Archive for July, 2011

Great British Breakfasts?

Some say the full English breakfast is this country’s main, possibly only, culinary gift to the world. Where else can you start the day with a meal so stuffed with carbs it will keep you going well past lunch and, if taken everyday, all the way to A & E? Makes you proud it does.

From the highest to the lowest in the land, the full English is a great leveller. So as a part of an occasional series, occasional because I don’t like getting out of bed too early, we present a breakfast review for the dawn risers and tourists out there. I try different places to see what’s available and what works best. This list is added to regularly.

Spice Market

The great thing about hotel breakfasts, at least in large international hotels, is the multi-cultural choice. From sashimi to sausages, from mixed fruit to a mutton curry.

Spice Market is a standalone restaurant but it’s also where guests at the newly-opened W hotel in Leicester Square get to have their morning food. A ‘creation of Jean-Georges Vongerichten’, himself a bit of a mouthful, Spice Market breakfast has all the usual dishes in a spot ideal for business meetings, that is if you don’t mind sitting with your knees under your chin groping for your Blackberry. The seating is very ‘oriental’, which means low. Read more…

Categories: Uncategorized

Meat the experts at A La Cruz

What’s a Greek urn? About 3 Euros an hour. What’s an Asador? Ah now you’re asking. Think a controlled bonfire, not the one your dad used to make from collected leaves and a squirt of petrol, the one that always made a satisfying ‘whump!’ as it set your eyebrows on fire. No this is very different.

Out on the Argentine plains, explains John Rattagan, his bald head shining with perspiration in the fierce heat of the kitchen, an asador is a big wood fire where freshly killed and prepped lambs and other meats are mounted on ‘crosses’ and cooked over its flames. John and his partners have brought this concept to EC1 with restaurant A La Cruz where an asador made of polished steel sits proudly in customers’ view behind thick plate glass. Read more…

Big Burger at Bistro du Vin, Soho

36 Dean Street, W1D 4PS

If I were designing the perfect burger then before looking for the best meat or best bun supplier, I’d get a tape measure.

Gathering together a random sample of punters I’d ask them to open their mouths as wide as possible. My trained assistant would then measure the ‘gape’ from top teeth to bottom set. A simple calculation would give the average opening and the measurement would be passed on to the kitchen.

The fact is that any burger that requires the jaw dislocation skills of an anaconda is going to be a bit of a bugger to eat. You either push the top and bottom in with the spare hand that you don’t have, or accept that it’s going to get very messy. Using a knife and fork is, of course, just silly.

You can try compressing the burger before attempting eating, but then you have the problem of maintaining a constant hold. If you try and put the burger down, the whole thing springs apart like a broken watch. Read more…

Everybody needs good neighbours

And it was all yellow.

Its glut time. The neighbours know it and hide behind the curtains when they see me trudging up their path with a heavy carrier bag. ‘Oh no, it’s Nick with more veg!’

I don’t want to suggest my neighbours are burger eaters, the sort of people who think anything green is going to be bad for them, it’s just that you can have too much of a good thing. Or at least they can.

At first the neighbours are genuinely pleased to get a bag of organic veg. They peer in with obvious delight and make encouraging noises. Than as the allotment gets up steam the cries of pleasure seem a bit tinged with exasperation. Read more…


71 Haymarket London SW1Y 4RW

Haymarket is a not a road that I stroll down very often but then who does? It’s more like a motorway with its one-way traffic hurtling down and the buses bellowing that jet engine noise that all old Volvo buses seem to make. Yes I am such a nerd I have actually made a point of noting the manufacturer.

Crossing the road is life threatening, so it’s as well that Haymarket is lined with restaurants on both sides. And what a lot of restaurants there are. Well-known chains, all catering to the Croydon crowd come up West for the night. I can slander Croydon like this because I was born and lived there until I was 16, so I know of what I slag. Read more…

Here we go round the mulberry bush

Sam Harrison is walking around a sun blasted garden in ‘leafy’ Chiswick looking like Macbeth after a particularly heavy night with the in-laws. His hands are running blood red; juice drips down his arms and gorily spatters onto the grass. He is a very happy man.

We’ve been up the Mulberry Bush, not around it, to gather the massive harvest of berries from a tree that’s at least 150 years old. Its limbs languidly sprawl all over the place, like an Old Etonian on a sofa, and under the canopy of leaves the berries are fruiting heavily. Read more…

The ToL Foie Gras Burger

63 Charterhouse Street City of London EC1M 6HJ

A Foie Gras burger won Taste of London’s Best Dish this year, a decision that must have had all the other chefs there ripping off their toques and swearing like Gordon with a stubbed toe. All those years practising their craft just to get beaten by a burger?

Pascal Aussignac, the ‘auteur’ of this burger is a great chef and being a Gascon man he loves his foie gras. A few years ago he tried to sell an earlier incarnation of the Foie Burger into the newly opened Westfield. The local market wasn’t ready for this though; a burger that didn’t come in a Styrofoam box caused them to make gun shaped hand gestures and start rhyming things. So the foie burger was relegated to the subs’ bench until its rebirth and triumph at ToL. Read more…

Categories: Restaurant Reviews

Joe’s Restaurant

126 Draycott Avenue, London, SW3 3AH

I don’t pretend to be an art critic, I just pretend to be a restaurant critic, but the Banksy craze has always puzzled me.

Banksy started stencilling his stuff on walls in East London, but now his japes have come all the way West to South Kensington’s Walton Street, where the very people he presumably despises can pick up an example for a mere £60,00 or so.

The joke is not going to be on them though because, unless some kind of sanity breaks out in the art world, they’ll be able to resell the work in a few years time for double the price. Banksy is in fact helping rich people get even richer. Eat more!

Categories: Restaurant Reviews

The Bonnie and Wild

74 Chapel Market, Islington, London, N1 9ER

The seafood certainly looks game at The Bonnie and Wild and the game looks good too. This old Manzies restaurant, more used to serving Pie and Mash, Jellied Eels and other dishes that my mother claims to love, probably has never seen anything like it.

By day the original interior, all cracked tiles and wooden booths, is presumably home to toothless old pensioners, the dwindling remainders of the area’s once proud working class population, sucking up the aforementioned oddities. Now every Saturday night, bowing perhaps to the inevitable, it’s transformed into somewhere a great deal classier and rather more expensive. Eat more!

Categories: Restaurant Reviews

Blue Monday

No one likes a Blue Tomato

It was all a bit electric blue at the allotment yesterday. Tomato and potato plants, with their leaves fighting to outdo  the blue of the sky, all resemble pensioners emerging from under blow dryers.

This is because we are now entering blight season. Blight is a fungal Phytophthora infestans disease that loves a British summer with its dampness and occasional warmth. It kills the plants slowly, rotting the underground potatoes and turning the tomato fruits black and putrid.

You watch for signs of blight at the end of June; brown freckles on the leaves are the first indication. There is no time to delay, no time to look up clever solutions, the only answer is Bordeaux Mixture. Eat more!

Categories: Grow your own