underlining depth of flavour from the fermentation.
Prawn tartare was lovely, fresh and deeply savoury cured prawns with egg yolk and pops of tobiko (tiny flying fish roe). This is intense on its own with some bitterness underneath and goes very well with some of the rice with house dressing. Steamed tofu with spring onions and soy was simple and lightly dressed.
Time for the eggs. TĀ TĀ egg, fried egg with XO (a spicy sauce from Hong Kong made with dried seafoods like scallops) and katsuobushi (dried, fermented and smoked skipjack tuna flakes) was bright and also intense. It didn’t last long. We finished with butifarra, a Catalan pork and rice sausage with a perfect fried egg on top and some turnip tops. A star. Get two of those if it is on.
On the side we had a glass of sake each, a Ninki “Junmia Genshu 11”, clean and round and a great match for the food. I love sake and find it generally misunderstood as sherry is. Many think it is a spirit, but it is in fact rice wine, and it can be quite light too.
The bill came to £46. We had already paid £10 each for our tickets and this was deducted from the bill. Their residency at the Newman Arms continues through March on Saturdays, and I will go again. Check out their Druid St Market stall too, and Druid St Market generally. It is a joy. Tickets are available on Billetto.
London food is on fire. We have great markets, lots of street food, some of the worlds best fine dining, terrific mid range restaurants, ace cheap eats and superb international food, especially Asian. So many restaurants are opening, on a scale that compares with New York in recent years.
I travel a lot, and I love it, but I always love to come home. Travel makes it better, and makes me appreciate London even more. I spoke about London recently with Rick Bayless on The Feed Podcast, and was delighted to share my views on what makes the London food scene so brilliant at the moment, with reference to our vibrant markets (the episode of The Feed podcast that I spoke on is here).
A very good example of the new energy in London is Robin and Sarah Gill. The effect that they have had on the London food scene in less than 3 years is remarkable. Last year, two of their restaurants were in the Good Food Guide Top 50, and Robin was named chef of the year.
There is their first restaurant, The Dairy, where they do a relaxed version of fine dining, and very well priced too. They opened The Dairy quietly in 2013 after a 4 year stint at Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons. They opened under their own steam, unusually for London with no PR, no design agency putting the room and brand together, just their own energy and ideas (and lots of it).
There is a kitchen garden on the roof which supplies much of their produce, and they have their own bees there for honey too. I have eaten there several times, and always enjoy it. There are hints of our mutual Irish origins, but The Dairy is a contemporary space making the best of their kitchen garden and seasonal ingredients in a deceptively laid back way.
The Manor & Paradise Garage
The Manor followed, a different style, but also striking in its own way. It seemed that the Gills could not put a foot wrong. Head chef Dean Parker is doing interesting things with fermentation here. This extends to the drinks list too, I loved the kombucha sour.
Following that, Robin and Sarah turned their attentions east, and opened Paradise Garage, one of the most exciting openings of 2015 (read my review of Paradise Garage from last year). I had a gorgeous solo lunch there on a day when I had fully earned it. I need to return with a posse so that we can order the highly regarded whole rabbit for the table.
My lunch at Paradise Garage
So, three restaurants and also The Delicatessen, next door to The Dairy, where I go regularly for their terrific spongy boules of sourdough bread with a thin but perfect crust, house made pickles, house cured trout, the best of what is in season, and great sandwiches (salt beef or ham for me), which I eat with a coffee on the sunny patio outside. There are cakes too, and the whipped bone marrow butter is worth the trip alone. Plus the potato bread, whatever you do, don’t leave without some of that. It is divine.
One of my many hauls from The Delicatessen last year, plated out in my friends garden for lunch. Joy!
Bloodshot Supper Club
That seems a lot but not enough, as last year Robin turned his attentions to the monthly Bloodshot Supper Club. Running on the last Saturday of every month, The Dairy team and a guest chef serve a multi course menu, starting after midnight so that restaurant staff can go when their shift ends. Food and drinks comes to £70 all in, per person.
On Saturday, Chris Trundle (Senior Sous chef at The Manor) took charge of the stove and served a stellar menu, the highlights of which were Duck Hearts, Dates & Dukkah; Polenta, Hokkaido Pumpkin and Mandarin; a stellar Pork with Minestra Nera and and Anchovyand a smart cheese course of stichleton (the original recipe stilton, still unpasteurised) in between sliced pear and topped with truffle.
Chris Trundle’s food at Bloodshot Supper Club
Bloodshot Supper Club served up one of the most fun nights that I have had in a restaurant, the perfect evening for people who love good food, and a lot of fun. A one off meal cooked by someone already known to be good, given a chance to stretch their wings.
Here is to London, and The Dairy, and their wonderful Bloodshot Supper Club. Don’t miss it. I brought a visiting friend from NYC as I thought it was the most perfect London experience that she could have at the moment. And I was right.
What you need to know
We paid £70 a head. There are only 45 places and it always books out so get in early. More info here: http://the-dairy.co.uk/events
Shackfuyu ticks a few boxes: great food, fantastic playlist, secret basement bar and a great drinks list (hello sake). From the team behind Bone Daddies, one of my favourite London ramen bars, Shackfuyu are serving Japanese soul food including eclectic and full flavoured fusion dishes like mentaiko mac and cheese and have been for the last (??) 6 months.
Shackfuyu do great things with their wood oven, sukiyaki style wagyu picanha, roast fish, and a wonderful hot stone rice with sesame, chilli & beef which I have burned myself on more than once. Worth it every time, enthusiasm often triumphs sense when there is good food in front of me. Instagram loves the Kinako French Toast with Soft Serve Ice Cream, but I can’t look past the Prawn Toast as Okonomiyaki, which is exactly as it says, a round prawn toast topped as an okonomiyaki is with Japanese mayo, brown sauce and shaved dried bonito flakes. Did I mention the Korean Chicken Wings?
Unfortunately, Shackfuyu also ticks another box at the moment: closed. Just temporarily while they refurbish the Soho location. But, happily, until then they will pop up at weekends in the Bone Daddies Bermondsey kitchen.
I expected a pop up in a commercial kitchen to be a little rustic, but this feels like it is built to stay. A little past Maltby St and Druid St Markets and past a commercial dry cleaners, I wondered if we had wandered the wrong way.
The menu at the pop up is in collaboration with Cornish Grill, and so there is lots of Cornish seafood featured, and we focussed on this. To start: a tasting flight of sake (£8 – 90ml with Masumi, Dewa Oka & Tamagawa), a cocktail (£7.50 – nashi chu-hi, a fresh, bright and refreshingly sour drink with shochu, lemon, nashi pear & soda) and a couple of meaty Cornish rock oysters with a lively fresh chilli coriander granita (£3 each).
Mylor shrimps (from Mylor in Cornwall) with curry salt & lemon (£8.50) were deep fried whole an dso more
I already know the Shackfuyu menu really well (I have been five times), if it is your first time, I suggest the picanha, Korean fried wings, prawn toast as okonomiyaki, pork pluma, potatoes with Japanese curry sauce, and the roast sweetcorn with lime butter with seven spice pepper.
A quick one for you today! Another London restaurant for your lists, I think this is an essential. Chef Robin Gill of The Dairy, The Manor and The Delicatessen seems to have the midas touch or is that the lardo touch, right now? I say with that with great respect and affection, lardo is one of the most delicious things on the planet, and Robin has the good sense to wrap some around a gorgeous egg.
With head chef Simon Woodrow and Robin’s wife Sarah, Robin has created one of my favourite new openings this year, Paradise Garage, in the railway arches near Bethnal Green tube station. They have delivered a menu that is as exciting as it is comforting. I went for lunch recently and it was one of my best lunches this year. So, I just had to let you know.
Venison tartare, preserved egg yolk & watercress – a lively and gorgeous dish to start my meal. On top was grated preserved egg yolk, tasting a little like bottarga.
Tilley’s farm egg, charred grelot onions, spinach & lardo – I thought that I had crossed a line when I started covering my breakfast eggs in lardo, I was thrilled and relieved to find Paradise Garage were doing the same. This was a terrific dish, the spinach purée underneath a perfect rumbling contrast to the bright egg.
Lady Hamilton’s pollock, Norfolk Peer potatoes, seaweed, pied de mouton – a very elegant dish, the pollock was covered in a layer of brown butter gorgeousness.
Iberico Presa, pig head, coco beans, anchovy & lettuce – don’t be nervous to read pigs head, the pressed pigs head in this dish is one of the tastiest things that I have eaten this year. This dish brings pork and beans to the next level, seasoned with anchovies and lifted with some lightly fermented lettuce.
Apricot tart, milk ice cream & lemon thyme – I often skip dessert, I am much more of a salty individual, but Kira Ghidoni is a woman of rare talent and produces the most amazing desserts at The Manor and now Paradise Garage too. This apricot tart was nectar sweet and soothed with a milk ice cream. Joyful.
Prices are fair, and the drinks list is interesting. I went at lunch time and had 5 dishes and a couple of glasses of wine and my bill was not far over £50 (I have mislaid my receipt!). For the calibre of the food here, this is terrific value. There is also a £45 tasting menu which I will be returning for.
If all of this was not enough, Robin was awarded Chef of the Year earlier this year by the Good Food Guide.
Ps you could do a lot worse than start with an aperitif at gorgeous Mission E2, a Californian wine bar a few doors down from the folks behind gorgeous Sager & Wilde.
254 Paradise Row, London
It would be improper of me not to let you know about the new Sunday Roast at Bob Bob Ricard in London. Or to mention Bob Bob Ricard at all, it has been a while. Bob Bob Ricard is a most under rated restaurant. It doesn’t care about trends, the food is classic, and it is very well executed. It is refreshing and it is fun. Even though Bob Bob Ricard is in the heart of Soho, it feels like it could be a grand restaurant from 100 years ago or a very large carriage of a luxury train. When I have visitors in town, we often go.
It is famous for being the home of the famous Press for Champagne button. I always allow myself to press it at least once. When you do, your table number lights up above the bar, and a glass of house champagne is delivered to you. Another essential drink for every visit is the rhubarb G&T, bright pink, intensely flavoured and textured with egg white. The cocktails generally are very good.
The menu is part Russian, and I always order some Russian dishes. Baked Oysters Brezhnev were like a parmesan truffle soufflé with a delicate oyster underneath.
For starters, I had the beef tea soup, a crystal clear gorgeous broth with Siberian pelmeni, traditional beef and lamb dumplings. Others at the table had lobster, crab and shrimp pelmeni; seabass ceviche with avocado and truffled potato and mushroom vareniki (also traditional dumplings served with crispy onion and shimeji mushrooms).
Then the main event, the Sunday Roast arrived. Preceded by plates with perfect Yorkshire puddings, slow roast potatoes, carrots and parsnips roasted in beef dripping with honey and thyme, horseradish cream and truffle gravy, the USDA prime black angus was delivered perfectly pink. The beef was a roast rump cap, a cut that I love for the rich beautiful flavour that it has. We don’t see enough of it here, but is is hugely popular in Brazil, where it is called picanha. We also had bright sweet creamed corn and buttered greens. To drink, we had Crimson Pinot Noir from Ata Rangi in New Zealand. I would normally go for something fuller, but at lunchtime, something light seemed more in keeping, and I do love a good pinot noir, particularly from New Zealand.
I opted for a simple dessert of a trio of sorbets (lime, lemon and pink grapefruit) served with platinum vodka. Bob Bob Ricard specialise in vodka too, so I felt it important to have a tipple. The signature chocolate glory is a must for chocaholics, and there was one at my table. It is a chocolate jivara mousse, chocolate brownie, berries and passionfruit and orange jelly served as a perfect gold ball on which warm chocolate sauce is poured, which collapses it. Very dramatic, and tasty too.
I loved it. Bob Bob Ricard is a place you go because you love to eat, and you want to be a little decadent. I am planning to go back very soon.
I attended a press preview of the Bob Bob Ricard Sunday Roast. The Sunday Roast is available at Sunday lunch time, a 16 oz portion of USDA prime black angus with all of the trimmings costs £29.50. Opinions, photos and words are all my own as always. Of course!
Barrafina Adelaide St seems to be London’s new favourite restaurant. I can’t bear hype, and I loathe queues, but I love the original Barrafina so I braved it. The queue wasn’t that much a of a drama in the end, you get to have a drink at the counter while you wait. There were 4 of us and we waited about 45 minutes. Which flew by.
If you are not in the know, Barrafina is a Spanish tapas bar, the original is on Frith St in Soho, the newest sibling on Adelaide St, between Charing Cross and Trafalgar Square and just up the road from Terroirs (which I love). Diners are seated along a curved counter which circles the kitchen, the room is buzzy and smart.
Meatopia rolled into town again last weekend. A US food institution and brainchild of food writer Josh Ozersky, this was their second year in London. Meatopia gathers the best chefs, butchers, artisans, evangelists and burgerati and has them cook over fire – and only fire – for the weekend at Tobacco Dock. Only the best naturally raised and ethically sourced meat is used.
Chefs this year came from all over the UK, the US, Singapore & Brazil. Mixed in with all of this was an American Whisky Bar, some pretty raucous live music and dancing. Lots of fun & great food. Here are my highlights and your guide on how to cook Dirty Steaks at home.
(Some of) the burgers of Meatopia – Fred Smith’s Dream Burger (made with 60% Welsh wagyu short rib beef and chuck); the MeisterShack Burger from Mark Rosati of Shake Shack; 60 day aged beef burger with American cheese & bacon in a traditional sesame seed bun from Zan Kaufman of Bleecker Burger.
Charlie Carroll / Flatiron’s Whole Spit Roast Dexter, served in a yorkshire pudding with fresh horseradish cream.
January was not a hugely successful month for dining for me. Not that I was on some dry January mission, January, of all months, needs decadence and I will never do that. I ate out a lot and had some good meals, but rarely anything exceptional. Then I went to The Lockhart and had my faith restored.
The Lockhart opened last year but not well. So they got a new chef, changed the menu, closed and worked on it before opening again in January. I was meeting two food loving friends for dinner, and booked at the last minute after one friend objected to the original reservation elsewhere. Expectations were high. Very.
We sat by the kitchen, a bright vivid space, and watched the chefs gently choreograph our meal. Brad McDonald leads the kitchen, a well respected American chef who now cooks southern food in London. And lucky us. We ordered pretty much everything between us (the menu is not overwhelming and is perfect for this).
Bobby Chin is well know for his TV exploits, however, he also owns two very well regarded restaurants in Hanoi & Saigon. Now, a third in London has been added to the list in an impressive double fronted site on Old Compton St in Soho. The official opening day was January the 6th, although they were operating in soft launch over Christmas. I popped in earlier this week.
First impressions are good. The space is vibrant and buzzy and the menu looks promising. We started with cocktails, I had a horny devil simply because I can’t resist chilli anywhere, even in my drinks. With lemongrass vodka, Vietnamese devil’s chilli (floating menacingly on the top of the cocktail) and fresh coconut, it was fresh and sharp with a lovely gentle heat.