Friday 30 August 2013

Bone Daddies, London

In the mood for ramen I attempted to catch a quick bowl after work one night at Bone Daddies, a black fronted ramen shop on Peter Street in Soho and quickly done a u turn when I saw about 30 people queuing outside.  I don’t know why but if I can’t have something then it makes me want it more and I duly returned the next day just after the lunch crowd to a half empty restaurant.

I had already decided on the tonkotsu ramen and give the menu a cursory glance.   The tonkotsu soup base was a 20 hour pork bone broth which was very rich, almost creamy and deep in meaty flavour.  It was much better than the version from Shoryu a few months prior, which was thin and bitter.  The ramen was topped with spring onion, chashu pork, a Clarence court egg, bamboo and bean sprouts.  If I had one criticism it would be that the portion of ramen was rather stingy for the £11 price.  Also the ramen was cooked just a little too soft for my personal tastes.   However the broth was intense and worth the trip.

The next time I visit to fulfil my ramen fix will have to be with Mrs Nom as there are some sides and specials that I couldn’t finish alone. Particularly the soft shell crab as I am a big fan and was disappointed by the oily version served up by Shoryu.  Next ramen stop will be to try Tonkotsu on Dean Street.

Bone Daddies on Urbanspoon

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Thursday 29 August 2013

The Ledbury, London

We have heard fantastic reviews of The Ledbury, but with 2 Michelin stars and placed 13th in the San Pellegrino 2013 top 50 restaurants in the world we expected it to deliver, and deliver it did.  This was our second experience of a 2 Michelin starred restaurant and expectations were high along with the two month wait since booking increasing the anticipation.  We chose to visit  during a Sunday lunch sitting as this seemed to give the best value at £50 for three courses with a selection similar to the normal weekday a la carte menu at £80 for three courses including some of the signature dishes.

Navigating our way from Westbourne Park tube station through the leafy suburbs of Notting Hill we eventually located within a residential area using our trusty iPhone.  The restaurant was smaller than I had imagined and there are many mirrors on the walls to create an illusion of a bigger space.  After a warm reception we were led to our table where Mrs Nom was offered a bag hook for her bag which was a nice touch.

Whilst perusing the menus and deciding what to have we were presented with squid ink crisps with smoked turbot roe which were full of flavour.  Leaving a pleasant lingering taste on our palates, so moreish, we could have both eaten a few of them!  Of the bread selection the bacon and onion brioche seemed the most enticing and it was lovely, crisp and warm. Mrs Nom did not need the extra butter because it was already so buttery.

For starters I chose the flame grilled mackerel with pickled cucumber, Celtic mustard and shiso. The presentation of the dish was beautiful; the blue plate looked lovely, contrasting with the green from the pickled cucumber. It looked so appetising and equally tasted just as good.  I have been choosing a lot of mackerel dishes recently; always a great dish for a light starter.  

Mrs Nom chose the roast hand dived scallops with sweetcorn, girolles and summer truffle. Recently she has had great scallop starters but this one was the best yet she proclaimed! The scallop were cooked perfectly, the sweetness from the sweetcorn balanced well with the scallops and the use of girolles were great too. The truffle just finished off the dish with its aroma. This was the ultimate starter for Mrs Nom, all of the best ingredients she loves on the same plate. The sauce was mouth-watering, intense and drinkable I am told!

For the main course I had my heart set on roast breast and confit leg of pigeon with beetroots, blackcurrant and banyuls which turned out to be mesmerising. One of the best cooked pigeon dishes I have ever had; the pigeon breast was cooked perfectly pink and rare.  The elements all worked immensely well with one another, especially the pigeon with the blackcurrants, tangy and a wonderful combination.  I was happy to see that the deboned confit legs were served alongside an offal skewer, using all parts of the pigeon.

Mrs Nom chose jowl of pork with white carrots, black pudding, endive and gooseberries.  The pork was fatty goodness topped with nutty flavours, crumbs of black pudding and gooseberries. The explosion of different flavours with the tender pork was spot on but I preferred my pigeon dish.  One point I noticed was that the food was presented in a simple way but delivered on flavour and all components were extremely well prepared and cooked.  Whilst some places compromise on flavour in order to create artistic masterpieces.

For dessert again I had already made up my mind on the passionfruit soufflé and sauternes ice cream.   Mrs Nom was undecided and asked for recommendations to which the brown sugar tart was suggested.  However she still stuck with her first choice of olive oil panna cotta, wild strawberries, watermelon and citrus beignets after being reassured that the olive oil was not overpowering and added a fragrant touch.

The soufflé was quite big and a spoonful of ice cream was served at the table, pierced through the soufflé and melting through the dessert. The passionfruit was refreshing and zingy, and everything I expected it to be.  The panna cotta was also a delight, the drizzle of olive oil was wonderfully aromatic, it was an interesting dessert with wild strawberries, pieces of watermelon and watermelon granite which was refreshing and cleansed the palette for the citrus beignets on the side. The beignets were so so and lacked the citrus billing.

We ended the meal with coffee and petit fours.  Mrs Nom loved the cup used for her latte, and we were told it was from Jing.   The petit fours included a blood orange jelly which was slightly too sweet, chocolate with eucalyptus which reminded us of After Eights and a juniper cookie with caramel which was the best of the lot.  A return for the tasting menu is definitely on the cards after this wonderful lunch.

The Ledbury on Urbanspoon

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Wednesday 28 August 2013

Pieminister, Manchester

There are a lot of choices for lunch around my workplace in the Northern Quarter, but I get so busy and generally just grab a sandwich and work and munch at the same time. A bad habit that I am trying to break and focus on enjoying lunch in the future.

Feeling rather more peckish than usual, I wanted a little treat, something different from sandwiches.  I decided on Pieminister since it is literally about 2 minutes’ walk from work. Once inside I chose the Pietantic Fish Pie which consisted of smoked haddock, salmon, pollock and prawns with a side order of mash. As the pie was presented to me without any sauce I was worried that it would be too dry, and I didn’t fancy gravy with my fish pie. I don’t usually go for pies, but this was actually the best pie I have ever had. It was not dry as the filling was moreish, with just enough sauce so the pie wasn’t swimming in sauce, and enough bite in the chunks of fish. The pastry was perfect too, freshly made and not too thick, just how I like my pies from now on.

Mr Nom was jealous he wasn’t invited however I will definitely be returning with him soon as he is dying to dive into one or more pies with his huge appetite nowadays!

Pieminister on Urbanspoon

Big Bowl Noodle Bar, Liverpool

Everyone has their go to place when no particular places have been decided on or prior reservations made.  Over the last few years Big Bowl, situated on Berry Street in Liverpool has been my go to place.  As close to a Hong Kong style café as you can get along with Café de Pearl on Bold Street (which I don’t rate as highly as Big Bowl) it offers good quality grub at a very reasonable price, as long as you know what to order.  Being of Chinese ethnicity I would probably only ever order the Western take on Chinese food such as sweet and sour pork, lemon chicken etc about once in every hundred visits to Chinese restaurants.  Whilst there are other delights to be enjoyed I still get the odd pankering for them along with the classic crispy duck (recently overtaken in my books by Peking duck after a visit to Hong Kong – post to follow).

Whilst the official title of the restaurant includes Noodle Bar, it is the rice dishes that have become my favourite comfort meals.  One of my absolute favourites is the Hainan chicken dinner set which is basically chicken boiled with a pork and chicken broth so that the skin and chicken meat takes on the flavour of the broth, served with rice prepared using chicken stock so it produces a delicious oily rice.  The set at Big Bowl is completed by a bowl of broth with Chinese greens and served with ginger oil for the chicken and to mix in the rice.  At under £7 this is a true bargain by today’s standards where a simple starter would command the same price for nowhere near the quality, quantity and skill levels involved in preparing the Hainan chicken dinner.

Another favourite of mine is the five spice duck dinner set which is basically the same as the Hainan chicken dinner set but with five spice soya infused duck in place of the chicken.  A richer dish than the chicken but equally as satisfying.  The duck is cooked for a long period of time so that it takes on the deep five spice and soy flavouring.  I tend to scoop up the remaining sauce and mix it into the rice which brings back memories from my childhood as I was never interested in boring plain white boiled rice.

Living up to its noodle bar moniker we once ordered the Big Bowl Noodles.  What came was a mammoth bowl of noodles topped with char siu, chicken, egg and Chinese greens.  The bowl was literally bigger than the circumference of my body (see picture below)!  They also do a rice version of the Big Bowl but how anyone can eat so much rice in one sitting is beyond me unless you happen to be a sumo wrestler.

There were some misses along with the hits and these tended to be the smaller dishes such as wor tip (fried dumplings) and salt n chilli siu mais which tasted like they were bought in.  However the main meals more than make up for it.  The drinks menu is also interesting with a personal favourites being iced yin yeung (half tea half coffee) and iced lemon tea.  Hong Kong classics such as iced red bean are also on the menu.  To finish I can’t look past Hong Kong style French toast with syrup and sandwiched with peanut butter, naughty but so good.

A fulfilling meal for two including drinks can be had for about £20.  If you look past the tackiness with the glass table tops with hand written messages from patrons on stick it notes below then you would be hard pressed to find Chinese food of such quality for the same price in Liverpool.

Big Bowl Noodle Bar on Urbanspoon

Tuesday 27 August 2013

Shake Shack, London

Having seen the hordes of people queueing for the Shake Shack in Covent Garden at the launch and weeks after I decided to check out what all the fuss was about.  With sizeable indoor and outdoor dining areas the rent for the floor space must be astronomical.  I would later understand how the whole venture was viable.

We visited on an overcast Thursday evening and thankfully the queue was only some twenty deep and it moved along swiftly.  Umbrellas were handed out to those who wanted them; luckily it was only drizzling for a little while.  Menus were also provided to combat queue boredom.  The windy queue is right in front of the outdoor dining area and this helped me to decide what to order by ogling the orders of all the patrons.  The crinkle cut chips looked different and tempting, although without the cheese topping as that looked a tad too unhealthy with my eating habits lately.

All of the burgers were served in paper wraps so that you could see and eat them without too much mess.  I decided on a double ShackBurger which came simply with lettuce, tomato and ShackSauce.  Soon it was our turn to order and I chose a standard vanilla shake to go with the burger and crinkle cut chips which came to the grand sum of £14.50 for essentially a better quality version of McDonalds on a tray.  Only in London would this work as at these prices I don’t think anywhere else in the country would pay those sort of prices for self-service fast food style food.  My dining partner chose the SmokeShack burger which added Wiltshire cure smoked bacon at a £1.50 premium over my £7.50 double ShackBurger.  Compare this in comparison to the £9 Honest burger (see post) which comes with a generous portion of house chips.

 A buzzer was provided to alert us when our order was ready as we went off in search of an indoor table.  We had to lurk over some tables who had finished but this is the norm in fast food places.  People generally get the message and give up their tables, it’s a constant circle and we were subjected to the same treatment when we had finished our food.

My burger was pleasant enough but I somehow felt underwhelmed.  It was clean and perfectly adequate, the thin patties were moist and beefy and just what you want from burger.  The chips were also well fried and crisp on the outside.  The vanilla shake was a let down and was rather bland and non descript, I’ll get flamed for my next comment but here goes….. I actually prefer the shakes from the golden arches.  Overall the food is simple and executed as expected but the whole build up, anticipation and hype seems to be overplayed and bigger than the actual product, good PR I guess but doubtful I will return.  Not that it matters as there are hundreds of tourists to take my place every day.

Shake Shack on Urbanspoon

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Monday 26 August 2013

Honest Burgers, London

It seems apt to write up a recent lunchtime visit to the Soho branch of Honest Burgers on the eve of National Burger Day.  Just thinking about the burger now makes me wish I could have one for supper.  Having read glowing reviews from the London blogging brigade I had to check it out for myself.  The Soho branch is based on Meard Street and is one of three, the others in Brixton and Camden.  We visited at 2pm and were seated within a few minutes.

The menu is simple with three variations of burgers, from a simple burger, cheese and the Honest burger with smoked bacon, red onion relish, mature cheddar, pickled cucumber and lettuce.  Naturally, we all settled for the Honest burger, priced very reasonably at £9 especially as it included the rosemary salted house chips.

Starving in anticipation our orders arrived within five minutes.  The portion of chips was very generous and I was happy to see a thick juicy patty.  The first bite of the burger confirmed the reason for the positive reviews.  I had wondered what was special about the ginger pig dry aged beef as detailed on the menu.  The patty was cooked wonderfully, moist and perfectly pink in the middle with a satisfying beefiness which was the star of the show.  The relish and smoked bacon added the saltiness and different layers of flavour.  In contrast I felt the Byron burger from a recent visit was dry and lacking in sauce and flavour.  This is how it should be done.

The rosemary salted chips were served in a generous portion and were addictive.  Thicker than fries and superbly seasoned and flavoured by the rosemary.  All this was washed down with the home made lemonade.  The simple yet satisfying lunch certainly lived up to its billing with no fancy surroundings or complicated menu required, just a good Honest burger.

Honest Burgers on Urbanspoon

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Saturday 24 August 2013

Flat Iron, London

People who work around Soho are spoilt for choice when it comes to lunch and dinner time.  Taking advantage of working in Soho I noticed Flat Iron. A small steak joint selling flat iron steak as the name would suggest.  We strolled down one lunchtime and decided to indulge.  On arrival we were presented with a mug of popcorn.  The cutlery also resembled a mini meat cleaver which was a bit quirky.

The menu consists of flat iron steak and a special which was beef brisket on that particular day.  Set on the steak before visiting it was advised to have it served medium rare which is how I usually prefer it anyway.  A range of sauces were available and I decided on the peppercorn sauce.  The steak was served on a stone slab and certainly looked inpressive, juicy and pink as it should be.  The steak certainly lived up to the taste test, wonderfully seasoned and tender.  I dread the usual lunchtime sandwich after having this.

Being a lunchtime treat we shared a portion of chips.  Whilst the steak was great value at £10 we only realised the accompanying side salad mentioned on the menu was forgotten about.  The chips could be better but it was all about the steak.

Flat Iron on Urbanspoon

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Friday 23 August 2013

Kimchinary & Tacochu @ Kerb, London

I visited Kerb quickly last week without Mr Nom before my train back home from London.   A great place for lunch, although I couldn’t say a light lunch because I left stuffed, but I’m a bit greedy though! If I had more time I would definitely stay longer and try out more food stalls.  I did not have Mr Nom with me to try out more food as we tend to share dishes to enable to try more stalls. We both love going to street stalls, I like seeing different fusion foods as we feel bored seeing similar menus/cuisines. There is nowhere as special as going to street stalls and trying out fresh flavours.

First stop was Kimchinary and I ordered a Korean taco which contained 2 soft corn tortillas with kimchi, sweetcorn and Asian pear salsa, gochujang mayo and toasted seaweed. The tacos came with a choice of either pulled pork belly ribs or slow-braised bulgogi ox cheek (£6.00). The amount of ribs I’ve eaten recently, it was definitely a no-no for me and I went for the ox cheek.

The tacos were lovely; I was actually expecting the kimchi to be a lot spicier. I am not a huge fan of kimchi because I don’t really like spicy foods but the tacos were great. Crunchy veg, tender ox cheek and lovely spice coming from the Kimchi, fantastic combination of flavours and textures.  I also had my eye on the Kimchi quesadilla wedges which had Kimchi obviously, melted Cheddar, grilled aubergine, spring onion and coriander sour cream. As much as I wanted to order it, I had a feeling I would not be able to conquer it on my own as the quesadillas are generally too filling for me.

With one snack down, I was deciding what next… Tea & Crumpets, Bocaface (Spanish food), Tacochu, BBQ lab?  Next to Kimchinary, Tacochu caught my eye. I was debating whether I wanted the beefy taco rice, one of the guys at the stall offered me a sample of it on a lettuce cup and it had me sold and I ordered one at £6.50, with an extra 50p for the addition of guacamole. I managed to plough through two thirds of it and before I was defeated. There were a few nachos in one corner and generous dollops of sour cream, salsa and guacamole. Underneath all the sauces, grated cheese and the lettuce were the minced beef and the rice. A very fulfilling lunch or snack! I also liked the use of plum tomatoes in the dish.  I was envious that Mr Nom tried Bao the following day at Kerb but all the more reason for to return.