Friday, October 19, 2012

Ottolenghi, Islington, London.

It's been a long time coming, but this is the last instalment of our London dining adventures.

We only booked two restaurants before we left Australia; Dinner, and Ottolenghi. I have sung my praise for Ottolenghi's book, Plenty, many times already on this blog. So it was always going to be part of the plan while we were in London. It was a treat we saved for our last night, wanting to end the tip on a high, and not on a potential disaster (not that we had many of those mind you). Much to Mr Alphie's excitement, the easiest way to get there was via (double decker) bus. Unfortunately it wasn't an old-style open topped one, but he was very excited all the same.

We arrived to find a converted terrace house, with a delicious array of cakes, pastries & desserts on display in the front windows. Once inside, we realised the display stretched well inside the shop, and then became a mouth watering display of salads and other cold dishes of the day.

We were welcomed in, and shown to a cosy table in the back. After a chat with the waitress, who encouraged us to order 2-3 plates per person, we chose three plates to share from the 'From the Counter' (cold) menu and two from the 'From the Kitchen' (hot) menu, giving us five dishes - a deliberate decision to ensure we both had room for desert from the fantastic table of goodies!

House made bread with olive oil

Grilled pear with Roquefort, spicy macadamia, mixed leaves
and orange blossom dressing

Mixed green beans with shaved asparagus, garlic, chilli,
tarragon and chervil

Yellow fin, line caught, seared tuna wrapped in nori and
panko with wasabi cream

Five spice crispy tofu with mixed vegetable peanut archa and
aubergine, tamarind and coriander salsa

Orange and fennel poached mackerel with beetroot and honey
yoghurt salad and pistachio relish

Some sort of delicious fruit tart, from the amazing
selection out front

Citrus tart, also from the fabulous dessert display

A fantastic end to a fantastic holiday. Oh, how I would love if Ottolenghi was my local. Everything we tried was sublime, so clean, crisp and zingy. Each dish really let each component shine. And, it was well priced!


PS Yotam has just released a new cookbook, Jerusalem, with his business partner Sami Tamimi. I know what I'll be asking for for Christmas this year! 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Lantana, Fitzrovia, London

Lantana, a laneway full of Jubilee bunting, and some random men...

Flat white

Double espresso

Crispy pork belly ciabatta roll w/ cress and chilli mayo

Thai fish cakes w/ lime chilli dipping sauce and asian noodle salad

It was Mr Alphie's birthday while we were in London, so to celebrate I directed us to Lantana, an Aussie-run cafe in Fitzrovia. We had been craving decent coffee, and who better to make coffee than an Aussie? At least they know what a flat white is! Lantana was recommended by MIL & Ms Aqua, neither of whom had been, but both had heard/read great things.

The food was amazing; light, fresh flavours, a nice change from some of the heavier food we had been eating while in Scotland! And the service was lovely, our waiter recognised our Aussie accents and we had a great chat, about Australia, London, food & coffee! But most importantly, the coffee was fab! Easily the best coffee we had anywhere in London. I even had a cheeky second cup...

A fantastic cafe, in a gorgeous setting, well worth hunting down for lunch (or brekky, I hear they do a great brekky) if you're going to be in the area - weather you're an Aussie or not!


Monday, August 20, 2012

Wahaca, Soho, London

Ceviche tostada - MSC certified shrimp and scallops tossed with a
refreshing mix of habanero chilli, lime, cucumber and mint

Pork pibil taco - slow cooked pork in Wahaca's special
Yucatean marinade

Grilled corn - slathered in sour cream mayo, chilli-sugar-salt,
Lancashire cheese and a squeeze of lime

Cactus taco - grilled cactus taco with zucchini, grilled cheese
and guajillo oil

Chorizo & potato quesadilla - Mexican chorizo, made to
a Wahaca recipe,  fresh thyme and potato

Our order, marked out on the placemat menu
Wahaca was suggested to us by our Scotland travelling partners - Ms Aqua and her bf. They have made a point of hunting out good Mexican in the UK, but I'd like to think I started something here...

The menu is split into four main sections - drinks & nibbles, street food, sides and platos fuertes (bigger plates). We stuck to the street food and sides sections, and ordered too much, as we often do at both Mexican and tapas-style places, so we hod no hope here, but the food was so delicious that we both kept eating and almost had to be rolled out the door.

The pork pibil and cactus tacos were the real stand outs for me, although the ceviche tostada was fantastic too. I personally preferred the grilled corn at Mamasita in Melbourne, but I guess if you're in London, it's not really a dinner option, is it now? The quesadilla was also quite good, but we were both so full by the time it came out, I don't think we really appreciated it. All topped off with a few Coronas, it was a great meal, and I'd definitely go back if we're ever in London again.

It wasn't until we made it back to Perth that I realised the head chef of Wahaca is Thomasina Miers, often mentioned by Nigella Lawson, and, it turns out, a previous MasterChef UK winner! I have since seen her show Mexican Food Made Simple on Lifestyle Food, and it makes me so happy to have made it to Wahaca.


Saturday, August 18, 2012

Bills Providore & Cafe, Brighton

Bill's raspberry, peach & mango juice, French pink soda

Daily bruschetta special
Haloumi and hummus - grilled haloumi cheese in a sesame seed
bun with hummus, rocket, roasted peppers’ sweet chilli and
yoghurt served with skinny fries
As we were nearing the end of our UK adventure the weather started to warm up, bringing with it a feeling that summer was just around the corner. And where to Londoners go when the weather heats up? To Brighton of course! So off we went.

Arriving by train, we wandered down towards the beach through a series of lanes, filled with cafes, gorgeous boutiques and cute & quirky homewares shops. I think we bought more stuff in Brighton than anywhere else on the whole trip!

We passed a lot of cafes but none of them really drew us in, until we spied Bills Providore & Cafe tucked inside an old garage (or 'Depot') on a nondescript semi-commercial street. It was exactly what we had been looking for. Light & fresh food, with friendly service, amazing 'rustic' decor and a buzzing atmosphere.

Unfortunately (for you, not me - it was delish) I ordered off the specials board, and didn't write it down, so I have no idea what I ordered, but it was a 'bruschetta' with broad bean puree, grilled capsicum, local asparagus & balsamic. 

- Alphie

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Real Greek, Covent Garden, London

It was the beginning of our last week in the UK. Mr Alphie and I had just returned from 10 days touring around Scotland, freezing our butts off, to a somewhat less cold London. Being May, the days were long, and having become accustomed to the cold in Scotland, we opted not to plan dinner, but to just wander aimlessly from our hotel, take in the sights and stop for dinner when we found somewhere we liked the look of. We stumbled across that place much sooner than I expected. On the northern edge of Covent Garden, in a old pub, The Real Greek lept out at us. Cheap, delish Greek food in a cosy setting, with great people watching - what more could you want!

Cold meze: Greek flatbread, melitzanosalata, htipiti & crudites

Grilled haloumi

Tiger prawns with garlic & chilli

Lamb kefte

Raspberry & Honey Yoghurt Sundae

Caramel & Pecan Cheesecake

Greek coffee
We later discovered that The Real Greek was a chain, but surprisingly, a lot of the great meals we had in London came from restaurants we later realised were chains!


Saturday, July 14, 2012

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, London

I had been watching the clock all day, counting down the minutes to 5pm. Five minutes before 5 I loaded the website, clicking refresh every so often and more frequently as it neared 5 o'clock. As the clock on the computer ticked over I hit refresh one more time, quickly selected the date I was after and then 'find table'. The last time I behaved like this I was trying to get tickets to a Foo Fighters concert. Although, I was somewhat more successful then. Unfortunately we weren't able to get a booking at Fat Duck while we were in London, despite my fanatical behaviour over the booking process.

English friends of ours came to our rescue, suggesting we try Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, a more laid-back Heston restaurant, located in the ground floor of the Mandarin Oriental in Hyde Park. Encouraged by their insistence that bookings were much easier to come by than those for Fat Duck, I repeated the above process a month later, and successfully nabbed Mr Alphie and myself a late night, mid-week, booking for our first week in London.

I must admit, that I was quite disappointed at having to settle for what I felt was 'second best' when it came to Heston's restaurants. I will now quite readily admit I was wrong. While Dinner does not give you the full Heston degustation experience you would get at Fat Duck (featuring the famous Snail Porridge and 'Sound of the Sea'), it is still a magical experience. The staff are outstanding, and were willing to provide suggestions from the menu, help me to understand the Euro-centric wine list, and very accommodating of our request for the infamous 'triple cooked chips' as a side dish. The food, was absolutely fantastic, although not in the style of Fat Duck & Heston's Feasts, more aligned with How to cook like Heston and In Search of Perfection - think of the burger featured on MasterChef last year.

The room is centered around the kitchen, a huge glassed-in space that lets you watch the chefs as they work industriously (and immaculately! my kitchen is never that tidy!) prepping and plating. Unfortunately we didn't see Heston working in the kitchen while we were there, I actually think he was in Perth at the time (just my luck!), but we did spy Matt Moran chatting with the crew on his way out after a meal. 

But, enough of my ramblings, check out the photos for yourself!
(Due to my reluctance to use flash they are slightly grainy, my apologies.)

Nettle Porridge (c.1660) - Roast cod palette, smoked beetroot, garlic, parsley & fennel

Meat Fruit (c.1500) - Mandarin, chicken liver parfait & grilled bread
Spiced Pigeon (c.1780) - Ale & artichokes

Powdered Duck Breast (c.1670) - Smoked confit fennel & umbles

Braised lettuce & peas

Triple cooked chips

Tipsy Cake (c.1810) - Spit roast pineapple

Chocolate pot, served with coffee

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Restaurant Amuse, Perth

On a rainy evening in late April, Mr Alphie and I were suiting up and looking our best in preparation for dinner at a restaurant frequently touted as one of Perth's (and Australia's) best - Restaurant Amuse. After a few (failed) attempts at getting a booking, we had decided to save it for a special occasion, and our first wedding anniversary seemed as fitting as any.

Our taxi arrived at an unassuming suburban house, the only giveaway that something more exciting was going on inside were the cars parked in every available space. I made a dash through the rain towards the front door, where we were met, and taken through a number of surprisingly large rooms to our seats.

Professionalism was evident from first contact. Mr Alphie booked nearly three months in advance, and even at that early stage he was queried on allergies and food preferences; information that was recorded and confirmed with the booking confirmation call one week before our booking, and again as we arrived.

Between us Mr Alphie and I have few small intolerances, that both of usually ignore when eating out, and just suffer the (minor) consequences later. However, we were very impressed with their attention to detail and concern for our dietary requirements. I can only imagine that they would just as graciously deal with more challenging allergies or intolerances.

All in all, it was a fantastic night out. The staff were fabulous, totally accommodating - such as when we asked for a 'break' between courses, to give us time to take it all in -  and more than happy to have a chat about a dish or ingredient when we were interested.

But, on to the photos!

 Welcome! Glass of bubbly & the menu


 Prawn, finger lime and tea seed oil
Anselmo Mendes, 2010 'Muron Antigos' Vinho Verde, Melgaco Portugal

  Marron, lemon verbena and arborio
Moo Brew, Hefeweizen, Moorilla Tasmania

Egg, hay and potato
Olssens, 2006 'Charcoal Joe' Chardonnay, Central Otago New Zealand

Scallop, shitake, cuttlefish
Best's, 2010 Young Vine Pinot Meunier, Great Western Victoria

Duck, roselle and chestnut
 Senorio del Aguila, 2002 Reserva, Carinena Spain

Lamb, samphire and khol rabi
Glenmore, 2005 'Pin Pin' Cabernet Sauvingnon, Margaret River Western Australia

Passionfruit, lime and lychee

Optional cheese course - for one!

Pear, walnut and lemon

Mandarin, basil and fig
Cortesio, 2011 Moscato d'Asti, Piemonte, Italy

Buttermilk, rum and raisin
AR Valdespino, 'El Canado' Pedro Ximinez, Jerez Spain

 Honeycomb, truffles and jubes