Monday, 31 October 2011

I is for Indonesia @ Bali Bali

Well this train is back in full swing now, after a long while with no outings, we have two in quick succession.
All in all most of the places we have visited on this mad hop around London have been pretty good, some excellent, some so so. But Bali Bali unfortunately has to be the lowest point so far. I hope none get any lower than this.

I initially tried to get everyone to head to my favourite Pizza Pub in Islington, but this was rejected out right, as I think it was not exotic enough for some people.
So India then. I thought this was a sure thing, but surprisingly most of the others are not particularly keen on Indian food. I mean what is this world coming to.
So after a brief mention of Indonesia at the end of the email. Voila, guess where we were going then.
After more chit chat about the merits of the small band of Indonesian restaurants in London, Bali Bali was chosen and booked.
I was hoping, just hoping that they would have Babi Guling on the menu, but this wasn’t a Balinese (Hindu) restaurant, but more of an Indonesian (Muslim) cum Malay joint. Shame, but oh well. Will just have to head back to Ubud for that. Now, that I would be more than happy to do.
My first impression of Bali Bali as we walked through the door, was that it reminded me of a run of the mill tourist restaurant in Bali. Guess what, the food was the same as well.
Strangely on the menu there are two sections for the starters. The first part containing more run of the mill dishes like, soups and other delights such as prawn crackers and spring rolls.

On the other section are the “Chef Specialities”. Now these beauties were actually the same price as some of the mains. Why this is I do not know. Well makes good business sense, as you make more money on the starters than the mains.
My starter of Sato Ayam (Chicken soup) was bland. The shredded chicken was dry and tasteless, and the supposed coconut base stock for the soup was nowhere to be seen. Very poor.

The large tasteless Indonesian prawn crackers were served with a dull, industrial standard sweet chilli sauce.
The starters form the “Chef’s Specialities” did not look that impressive at all. The deep fried battered prawns, which were served on a giant platter, I guess to try and justify their huge price tag were greasy and not very appetising.

The only thing in Bali Bali’s favour was the Spring Roll, (yes only one) it did look homemade and not brought that morning from a China Town grocer.
As there was no pork on the menu, I went for my old favourite of Rendang Daging. I love this dish, it really is one of my all time loved dishes.
I mean what could be better than a heavenly plate of beef cooked for hours slowly in coconut and spices, to end up with melt in your mouth meat in a thick brown slightly picante sauce. Life is good.

Unfortunately Bali Bali’s version was anything but. The sauce had the right consistency and the meat was soft, but alas it was dry and overcooked. The sauce was sadly lacking any real heat. It was just disappointing big time.

The Nasi Goreng (Indonesia’s National Dish) was basically served as a Chinese style egg fried rice with a few slices of cucumber and tomato on the side. A real poor show.
To be honest I really shouldn’t have expected wonders from Bali Bali, as on our month long visit to a few of the islands of Indonesia, we were not overly impressed with the food there.
There were exceptions of course. Most notably the Babi Guling we had many a time at Ibu Oka in Ubud. This was out of this world, and still rates as one of the best meals I’ve ever had. But this was one of the few exceptions we found.

This is kinda surprising as with the multitude of influences Indonesia has, the food should be up there with the best of them. Or maybe we were very unlucky and just headed into the wrong joints.
I think a return visit is going to have to happen to try and find the best dishes there. Not to Bali Bali, but to Indonesia. 

Bali Bali on Urbanspoon

Friday, 28 October 2011

Foto Friday # 74

The chef weighing up our dinner before it was dispatched and cooked in Basha village.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

H is for Hungary @ The Gay Hussar

There really wasn’t much choice when it came to H. Honduras or Hungary. After an arduous time scanning the Internet for a Honduran restaurant in London. I gave up. Hungary it was gonna be.
Now there really isn’t that much choice when it comes to Hungarian restaurants in London. Well you have the Gay Hussar, and well you have the Gay Hussar. So the Gay hussar it was going to be for our next meeting of this crazee tour of London restaurants.
Now all I know about Hungarian food is two things. Paprika and Goulash, and to be honest I know very little about them both. This was going to be fun.
The Gay Hussar is a long standing veteran of the Soho world. One wall is lined with cartoon drawings of its more famous patrons, mainly old Labour M.P.’s. I liked the one of Paxman, cold of been a photo it was so lifelike.

The menu has a vast array of Hungarian dishes on offer. Ranging from some very nicely smoked Hungarian sausages to a goose and pork pate, and the house speciality a chilled wild cherry soup.
The smoked Hungarian sausages were very good, and to be honest I though they were the hit of all the starters. A nice smokey meaty taste that lingered lightly on the palette. I’d love to know where to buy them. Really good.

The goose and pork pate was very large for a starter but the velvet texture of the paté was very good. Shame about the toast it was served with. I think it had been toasted a few hours before and was going a tad soggy.

When in a Hungarian you have to do the cliché thing and go for the veal goulash with galuska, which we were told were Hungarian dumplings. They actually tasted like mashed gnocchi. The goulash was nicely seasoned, although I was expecting a tad more paprika, but maybe that is how it is supposed to be. I was a tad light on meat especially for £16. A tad disappointing.

The stuffed cabbage with sauerkraut, sausage and bacon was a hearty dish deserving of any Bavarian or Alsatian menu. Good smokey flavour in the sausage and bacon, that lifted this dish. I wish I had ordered that instead.

The Weiner Schnitzel was large and nicely cooked, so I was told. It looked like a proper schnitzel that you would find in any Middle European eatery.
The staff at the Gay Hussar are a friendly and a very busy bunch, but always with a smile when ever we asked them for more drinks.

All in all the Gay Hussar served us some good food, but it was an easily forgettable meal. Just damn those Hondurans for not coming to London in droves during the 80’s. But I guess it was just easier for them to get to L.A.

Gay Hussar on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Thai Food @ Kaosarn in Brixton Village

My mistrust of certain cuisines being cooked well in London restaurants has left me either missing out completely or just eating my favourite foods on a very in frequent basis.
The Mexican revolution that happened what, last year. Yes, I was the only one who never went to certain joints to try their tacos and wraps.
Mexican food does not travel well. It should. Like any other complicated cuisine it just takes time and a bit of love to reproduce those wonderful dishes.
But for some reason all we get here is a slap dash bad reproduction churned out to the masses as gourmet food. Tacos are not gourmet food. You go to Mexico and tacos are less than 10p each and sold on street corners as a quick snack.
Thai food, also has that same feeling with me. I love Thai food, in Thailand, just not over awed with it here in London. Although I have found a few places that I think do a pretty bloody good job of recreating another great food on these shores.
Kaosarn is another exponent of this. I’d been meaning to eat there on my last few visits to the new and trendy Brixton Village, but we always got sidetracked into a certain Colombian restaurant, Santafareño.
Now this place does a very good job of producing good Colombian food, like you would get back there. Although that is not difficult as the food is not the best in Latin America. But it is hearty and tasty.

Kaosarn is a small eatery with lots of tables outside for the lucky punters who got there before us and were able to sit in the sun. We were in the comfy and cosy interior.
The menu is short and sweet and is perfect for the size of the place and kitchen. Finally a place that has taken into consideration the space they have to cook in, and shrunk the menu to fit. I wish other places would learn and do the same.
As this was just going to be a light lunch we only opted for a few dishes to get an idea of what they could do.

As we were waiting to order this lovely family and friends were sitting outside eating away with their children, when one of the mothers asked where the toilets were. The waitress told her there was one in the main hall for everyone to use.
This brought on an amazing outburst of this upper class idiotic woman who could not believe that this small simple place had no toilet.
I mean you only have to look around you and see that this is a pretty basic place, and where in the world would they put a toilet.
This woman for the next 5 minutes or so was off on a rant with her friends about how this is just not done. How can it not have a toilet. At one point I wanted to go out there and slap her to shut her up.
I blame Jay Rayner for this, and his reporting of Brixton Village. He was actually eating at Honest Burgers later and I wanted to give him a piece of my mind, but there were a lot of other customers around and I didn’t want to disturb their meals.

Anyhows off from my rant and back to the food. First up were some piping hot fried chicken wings. Damn these were so good. They were crispy and spicy. Man I was a happy bunny. Things were off to a good start. The tamarind dipping sauce was a nice contrast to the spicy skin.

We also ordered a Pad Thai with prawns and the khao pad kra-prow with pork. Both were cooked very well, and the pad Thai was one of the better ones I have had in London. A nice mix of flavours and textures. Big fat juicy prawns as well. No messing here.
The home style stir fry of pork, chillis, Thai basil served with rice and topped by a fried egg was simple, but hit all the right notes with me. Well anything with a fried egg gets my vote.

This is the type of Thai food you get at simple places tucked down alleyways in Bangkok or Chiang Mai that you stumble upon and never ever forget.
When trying to say if the food here is better than say at Thai Kitchen 101, is difficult, as the menus are very different, but what we tried was cooked very well and had a good balance of flavour, texture and spice. Another winner in Brixton.
It’s just a shame that Brixton Village is being gentrified and visited by complete twats. You can’t have everything I suppose.

Kaosarn on Urbanspoon

Friday, 21 October 2011

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Honey Time @ Delfina

Mid way through our China trip, I received an invite to the upcoming launch of Bermondsey Bees, a honey themed event at the Delfina restaurant on Bermondsey Road.
The honey is cultivated by local beekeeper and resident, Dale Gibson. When I say local I mean local. The bees actually live about 150 metres from Delfina. Which is great for the chef as when he runs out he can always sprint round for some more.

We were promised a fantastic night of food and drink all inspired by Dale’s local honey, and a fantastic night it was.
We were welcomed by honey alcohol laden cocktails. I never knew that honey and rum would work so well together.
After a very witty talk from Dale explaining about his bees and how he is merely providing them with a house and they do all the work.

By the end of the speech we tucked into a lovely 3 course menu utilizing Dales fantastic honey.
For starters there was a Bermondsey honey, fig and shallot tart. This was paired with a refreshing Sauvignon Blanc from Hacienda Araucano from Chile.

The pastry was well cooked and the tart mustard dressing balanced off the sweetness of the tart. I thought it could have used a bit of thyme to add an earthiness to the tart.
The main course of braised shoulder of Norfolk pork with Bermondsey honey and a bramley apple gratin with a cider jus.

The pork was slow cooked and rolled into a ballotine. it was juicy and seasoned to perfection. The accompaniment of the bramley apple gratin and honey was a good idea. It just needed a bit more honey to off set the tart apple. The cider jus was, as you would expect lovely and sweet. This was matched with a glass of Pinot Noir from Frances Lurton.
For the final course we were treated to a Williams pear and vanilla cheesecake, along with a quenelle of honey sorbet.

This was the highlight of the night. I’m not normally a pudding man these days, but if I was served sweets as good as this all the time, then I might easily be turned.
The light honey sorbet evaporated in the mouth with every spoonful. This worked so well with the glass of the Hungarian Royal Tokajo. A perfect match.

These three dishes are now on the Delfina menu for the next month. I’d recommend heading down for some honey treats.

Delfina on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Sunday Roast @ The Talbot

Nearly 2 months without a Sunday roast can play havoc with a mans mind. But it has only been the last two weeks that I have been wanting one.
The 3 weeks we were in China it was the last thing on my mind. I quickly into the local diet of noodle soups and stir fried dishes that what I normally eat all but sunk away into a distant memory.
The Talbot is on the plush side of Dalston, with its leafy squares and peaceful streets lined with brand new BMW’s. Who says there is a recession going on.
I’ve drunk at the Talbot a few times, but never had the chance to eat there until today. To be honest we only stopped in for a pint, but the wife was in need of something to combat her growing hangover.
So with her ordering a French onion soup, I thought oh what the heck and had the roast chicken, and I’m glad I did.
It wasn’t the best roast I’ve ever had, but it was a warm and comforting reminder of what I hadn’t had in a couple of months.
The French onion soup was deep, sweet and unxious. This is how it should be made. Long slow cooking of the onions to sweeten them up, before adding in of the wine and stock. Then letting this cook for a while before serving with a large toasted cheese crouton. Delish.
The roast as I said wasn’t the best in the world, but it was pretty good. The chicken supreme was a tad dry, but had a nice crispy skin.
Accompanying this was some nice roasties, a smashing yorkie, some sweet baby carrots and some lovely roasted pumpkin. Oh yes autumn is here.
I know I’ll be returning here many more times for the Talbot’s food, as I seem to be in Dalston a lot these days.

Talbot on Urbanspoon

Friday, 14 October 2011

Foto Friday # 72

Knowing ones fate is never a good thing, especially when it involves big choppers.
But it is all apart of life in this Dong minority village of Zhaoxing in Guizhou province. 

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Little Delights @ da Polpo

After 3 weeks of traveling around rural China and eating a mammoth amount of noodle soups, we were in the mood for some food that was as far away from China as we could get.
It was almost a year ago since we first ate at Polpo, and having tried 2 of the 3 later incarnations of this ever so popular and cool mini chain of small eateries, I thought it was time to try the latest opening. da Polpo.
There is not much I can say about da Polpo that hasn’t already been said by every blogger in and around London. So all I will say is that it is bigger and has a slightly more faux warehouse look than the other sites. But still nice nonetheless.
But onto the food as that is all this is about. The concept of small plates is again flourishing here, but more emphasis is placed on pizzettas (small pizzas to the unknowing) and meatballs. I like.
So we ordered a couple of the pizzattas. A white anchovy and a pork and pepper one. Man had I missed pizza. I grew up as a kid disliking anchovies immensely, but my wife has got me addicted to them. Light and fishy these fresh buggers were. I just wished there were more of them on the little pizza.
The pork and pepper was jammed packed with wafers of thin slices of ham and jalapenos. Not sure how Italian the jalapeno is, but it was bloody good and added a slightly spicey note that my buds had gotten used to in Hunan.
We also ordered the cauliflower fontina gratin and a plate of spicy pork and fennel meatballs. Again this was needed to jolt us away from China.
I cannot remember when I last cooked cauliflower cheese, and this Italian version with its creamy fontina cheese has made me want to cook it again. The gratin needed a bit more time under the grill, but the creamy cheese and al dente cauliflower made up for that.
The meatballs were good as well with their heavy notes of fennel. Something else I haven’t had in an age as well. I really must widen my eating habits.
I like da Polpo, not just for the food, but because it is larger than the other 3 and you have more of a chance of getting a table without the obligatory 1 hour queue. Although that is always good when you have a bottle of white to see you through. 

da Polpo on Urbanspoon

Friday, 7 October 2011

Foto Friday # 71

A lady relaxing after having a bowl of rice and meat in the streets of Changsa in Hunan Province, China.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Brunch @ The Big Chill House

I was supposed to have written and published before our 3 week trip to China, but with last minute preparations at home and work shelved all thoughts of that.
So here it is.
A week or so ago I was contacted by a lady from, who sent me a card offering me to try #breakfastmyway at the Big Chill House in Kings Cross. Who am I to turn down a chance to sample a place offering a new take on one of my favourite meals of the day.

Thankfully this was not just for breakfast, but they do brunch at weekends as well. Phew, as working in West London it makes KX a difficult place to get to for a quick brekkie.
I managed to fit in a couple of visits to the Big Chill House. It’s more known for its weekend gig nights than breakfast. But this they are trying to change.

I love nothing more than watching the world go by and this I did very easily with their large windows facing onto Pentonville Road.
The menu is pretty extensive ranging from the Full English to Boiled Eggs with Soldiers and everything inbetween.
I can personally recommend the Homemade Rosti of grated potato, onion and egg served with mushrooms and top with a fried egg. Delish.

Also the Muffin was a star. This is the Big Chill’s take on the Egg Benedict. A lovely toasted muffin topped with a fried egg and streaky bacon. No hollandaise sauce but a good dollop of brown sauce surely made up for it.

There are also some healthy options on the menu as well, the cereals and the Greek yoghurt berry compote all look pretty good if you are into healthy breakfast. Unfortunately I am not. So my next visit I will be having the full English.
Before I forget the @BigChillHouse are giving away 3 free breakfasts each week to people who tweet what they had for breakfast using #breakfastmyway. This goes on until the end of October. So get tweeting now.

Big Chill House on Urbanspoon