Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Sunday Roast @ The Rose and Crown

After moving into our new flat in the lushness of Stoke Newington. Home to the highest concentration of baby strollers in London. Well, maybe a slight over exaggeration, but not by much.
The Rose and Crown isn’t the closest pub to our new gaff, but it was at the time, before we discovered the Londesborough and the Shakespeare. Which have now become firm favourites for different reasons.
When we want a nice quiet pint and some good nosh then the Londesborough fits the bill. The Shakespeare on the other hand is a good time old boozer with the best selection of bar snax on the planet. Nice juke box as well.
This given Sunday we actually tried to eat at the Three Crowns, but they were jammin’ and with no reservation it was a no go. So after a short stroll back up Church Street, we ended up at the first pub we walked past earlier on.
The Rose and Crown I could see at once was a local favourite. Everyone seemed to know everyone else, and we were made to feel very welcome by the staff and locals alike.
WE were enjoying the buzz of the pub, that we didn’t even mind waiting for a table to become free. So after a half pint wait we managed to get a table amongst a few lively tables, which always adds to the buzz of a place.

We were here for one thing and one thing only. Sunday Roast. Damn I was in need for one, as it had been a good while since my last one, and I couldn’t actually remember when my last one was. So we ordered a lamb and a beef between us. Both reasonable priced at less than a tenner each. Good value.
Both came piping hot and with the same veggies, roasties and yorkies. The green beans, carrots and broccoli were all cooked pretty damn well. Nicely seasoned, and still a tad al dente. Nice. The tatties were nice and crispy on the outside and floury on the inside. Always a good sign for a roast. The yorkies were as I was hoping they would be. Nicely risen with a good taste and texture. The gravy was well made with a nice a slightly thick consistency. Just how I like it.
The only let down was the roast beef. It really didn’t have as much flavour as I like, which was a shame as everything else was so damn good. The lamb was nice and fatty and had a great lamby flavour, that actually made we wish I had ordered it instead of the beef. Normally I do, but I wanted some roastie beef inside me.

I liked the vibe within the pub and it made up for any shortcomings of the beef, which was the only low point of a really good afternoon.
I now know what middle aged single female teachers do on a Sunday afternoon, when they have a batch of papers to mark. They sit in a pub with several glass of white wine and get their head down and tick, tick, tick. Although I wonder how well the marking was after the 3rd glass of wine. Was she just ploughing through the final few with abandon or was she becoming more and more stricter. Something that most of the pub was wondering as well I am sure.
I enjoyed the afternoon here and I am sure that it will become a firm favourite as it is with a lot of local Stokies. 
Long live the local.

Rose and Crown on Urbanspoon

Monday, 25 April 2011

Abeno Too

I’ve tried to write a review of this place for ages now. But somehow I cannot get the words out.
So I will just say, Abeno Too is a nice place, has a good buzzy vibe, and sells ok savoury pancakes or Okonomiyaki, if you want to be picky.
The staff are friendly and good humoured and do a pretty good job of cooking your pancakes for you. Well it is not rocket science really.
But in the end for what you get it is pretty over priced, but we are in Soho/Covent Garden/China Town. Not to sure really on where to place it. So beggars cannot be choosers.
It’s good to go if you are with a group of mates wanting to try something different, and have never had Japanese savoury pancakes before. I had, and the novelty wore off pretty quick.

PS – The photo’s are from a Okonomiyaki I ate at once in Nara a few years ago.
Abeno Too on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Homemade Paella in Medellin

As we are experiencing a very early summer, it is getting me thinking of all the bar-b-q's we hopefully will be able to have if the sun continues for more than a few weeks.
But in the meantime my mind was taken aback to a lovely Sunday afternoon having paella cooked for me a year or so ago in Medellin.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Lahore Kebab House

We’d been meaning to try the Lahore Kebab House for an age now, but somehow Tayyabs always got in the way. Damn those delicious lamb chops.

But today we somehow made it passed Tayyabs, even though she sensed us in the area, and was calling to us. But somehow we managed to resist the tractor beam and get us to the Lahore Kebab House.
I was a little surprised to see the dining room as it reminded me of many an Indian hotel restaurant. Except this one was packed, most of the ones I went into on that trip were empty.

The food coming out of the kitchen all looked and smelt fantastic so we wasted no time in ordering some food as we were starving.
First up was a Karahi Kebab. Lovely pieces of kebab meat served in a delicious tomato sauce. The kebab meat was tender and juicy, the sauce a little picante, not enough but good enough for my blasted taste buds.

Then the Butter Chicken, which was the low point of the meal. Way too oily and not enough flavour in the sauce. It really was a bit of a struggle to enjoy eating this dish.

The Sag Aloo was damn nice. Not enough tatties, but the flavour was really good. I could of just eaten this all night.

The Pilau Rice was your bog standard Indian restaurant rice dish. Nicely cooked, seasoned well and soaked up the sauce, as it should do. The Keema Naan, my all time favourite in any Indian restaurant, was some of the best I’ve tasted. Nicely cooked in the Tandoor, and the filling had some real good flavour to it. Yum yum.

All in all it was a pretty damn fine meal, and made especially good as India came back from a bad opening session to beat the Windies, and qualify for the knock out stages. All’s well that ends well. But next time I will let Tayyabs tempt me in through its doors again.

Lahore Kebab House on Urbanspoon

Monday, 18 April 2011

Cafe Rendezvous - A Good Ol' Cafe

You get what you pay for at the majority of Cafes in England. Some are good, some are bad, and others are mediocre. Rendezvous is an ok place that serves your traditional favourites plus a few daily specials that may be up on the wall week after week.
I opted for the set brekkie as always. Sausage, bacon, fried egg, fried slice and a mountain of mushrooms. The yolk was runny and the sausage was still juicy. The bacon was a tad tough, but there were 3 rashers, which is a bonus as you normally only get 2. The fried slices of bread was a blast from the past, haven’t had one of those (for good reasons) since the 90’s.
My partner in crime opted for the daily special of the Chicken Curry. Which she says and I would have to agree with her, reminded her of one my dad’s Thursday night currys. Straight from the jar curry sauce, and Uncle Ben’s boil in the bag rice. Do they still make that?
The Rendezvous is a nice place on Highbury Barn filled with locals, workers and some students from the LMU. Friendly staff who provide a cheery service in a nice reliable place. If you are outside and in need of some filling food, then it cannot be beaten.

Cafe Rendezvous on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 16 April 2011

An Event by the Hangzhou Tourism Board - Oh My Gawd

Disappointment is what I felt after the gala banquet hosted by the Hangzhou Tourism Board at the Marriot Hotel on Grosvenor Square last week. 
I was expecting some classic Hangzhou dishes like West Lake Sour Fish, Dongpo Pork, Beggar Chicken or Cat’s Ears.
What we actually got was some pretty poor European hotel food, which was all under seasoned and/or overcooked. At least the wine was free flowing so by the time I left I was a tad wobbly, the nicest way of saying I was pissed.

The timetable was all pretty well laid out, and was executed to the minute. Our hosts did not mess around.

4pm to 4.30pm – Welcome cocktails
4.30pm to 5.30pm – Speeches
5.30pm to 6pm – Networking
6pm to 8pm – Gala Banquet

The speeches were all really dull, as you would expect from an event like this. I did enjoy the speech by the Vice Mayor of Hangxhou who had been flown over especially. We were even graced by one of the senior members of the Chinese Embassy here in London. Although I missed exactly how senior he was. Obviously the buck had been passed down so far that he had no one else to pass it onto.

The banquet room could hold about 80 people, but it was half full. I’m sure they organisers were just calling anyone by the end to fill the place up, as a lot of people looked like general free loaders.
During the banquet we did have some classic Chinese music, which was pretty nice to listen to. That was about as close to being a Chinese banquet as it got.

The first course was a dull pork terrine with cold and floppy mini toasted bread, and a dollop of green mashed which the cooks had made into a phallic symbol. This was the highlight of the meal.
Next up was a cold tomato gazpacho soup, which tasted of anything but.
Then was an overcooked piece of cod on a bed of some nice, tasty and al dente lentils with cardboard ravioli on top. I’m really not joking either.
The pudding I did not try, but the lavender shortbread was quite nice.

Thankfully the wine was free flowing. This made up for my disappointment of the night. I never managed to do any networking, as no one else seemed to be in the tourism business, except for one girl who only did inbound business from China. Her boss had called in sick that day, and she was forced to go along. I think he knew how it was going to be.

The sad thing was, with the presentations and speeches about the delights of Hangzhou, I still prefer to send my clients to Suzhou.
Shame really, but as I am the bottom of the rung, I get shafted with all the crap events

Friday, 15 April 2011

Foto Friday # 46

These Northern Thai sausages were the highlight of the street food to be had at the sunday Chiang Mai market.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Lydia Cafe

There is something I love about cafes. Going from the down and out real greasy spoon filled with fat builders tucking into large plates of grease with some food added, or to posh cafes serving the same but to a more refined palette to those of you who are too afraid or disgusted to go into a workers café.
I think it is a cultural thing, as I’ve found a few friends from overseas who love a full fry up, but would not set foot in a small café.
Most Saturdays when I was a kid, I had a full fry up. My dad would always cook it, as it reminded him of his youth growing up in the 50’s, when café life first came around. But as the years went on I stopped eating them as often and went less and less to cafes.
It’s a shame, as they are part of our cultural heritage in one form or another. Although I am sure most of the population would disagree, but I’ve found those people deride some foods in public, but secretly you can find them noshing on their £1 burger under those golden arches.
As we are new residences of Stoke Newington, it feels only fair that we should sample the delights of our new hood. Moving is tiring work, especially as we have to clean the old flat up as well. I hate landlords who paint all their walls in light colours, makes cleaning them such a pain. Hey ho.
On Stoke Newington Church Street, is the Lydia Café. A small, pleasant establishment serving the charmed folk of Nappy Valley.
I never asked but I am sure Lydia is from or around the Middle East, as her menu has one or two items form that region.

Her full brekkie contains all what it should. Sausage, bacon, beans, sauté potatoes (instead of chips), fried egg with runny yolk and 2 delicious slices of crispy black pudding, plus toast. All were cooked well, tasted great and the portions were large. What more could a man ask for in life.

The other half opted from the Middle Eastern part of the menu with a combination plate of pitta, falafel, hummus and salad. All very healthy.
I liked it in Lydia’s and I think we shall become very good friends from now on. Especially as posher versions of the good ol’ café do not hit the mark. Yes you know who you are.

Lydia Cafe on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Finally I make it to Franco Manca

I’m glad we waited to eat at Franco Manca. The chilled midweek service maybe does not have the same vibe as for example a Saturday lunchtime, but strolling up and getting a seat straight away, and also getting a choice of tables was a big big bonus.

I’d heard a lot about the pizzas here, and with everything I had read, I kinda knew how good they were going to be. Sometimes knowing too much beforehand can lead to disappointment. Thankfully this time it did not.
The homemade sourdough slowly proved overnight makes these the best pizza bases in town. These are true gourmet pizzas in every sense of the word, and at such a low price, a steal also.

Both our pizzas were fantastic. My Gloucester Old Spot cured ham, ricotta and mushroom pizza was everything one could hope for in a pizza. The ricotta was smooth and was a nice creamy texture compared to the ham and mushrooms.

The chorizo pizza, part picante, part not was one of the nicest combos I have had. It mixed well with the pillowy pizza base, especially as it had been drizzled in chilli oil.

I really like this place, it’s basic exterior hides the fact that it delivers food that could be served in a top end gourmet pizza restaurant in a posh neighbourhood in west London. Oh they are.

I must try that one to see if it has the same feel as its Brixton mother. I will return, but not sure if I want to queue for an hour on a Saturday. But it is definitely worth taking an afternoon off midweek just for this piece of heaven.

Franco Manca on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 9 April 2011

C is for Cambodia @ Lemongrass in Camden

When it comes to Cambodian food, you are either in the mindset of it being subtly spiced, or the other way of looking at it as being very bland.
When you compare it to Thai or Vietnamese food, it is pretty bland, but years of hardship, sometimes taste goes out of the window and necessity comes in. Just think of English food from the 40’s onwards.
But as a cuisine on its own, I’d go for the former. You will not get the kick of heat as you do from Thai food, nor the burst of freshness you get from a Vietnamese meal with all their fresh herbs. What you will get is a mildly spiced well cooked food using the best of all things local in Cambodia.

Lemongrass was pretty heaving on this Friday night, even though it is down a non descript road near to Camden Town. It has been around a while as the Time Out stickers on the front window date back to the late 90’s. The chef and owners are Cambodian, but the wait staff were from Eastern Europe. Obviously family members do not work on Friday nights.
The menu has no pan Asian dishes on it, these are all what you would expect to find on a menu in Phnom Penh.

We started the evening off with the mixed starters for 4, which came on 2 plates, and would have been enough for 8. Apart form the soggy prawn toasts all was pretty fantastic, especially the breaded prawns. Very nice.

My main of Phnom Penh Chicken tasted a little similar to the Sweet Chilli Chicken, except for the pineapple. Both were cooked very well, and with a variation or two of sauces I’d say most of the food was pretty similar. But that is the same of food in Indian restaurants as well, and with one chef in the kitchen who can blame him.

All in all for being the only Cambodian restaurant in London it has kept to its principles and only serves authentic Cambodian food, but at a premium. It was not as cheap as I would expect it to be. But it you want something a little different it is worth the extra.

Lemongrass on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Gallipoli – A trio of Turkish Delights

I think quite soon we may die form an overdose of Turkish food, but that is the future and we are enjoying it whilst we can.
There are many Turkish restaurants on Upper Street, which are proper restaurants, as we know them rather than the traditional Ocakbasi you may be familiar with in Dalston.
Gallipoli is the first in a trio of restaurants that occupies a small part of Upper Street close to St Mary’s Church. I’ve walked past this trio so many times, with it in my mind to sample what they had to offer inside.

To say Gallipoli is eclectic inside is an understatement. Lamps, car number plates, bowls all hang from the ceiling. The walls are covered with old and new photos from Turkey. Yes it is a tad tacky, but somehow it does work very well. I felt very comfortable here.
At lunchtimes they have a two course menu for £7.50p. A bargain, as a lot of the mains are a tad more than that. So we delved in with some starters and mains.

My starter was a simple bean salad, which would have been a lot better if it wasn’t fridge cold. But it has given me a million ideas for meals this summer I can do for work. Lina’s, what seemed like a spin on a Imam Biyaldi with a yoghurt sauce drizzled over was delish. Really nice. More ideas.

My main of stuffed aubergine with minced lamb and rice was really good. The rice needed a tad more seasoning but that was all. I did see some people have this dish off the mains menu, which was priced at more than our 2 course meal. The portion size was the same but on a much larger plate. Made me feel happier.

Lina’s pan fried sea bream was nice and juicy. The skin was crisp, nice salad as well.
This was a really nice simple light lunch and at less than £8 each was a real bargain. I think we shall have to return to Gallipoli more often, as it is a big change from the Ocakbasi’s we have been frequenting a lot recently in Dalston. 

Gallipoli on Urbanspoon