Sunday, 29 December 2013

Steam & Rye

Ovations, Salutations & Howdoyoudos

Wading through the suits on Leadenhall, with TM Lewin at every glance, it is welcomingly refreshing when you reach the entrance to Steam and Rye, the product of a surprise collaboration between Nick House of Mahiki and Kelly Brook of .. er .. Kelly Brook.

The towering columns, flags and fur clad hostesses will greet you at the door. Hand your coat into the bow tie and braces in the cloakroom (no fee required) and be led into room of spectacular proportions.

Guarded by topsy turvy statues of liberty (literally upside down), the entrance reveals the hustle and bustle of old town USA where a jazz band is setting up in the corner and cocktails in popcorn boxes and boots are flying round attracting all the oo's and ah's that such novelty should. 

We are seated in leather armchairs in front of an old train carriage. Its windows are screens with vintage countryside scenes rushing past as you await assistance. Immersive is just the tip of the iceberg.

Our menus are the next treat and slide out from their casings revealing moving cartoon eyes and secret windows. Childhood pop up books spring to mind and leave a wonderful nostalgia that completely distracted us from our decision making. Once you work out the menu, choose from a meaty array of steak, ribs, wings, burgers and more. It was the short beef rib and steak that stole the show for us this time and I'll let you in on a little secret, Mondays are half price off everything when you order a main and happen to be under 30 years of age. Ticking both these boxes, we will probably be returning for many Mondays to come! 

Now I must mention Jack. Jack informed us that he had had a fantastic weekend and so was on top form today (not that Jack wouldn't have been so spritley if his weekend hadn't gone to plan but we were glad to reap the benefits of his great mood). Jack was our waiter and guide for the evening. Reassuring us that we had made excellent choices, it didn't take much for us to decide he was our favourite. 

Our meals arrived; tender ribs piled atop creamy mashed sweet potato with just the right amount of sticky sauce and pink juicy steak with crispy chips. Monster portions which would have satisfied your average male normally leave me struggling but not this time, our plates were licked clean. 

After glancing around us to see what other happy campers were smiling about, we concluded it just had to be dessert and that we really shouldn't be missing out on the fun. Along came Jack, having cunningly read our minds to confirm that we had indeed found space for more. We were confronted with a problem of choice so left it up to Jack to decide. Apparently he was completely biased and the apple cobbler would win over his heart in one beat. With his oversized aortic pump (ahh Joey) ringing on our ears, there was no option of us ordering anything else. See for yourself why Jack should be given a raise for that recommendation! 

After we had enjoyed, indulged and destroyed our jar of sweetness and breathed in the atmosphere for one last moment, the bill was ordered and we were delighted to see it arrive incased in a fine gent sporting a solid moustache and monocle. I'll leave it to you to discover what is hiding under his gown!

Square Meal

Tuesday, 17 December 2013


Ramen Eggs.

Hands up who hasn't considered crawling back under the covers and feeling sorry for their snuffling nose that has to face the perils of the outside world. On its way up, my hand changed its mind, remembering that places like Shoryu exist to help you man up and stop feeling sorry for a slightly stuffy schnoz.

Having heard raving reviews from a number of highly reliable sources, it was decided that the time had come for us to confirm such professions. Luckily we were waiting for less than a second before being quickly whisked over to a table and handed some entirely incomprehensible menus. We closed our eyes, pointed and all ordered the same traditional ramen soup from somewhere at the top of the menu. At least there wouldn't be any food envy with this decision. 

Snapping open our chopsticks we waited eagerly for our steaming bowls, smiling at the entire garlic plus press in front of us because who doesn't love a nice side of raw garlic?! 

Around us, eager beavers were tucking into their noodles, aware that with every slurp, life would be re-injected into their cranky systems. (Apologies to anyone without a cranky system, I just rather like this new turn of phrase and am giving it a test drive!)

Preparing to be dominated by our meal, we did as we were told and wiped our not so sticky fingers clean.

... And then they were here, piled high with noodles, greens and an egg like no other egg I have ever tasted. Apparently it is left in a soy sauce marinade overnight and transforms the simplest of foods into something of faberge standards.

Everything said about Shoryu is completely justified and we left happy in the knowledge that we could join those in the know. Now it's your turn! 

Shoryu Ramen on Urbanspoon

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Monday, 2 December 2013

The Pig and Butcher

The Perfect Roast. 

Prepare yourselves. Apparently England is about to encounter its longest winter in history. Do not fear .. (well, fear a little bit) .. because one thing that London will offer like no other place can, is an abundance of cosy taverns to shield you from the biting cold. On this crisp Tuesday morning, the first thing you should do is book a table aThe Pig and Butcher in Islington for your next lazy weekend. Go on, roast yourself!

Having walked past The Pig and Butcher many a time on my Islington jaunts and hearing such glowing reports, I was grinning at the prospect of actually entering the door.

Arriving early, I soaked in the wonderful gastopubby atmosphere and had a good old chat with Jack the director about the inspired idea of having their butchering site just above the pub. No danger of running out of meat in this joint! After secretly admiring the brilliantly flowery shirt he was sporting, I saw my companions enter and engaged in all the conventional hugging and cheek pecking before taking my seat.

No fuss here. Great meaty menu, salt, pepper, water, knife, fork, go.

Peering through into the neighbouring room, I noticed a rather extensive selection of beer and cider that I'm sure would have engaged any ale enthusiast. Hunter the Bull stood with his head firmly rammed through the wall, amazingly crafted out of branches and twine. Apparently he is soon to be joined by an accompanying pig.

The shelf behind me was adorned with bottles, jars, boxes and other rustic artefacts. Oh I do love a place with artefacts!

We ordered the lamb roast which arrived with a monster yorkshire pudding balancing atop the steaming, perfectly pink meat and drenched in just the right amount of gravy. Accompanying these beautiful slices of animal (yes, that is now how we refer to roast lamb), were golden, crispy roast potatoes and creamy leeks. I must now apologise because in all the excitement I failed to get any pictures. So here is another one of the menu, just incase you forgot.

Sufficiently stuffed, the only thing to do was order all the dessert.

My winter fruit crumble arrived in the cutest miniature frying pan with a scoop of vanilla pod ice cream. The tangy fruit to sweet, crunchy crumble ratio was perfect and before long the pan was scraped clean.

The sticky toffee and banana pudding was also inhaled with gusto by another member of my party. Banana and me are not friends so there was no food envy here but I have it on very good authority that it was a delight.

Our bill arrived inside a polka dot jam jar and we bid goodbye to this victorious Sunday roastery. Now it's your turn!

 Pig and Butcher on Urbanspoon
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Saturday, 30 November 2013

The Gallery

Close to Home.

Well this was a pleasant surprise. On a cheeky evening jaunt down the road, what was to appear in front of us but The Gallery, a glowing hub of fairy lights and shining bottles that I always forget is almost on my doorstep. 

It being rather late, we almost had the entire bar to ourselves and while this would usually inspire the 180 spin at the doorstep, this time The Gallery was too inviting and it didn't matter one bit. In fact, it was as if we had just tumbled into our own private, fully stocked bar and neither I nor my companion was going to argue with that!

After a few seconds of some not at all contrived photo taking, we took our glasses up to 'the gallery' and watched from above as people sauntered in and out of what I now refer to as my local. I've always wanted a local and the relaxed, unpretentious atmosphere of this little West Hampstead bar can take that title for now.

 Gallery on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Hakkasan - Hanway

Dim Sum Sunday 

It happened. I have eaten the best meal of my life so far. Having developed some rather discerning tastes, this was somewhat of a high bar to reach. Hakkasan managed to vault over this with ease. A totally deserved Michelin star and definitely a restaurant to add to the bucket list. 

Walking down spotlit steps with hints of incense wafting after me, I tumbled down the proverbial rabbit hole into the luxury of my dreams. I almost gasped at the beauty of these flowers in front of the glowing turquoise wall. Perfect!

On the other side of the blue glass stood tall, dark wooden screens which sectioned off the tables to give the wonderful illusion of intimacy. 

The resident DJ was spinning mellow house tunes in the background and set the perfect mood for our lazy Sunday brunch. All began with cocktails. This delightful Fleur De Coco with coconut water, vodka and raspberry was outstandingly fresh and the perfect start to our 6 course dim sum adventure.

My partner in crime chose the Gaelic Caesar, a little twist on the Bloody Mary and made with Whiskey and clamato juice (something I am yet to get my head around although I was informed this cocktail was delicious and not at all clammy)!

First to arrive was a dish that decided to steal the show. In front of our eyes, the waiter proceeded to mix the best crispy duck salad I have ever experienced. Placed before us was the perfect combination of pine nuts, pomello and a plum sauce dressing that I would drink from the bottle if socially appropriate. These all complimented the crunchy yet tender duck that peeped out from miniature leaves. If you don't try anything else ever, try this. I have confirmation from a number of alternative sources that I am in no way exaggerating!

Next up was the steamed dim sum. Little mouthfuls of perfection. I must confess that my previous experiences of dim sum have been far from pleasant and I'm not going to go into what they were reminiscent of. Let's just say I was overjoyed not to have a repeat. Further more, there were no singed tongues, leaving our taste buds fully intact and ready for our next culinary delight.

Next up was my second favourite element of the meal. The crispy dim sum, in particular the smoked duck and pumpkin puff shaped like the vegetable itself! Cute factor: tick.

Back to the booze, pink bubbles were flowing throughout the meal and we sipped contentedly while discussing the generally wonderful nature of this particular Sunday.

Our main course arrived in its full, beautiful glory. Stir-fry black pepper rib eye beef with merlot nestling inside a vermicelli basket (edible but really for presentation only as we discovered).  

This was accompanied by lotus leaf parcels filled with steaming sticky white rice.

With the main course inhaled, it was time for me to take a tour around the restaurant and inspect the facilities. I was suitably impressed. Just like you can tell a lot about a man by the shoes he wears, you can tell equally as much about a restaurant by the quality of their toilets. Hakkasan did not let me down on this one. Aesop hand balm and a candlelit 'lake' sink.  

After splashing around in the sink and enjoying my hand bath immensely, I decided it was probably appropriate to return to my dinner companion and choose dessert. I opted for a coffee and chocolate extravaganza with ice cream and a fluffy little doughnut. How I had space for all this I have no idea but my plate was scraped clean nevertheless.

A lemon creation left Mr Opposite-me drowning in happiness. It was either that, or my fabulous company but I might be a little biased. Just a little.

Behind our table glowed the extensive bar where our final, after dinner cocktails were being whisked up. I do love a bit of exposed brickwork as you know!

The Shanghai Sting and China Black were our final tastes of the meal and the grins which had been stretched across our faces the entire meal weren't going anywhere.

Our rating system was somewhat of a sliding scale between amazing and incredible. This transferred not simply to the equally delightful dishes, bursting with strong and diverse flavours and textures, but also to the attentive service and the multi-million pound wall-to-wall magnificence of our surroundings. Intimacy and comfort oozed out of the elaborate screens and cloaked us in robes of utter relaxation. A perfect way to spend your Sunday afternoon. They will never be the same again.

Hakkasan on Urbanspoon
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