Wednesday, 17 June 2015

That Hungry Chef

A Goan Feast

There are times when something spectacular turns up and you can't understand how you've never encountered it before. The mere suggestion that it has a finite timespan makes you weep a little inside. This was the emotional state I had to deal with on my first trip to a supper club (yes, I know, HOW HAVE I NEVER BEEN TO ONE BEFORE)?!

The delight I had the pleasure of experiencing was a Goan Thali feast of kings at the most drop dead gorgeous Holloway home of Michelin trained That Hungry Chef a.k.a Pratap Chahal and his wife Nikhat. 

For anyone not on the supper club radar, they are essentially one-off dinner parties hosted by a mix of trained chefs, food enthusiasts and really anybody who is brave enough to open their homes to a bunch of random strangers for dinner. (Grub club has it all covered)!

We arrived early to explore the place and have a chat with our hosts for the evening. Aside from a beautiful interior, the garden was alive with lanterns, candles and this superb little fellow. Luckily for everyone, their magical garden is fully equipped for summer BBQ's and brunches (check out what's coming up, here).

Back inside we took our seats between our newfound best friends for the evening where the table was laid with gorgeous multicoloured settings, shining silver cups and the sweetest little wooden spoons around.

Sannas and pork ‘vinha d’alhos’ was feast item numero uno. The fermented rice pancakes topped with a mild pork vindaloo were to be eaten with our hands and quickly banished all thoughts of the British equivalent.

Next appeared our sumptuous thali platters and in we dived. Nishtyachi Kodii  was a traditional Goan fish curry accompanied by  Temperado, green beans and carrots in spiced coconut milk. Foogath or curried spring cabbage stir fry added a sharp element along with Red Rice and Peanut Pulao and crispy Plantain Wafers to mop up all the sauces. 

Pickled Walnut and Doce otherwise known as chickpea and cardamom fudge arrived on silver displays but I was distracted by the Sago and Coconut dessert, pretty as a picture and perfectly sweet and creamy.

Bebinca (a 16 layered pancake cake, we love a good cake cake) and a sneaky taste of Bunnahabhain 12 rounded off our meal and we sat at the table, comfortably refusing to leave the gorgeous house we had found ourselves in. 

A going home gift was presented in the form of That Hungry Chef's artisanal food products. I was united with a jar of dangerously hot Mojo Risin' red relish salsa which I'm going to use in everything because I have it under very good authority that it is everything-appropriate!

We reluctantly bid goodbye to our newfound friends, hippos and Pratap's superb whisky collection and made our way back to reality. The dreamy evening couldn't have been more perfect, setting the bar somewhat sky-high for future supper club adventures. Please, whatever you do, make sure you book one of That Hungry Chef's sell-out dining experiences, I can't wait to return for more.

Friday, 12 June 2015


Wild about Fera

A special occasion calls for a special location, and Simon Rogan's Fera is tipping the balance in London at the moment. Collecting accolades month by month, his cooking is exciting, enciting, inventive and comforting, all in one Michelin starred mouthful.

Nestled through a velvet corridor inside Mayfair's Claridges Hotel, prepare to be enveloped in the relaxation and calm of a truly handsome restaurant that brings a breath of fresh air and a marriage of all things British.

To start the proceedings, along came a blue cheese whipped mouthful atop a melt-on-the-tongue cracker piece. As is customary, I got all over excited about the bark serving tray which received an equal amount of scrutiny as the creamy amuse bouche it was holding.

Fera, meaning ‘wild’ in Latin, reflects its name as soon as you enter the dining room. Right in the centre sits a gorgeous tree sculpture, twisting and turning up towards the ceiling. Keeping true to the natural roots of Rogan's cooking, Designer Guy Oliver has created a stunning space that simultaneously appears grand yet retaining a peacefully warm atmosphere which puts you immediately at ease.

Now I'm going to let you in on the not so secret but tremendous offer from Bookatable of 3 courses with a glass of Champagne for £35. It is a delight when fine dining doesn't burn a hole in your pocket!

So, off we go..

To start:

Grilled salad with Isle of Mull cheese, (seriously smooth and dreamy) truffle custard and cobnuts. This is a dish of textures, from the warm salad leaves (yes, this does work), to the crunchy nuts and creamy custard.

Flamed mackerel, chicory and apple marigold with radishes instead of pickled mushrooms (thank you Fera,) was delicate and subtle with a slight smokiness from the flaming.

The Mains:

My dish of the day was the corn fed chicken, bbq leeks, spring onions, nettle and elderflower. The sous vide chicken was tender beneath the perfectly crisp skin and I'm never cooking leeks in any other way ever again! This was a 'make sure nobody is looking and then lick the plate' sort of dish.

Plaice in anise hyssop, celery, chard and beetroot was creamy, sharp and unexpected. That's the thing about this sort of dining. There are few things I like less on my plate than anise, but it's time to throw those sort of niggles out the window and let the skill of the chef do the talking, this dish was delicious with all its elements.  

To Finish:

We both jumped aboard the seriously smoked chocolate cream, peanut ice cream, verjus caramel and groans of delight. There was no subtlety about the smoke here. This was at face in the bonfire sort of levels and I loved it!

Oh and there was more.
The 3 courses were complimented by some extra nibblets in the form of blackcurrant meringue and sweet pine fudge, an excellent couple of mouthfuls to accompany our tea time. That little timer had me all in a flutter and has been added to my unnecessarily necessary wish list, (other items include a bar globe and a penguin cocktail shaker).

Before we departed, I sneaked into the miniature but perfectly formed bar hiding in the corner of the restaurant. Carefully selected bottles of London based spirits were on display along with lines of bitters and stunning cocktailware. The sense of pride glimmers along the bartop as everything is arranged just as it should be beneath the rather glorious artwork of some of the restaurant's more recognisable clientele.

The Star Deals from Bookatable are a sneaky gift that you really should keep an eye out for.

With options ranging from £20 - £40 pp, you'll find treats from the likes of Roux at The Landau, Gordon Ramsey's Maze and The Ritz alongside The Lecture Room at SketchAqua Kyoto and Picture

It will be an eternal bafflement as to why you would spend your hard earned pennies on stale old chains when you can spend the same amount and be wowed off your seat!

Mais bon nuit Fera, you were an absolute delight.

49 Brook Street, Mayfair, London W1K 4HR

Open every day:

Lunch 12:00 - 14:00
Dinner 18:30 - 22:00

Find them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

On this occasion, we dined as guests of Bookatable.

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Pop Brixton

Donostia Social Club & Kricket

First thing's first, this is not Brixton's version of Box Park. Yes it's built from a network of shipping containers, yes it's a maze of food, drink, fashion and other offerings but it would stick out like a sore thumb in the Shoreditch of today. Pop Brixton is going for the neighbourhood feel with 85% of businesses local to Brixton. 

It's unpretentious and chilled, aiming to make a positive impact on the community, give start ups and small businesses an extra foot in the door and its customers a host of entertaining options ranging from cinema screens and live music to the newest food and drink trends. (More on it's hopes and dreams here).

As is customary for a tiny person with an appetite for fun and a disregard for customary meal times, it was decided that two dinners were in order. This time it was the turn of Donostia Social Club where we headed down the Basque pintxos route, followed by Kricket taking us through Indian small plates. 

Let's get one thing out in the open. We love Paul. If (when) you visit Donostia, you will meet Paul (the owner) and you will understand. 

We slid into shipping container numero uno and took our seats at the bar. The dream team for the evening was part-comprised of Richly Deserved and Matt The List. (Other members included C and my cheese loving dino .. couldn't possibly leave him at home)!

Beer was care of Cerdos Voladores, a pale ale which was marketed to us as strong, sexy and gorgeous (how could anybody refuse that?!). If you read the label (go on, read the label), there are a couple of other entertaining additions. 

We took to the menus and explored the Basque cuisine, a delicious fusion of northern Spain and France. Conveniently, we had been placed right next to the pint sized kitchen (remember we're eating inside a shipping container, expert space utilisation is a must). 

First up it was the turn of the meat and the cheese boards (£8 each). I have it on good authority that both were heavenly and said diner really couldn't have wished for more (apart from quince and cherry tomatoes, both of which were provided so she was a happy chappy).

The other members of team fun took a slightly different track. One went for the braised Iberico pork cheek (£6), a sociable tender bowl of meaty deliciousness, another, the roasted quail and aioli (£6.50), miniature legs of crispy, paprika coated beautiful bird.

Next up were seared scallops, with toasted almonds, tomato salsa and green pesto dressing (£3.50), each cooked to perfection and beautifully presented inside a shell, too photogenic to miss. 

Pinky lamb cutlets with spring onion and confit broad beans (£7) completed dinner number one without fault. Every dish we ate at Donostia Social Club was completely on point, presented with a rustic and hearty feel but delicate without being fussy. Yes, we will be returning! 

Adios Donostia, second dinner is calling, this time in the form of Kricket. After waiting for about 35 groups of 5 minutes, we were hungry again and took our seats for our Indian feast.

We were past the decision making point, so it didn't take much persuasion for us to agree to ordering one of everything.

First up was Bhel Puri (£4), a raw mango, tamarinf, sev and yoghurt number. Crispy, sweet and one of my favourite offerings from Kricket.

Next were the samphire pakoras (£5) with wild garlic mayonnaise, date and tamarind chutney. Not too salty, with just the right amount of batter for you to be able to pretend it isn't really batter at all. 

Kadai spiced Pardon peppers (£5) with crispy onions and a creamy sauce caused some divide in the table but were nevertheless polished off without much hesitation. 

Hake (£8) with almonds inside a sweet malai sauce would have been garnished with samphire if it hadn't run out. No matter, the hake was flakey and flavoursome, we just needed something to dip into the sauce (fingers and faces were vetoed just this once).

Pork belly (£6) with a fennel infused blob of white (I always like to use the technical term of course) had a crisp, thin layer of fat on top of the tender meat which was flavoured with delicate spices and disappeared in an instant.

Aaaalmost finished, promise! How we got through all this without issue is still baffling me. Vindaloo bavette (£8) with coriander, burnt onion and radish was perfectly medium rare and cut into sharable slices. The grilled lamb (£8) (our Kricket winner of the evening) was barbecued and smokey and we had no shame in picking up the bone and tearing off every last bit. Big success!

Aand breathe, we made it. No regrets, two dinners are always a good shout. This time, Pop Brixton provided us with two excellent dining opportunities and tucked into the miniature spaces added a unique intimacy and warmth which you can't help but grin about.

Another fabulous offering is Hook, a next level, fish and chip joint with a superb twist (read about my visit to their Camden branch here). There are a whole host of other options, ice cream from Yumitub made (albeit relatively slowly), in front of your face, fresh neapolitan pizza from the fiery stone oven of Made of Dough, Mama's Jerk chicken, Babba G's Bhangra Burger and plenty more on the way for you to discover.

Open pretty much every day from 9am - 11pm, Pop Brixton has many exciting things happening each week so check out their website to keep in the know before you go.