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Lunching at Konstam in King’s Cross

Pork Belly Sandwich from Konstam

Regular readers and fellow twitterers will know that I am a big fan of pork belly! An inexpensive but delicious cut of meat, that is transformed into a thing of crispy wonder when given the right amount of care and attention. Spiced with star anise or sweetened with cider and sporting a crispy coat of crackling, it is one of my favourite things to eat in this world.

Konstam at the Price Albert

So, you can imagine my delight when a restaurant local to work started serving pork belly sandwiches at lunch time. Not just any restaurant either, but Oliver Rowe’s Konstam at the Price Albert, a restaurant where most of the produce (where possible) is sourced from within the M25. Many of you will be familiar with it from the TV show, The Urban Chef, that tracked the setup and opening of this fine establishment.

Prior to opening Konstam at the Prince Albert, Oliver ran a cafe of the same name (Konstam). of which I was a big fan and I was disappointed when it closed in favour of the restaurant. Not that I don’t appreciate the fine dining options on offer there, it’s simply not in my price range for a regular lunch. The new lunch menu is of a similar ilk to the old cafe. It changes regularly and features the finest sandwiches including my favourite hot roast pork belly, remoulade and parseley sandwich; chicken and dill mayonnaise; roast winter squash marjoram and lemon; Quicke’s cheddar, marrow chutney and mizuna and many more. The salads are wonderful, fresh, vibrant and dressed beautifully and the soups are packed with flavour and colour e.g Hillingdon beetroot and vodka soup with sour cream and roast butternut soup with Norbury blue & walnuts. There are also more traditional main courses at normal a la carte prices like pan roast Mersea sea bass, jerusalem artichoke pierogi, slow-cooked shoulder of Amersham mutton and braised Amersham pheasant legs.

salad plate at Konstam

Most of the menu is available for take away and I really can’t recommend it enough. It takes a little longer than your average sandwich but that’s because it’s not your average sandwich and it’s an absolute pleasure to watch the chef take the enormous pork belly out of the oven and cut your bit, placing it tenderly between two slices of sourdough, caressed by remoulade and tickled by parsley. The delicate flesh and the crispy crackling, with the fat seeping into the bread. Sounds wrong but it’s oh-so-right. Oh god, I want one now.

I’ve tried a number of dishes and the food, as a rule, is delicious and freshly made while you wait. If you don’t believe me, they were featured in the Time Out lunch feature last week, which reminded me, that I should really blog about the wonder that is the Konstam pork belly sandwich.

So, if you’re in London, try it out! I doubt you’ll be disappointed, I’ve dragged most of my friends there by now and they’re in agreement with me. If you’re not in London, I recommend you try a homemade version for a winter lunch. It’s medicinal and food for the soul and will get you through these next dark days leading to the Winter solstice.

pork belly sandwich at Konstam

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Mighty oaks from little acorns grow

Acorn House in King’s Cross has been on my radar for sometime. As London’s first truly eco-friendly training restaurant, it has had alot of press attention, with the Evening Standard’s Fay Maschler declaring that”All Restaurants should emulate” it and Giles Coren of The Times saying that it’s “The most important restaurant to open in London in the past 200 years”. It’s also less than 10 minutes from my workplace and has been recommended by colleagues and friends. In the OFM food awards in 2007 it won best newcomer.

Established by chef Arthur Potts Dawson and manager James Grainger-Smith both formerly of Fifteen in Shoreditch, it’s a social enterprise created by the Shoreditch Trust which delivers hands on training to the local community. The food is centred around health, training, community and the environment. They aim to be the most recyclable restaurant in London, by allowing as much as 80% of its waste to be recycled. In cooperation with the local councils and London Remade it will test out new waste management strategies in a restaurant environment, it offers reusable cutlery and all takeaway containers are eco-sensitive and they offer customers options of serving sizes to allow for differing appetites which creates less food waste. They have their own site for storage of dry recyclables with space for a ‘PIG’ compostor and a wormery providing soil for the restaurant and the roof of the storage area is used to grow herbs (and potentially grow insect attracting plants) in the centre of Kings Cross. Added to all of this, the restaurant and the recycling site act as an educational resource for the public, schools and a new breed of trainee chefs. When it comes to the food itself, the menus are seasonal with ingredients sourced from small independent suppliers, they buy fair trade where possible, locally and never use air freight, they have a strict fish purchasing policy and demand positive animal husbandry.

All that sounds great, truly an inspiration for other restaurants, but, what of the food? I’ve availed of their takeway lunch a number of times, usually the half panini and small soup for £5, always flavoursome and healthy. So, why didn’t I eat there properly until this week? I think it’s one of those situations where it’s just down the road and I can go anytime (even if I subsequently don’t) and, ever the procrastinator I put it on the long finger. This week, however, I finally went there for lunch with some colleagues.

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