Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Bibigo Soho - Restaurant Review

Korean cuisine is new for me. It's been so trendy lately with the Kimchi burgers, Korean barbecues and Bulgogi mentioned everywhere, it was time to try it. I was expecting it to be good, and worth the wait. And it was. Apart from the Kimchi itself, which didn't particularly float my boat - it is after all, cold fermented vegetables...

Soho is inundated with restaurants from every cuisine imaginable, so it took some review-reading to settle on Bibigo. Quite a modern, sleek dining room, with wooden tables, bricked walls, and an open kitchen. Staff were lovely, although the door at the entrance is a bit of a push, and the hostess just watched as I struggled. Never mind... It sounded like good value for money, so just in case - highly unlikely, I know - it didn't appeal, then at least I wouldn't have spent too much. The set menu is £13, a three course menu with a good choice of typically Korean dishes.


STARTERS

Red Chicken
Jjim Mandoo
Korean Chopped Salad

I started with salad. Now, I'm not much of a rabbit-food fan, to be fair, but I was most taken with this freshly chopped salad, strewn with bits of crunchy spring roll pastry and a sesame-imbibed oriental dressing. If all salads were like this, I would indeed be a large rabbit! My friend and I chose a starter each, and shared, as everyone knows this is the only way to get to eat everything. Red chicken was my favourite, a sticky, sweet glazed chicken, deep-fried and served with pieces of perfectly cooked okra (i.e. not slimey!). Jjim Mandoo was a potato and vegetable filled gyoza-like dumpling served with a spicy soy dressing. Soy far, soy good!


MAINS

Bossam served with kimchi
Tofu Bibimbap
On the advice of our (non-Korean) waiter, I chose Bossam, a succulent slow-cooked pork belly, served with a selection of Kimchi and a peanut sauce. Loved the pork. Tender, yet mellow, allowing the peanut sauce to enhance the subtlety of the roasted meat. I also ordered the tofu Bibimbap for us, a typical Korean dish of rice with a mix of vegetables and Kohot sauce, sweet and only slightly hot. This was good too, seemed like a staple dish, easy to make, easy to eat. An additional side of Kimchi, just to make sure I knew what all the fuss is about. Ah, the Kimchi at last. Those little cold fermented vegetables... There must have been four versions of it on our table, and to be fair, each was different. They didn't all just taste like pickle. They were quite fresh and with added flavour, and I expect the fermentation process was yet to begin. But yes, as an accompaniment, costing only £1 extra, worth a shot.



DESSERT


Eton mess

Nothing particularly Korean about this dessert. But the guy on the next table had one, and we just ogled at it, so it was a Must Have. Gorgeous little disks of meringues in a strawberry flavoured cream (and ice-cream) with mixed berries.

We drank a very palatable bottle of Vinho Verde, the perfect choice I felt, specially after my recent Portuguese wine tasting session made me quite the expert...

58-59 Great Marlborough Street
W1F 7JY
020 7042 5225

Meal for two with wine ~£80



Bibigo on Urbanspoon Square Meal

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Gaylord Indian Restaurant - New Menu Launch (ZomatoMeetUp#1)

Gaylord Restaurant on Mortimer Street, just off Regent Street North, has been open since 1966, and is considered one of London's most elegant Indian restaurants, as well as the oldest. Leading up to their 50th anniversary next year, they have just launched a new menu with which they want to take you on 'a culinary journey to North India spiced with spendour', delivering exceptional Indian food combining complex flavours and spices.

Having recently joined the Zomato restaurant review site, it was my absolute pleasure to go along to the launch evening to celebrate my first ever #ZomatoMeetUp. Meeting a bunch of like-minded food bloggers and prolific reviewers whilst gorging on a seemingly never-ending feast of specially prepared Indian food - what better way to spend a Wednesday evening?! Beginning with a Saffron Gin cocktail, and finishing with several vats of wine, we munched, chomped, nibbled and photographed our way through an amazing menu.

To begin, an array of canapés. Beautifully presented, beautifully cooked. Some familiar, such as various chicken tikkas, some innovative, like the hash-brown-esque Aloo Tokri Chat. Edible flowers too!


AMUSE BOUCHE - Canapés

Mint and Chilli Dips
Golgappa Shot
Mini Bhelpuri Cone
Aloo Tokri Chhat
Murg Malai Tikka
Zaffrani Chicken Tikka

The starters seemed to go on forever, and indeed were it not for a short break in the proceedings it would not have been possible to carry on eating. My favourite was the Tandoori Tiger Prawn, possibly the largest (and most luscious) prawn I have ever eaten. The tacos were served in a novelty car, reminiscent I'm sure of something from the Maharaja's garage. A little random serving cold tacos amongst this Indian banquet, but it was a talking point. The scallops were tender and subtly spiced and the crab cakes served on a sugar cane. Edible sugarcane too!

STARTERS

Tandoori Tiger Prawn
Baby Idll
Murg Gilafi Seekh
Crab Cakes Dakshini
Andhra Scallops
Tacos
With so much food, we did have to choose between two set main courses. Despite this, we still managed to sample almost everything. Nothing was too spicy, all dishes were aromatic and absolutely delicious. A lamb chop? Not just a lamb chop, a chargrilled lamb chop with ginger infusion and pomegranate seeds. The butter chicken is world-renowned and must be sampled. And the staples such as dal and peshwari chickpea are unmissable. With saffron rice, an assortment of breads, and an aubergine masala, surely there's no room for any more?


MAIN COURSE
SET #1


Prawn Coconut Curry
Gaylord Butter Chicken
Chana Peshawari
Lamb Chop Anardana
Dal Bukhara
Ah, but of course. Dessert. I rarely eat dessert in Indian restaurants, but now I think I may have been missing out. A traditional gulab jamun was flambéed with spiced dark rum. A flaked carrot pudding, nutty and hot, and a cardamom-infused Indian soft cheesecake. You think you have no room left? You have.


DESSERTS


Ras Malai
Gajar Halwa
Gulab Jamun with spiced Dark Rum


As if they weren't generous enough, we were each presented with a voucher as we rolled out onto the street, for a Royal Thali Feast lunch. So I certainly will be back in the very very near future. 

Thanks to Zomato for the invitation and to the wonderful staff at Gaylord Restaurant for a wonderful evening. 

Gaylord Restaurant
79-81 Mortimer Street
W1W 7SJ
020 7580 3615


Square Meal Gaylord Indian on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

50th Birthday Porsche Cake

People turning 50. I don't know. Well, I guess hanging out with them will make me feel young for a while.


This was such fun to make. I knew it wouldn't be perfect (which was a shame, as birthday boy is quite the perfectionist) but I did my best. In hindsight I would have done things in a slightly different order, but that there is the beauty of hindsight. Next time (should there be one, which I doubt) I will know better.

My inspiration was of course, the birthday boy's own car - a Porsche 911 Carrera. Now my knowledge of cars goes no further than knowing the colour, but he's quite a fan and loves his little low sleek motor. It makes me nauseous when I get in it, but each to their own.

I found this wonderful tutorial on Flickr by Sucre Coeur, and so based my own cake on this. It went well enough at the carving stage (lemon madeira cake with lemon buttercream). Then for some reason I stopped looking at the pictures and started doing it by eye from memory. Big mistake. I added in big bumpy headlights and made the front far too stumpy. By the time I checked back, after smoothing on the sugarpaste and giving it it's first coat of edible metallic paint, I realised it was more Roary the Racing Car than Porsche. So a bit of chopping and smoothing and I half-righted that.

The next incident was when I stuck the sugarpaste wheels on. Lifting up the cake to place them under the rims, of course the metallic paint cracked, and gave the car that crumpled, crashed look. Not really what I was going for.



Drawing the markings on the white icing with a knife before painting seemed a good idea. But again, I should have kept referring to the pictures. Trying to draw lines after the metallic paint is on gives another form of crumplediness.





Still. A lot of fun. Half the fun is actually compensating and improvising when things go awry.


The bottom layer is a simple Victoria sponge. I carved out the centre into a Porsche logo-shaped hole and filled it with strawberries and more lemon buttercream. This was the part that got eaten at the party! The car itself, I believe, the only one in existence, is still in one piece...!

Happy Birthday Joss. Old git. 


Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Canela - Portuguese Wine Tasting

Returning to Canela after its relaunch last May meant I had high expectations, still cherishing the bachalau and the mini burgers with quail's egg canapés. This evening, they were hosting a wine tasting, where we got to meet the producers from two distinct regions, Dao and Alentejo, tasting seven different wines. In Portugal, wine is produced by quintas (wine estates), and by small producers, making it an artisan product, made with love. Vintages are usually quite young and most wines are made using a blend of three grape varieties or castas.

The first wine was a light white introduced by Carlos from Casa Darei, a family vineyard run by his father and himself. The soil in the Dao region is granitic, with some areas being left fallow periodically, leaving the complexity of the soil to be savoured in each sip.

The red he served us was full-bodied with essence of violets, similar to a Pinot Noir.


Following these two, we were served caldo verde, the soup made with potato and chourico (and a string of Portuguese cabbage) which is typical of the Dao region. Just what was needed.

Caldo Verde
The second producer we met was from the Alentejo region was less artisan and more commercial but Pousio wine is still produced on a relatively small scale. The wine was fresh and young, fruity with tones of citric. The first white, simply named V, had been in the bottle for three weeks. Three varieties of P (Pousio) were then served - the white, perfect with our next canapé, bachalhau; the rose a little sweet and dry for me (it's colour produced from the skin of the white grapes); and a wonderful red reserva from 2012, reminiscent of Syrah (or Shiraz to us plebs).


Bachalhau

The final wine of the evening, a very merry one at this stage, was O, a one year old red named Quattro Caminhos, a blend of four castas, and easily the best of the evening. It has been voted top wine of the Alentejo region. To finish our evening off in style, we ordered another glass of the red from Casa de Darei, and indulged in a Misto board - a selection of cheese and charcuterie. A fine end to an informative evening in a charming, rustic yet contemporary setting.

Misto

Canela will be hosting wine tastings monthly, and all Portuguese wine on offer is available to take home. Their regional classics, and specialty petiscos, as well as the exclusive wine list, are personally sourced and bring an authentic yet contemporary Portuguese experience to Central London. I booked my wine tasting through Edible Experiences


Monday, 9 March 2015

Dishoom, King's Cross - Restaurant Review

 As I approached Dishoom along the achingly cool Granary Square, with it's neon-lit choreographed fountains and past the trendy young-uns congregated on the canalside steps, my heart sank as I spied the 100m queue outside Dishoom. Luckily for me I was running late and my friends were already near the entrance! Still, we had a further 15 minutes or so to wait, during which we were served an amazing hot chai (I wasn't tempted by the sherry option), which was warming, comforting and satisfyingly spicy. Not my usual cuppa tea (geddit?) but just the job when waiting in the freezing cold. Dishoom has got to be worth the wait.

Inside, we were given a seat near the entrance, to wait for our space at the bar. Had we been drinking the entire time we were kept waiting, we would have been on the floor by now! The staff were actually amazing, each person had a specific role and knew our names and even as we moved between waiting areas, kept up with our orders. The entrance was a hive of activity, with a central bar, not one we could order a drink at, I don't think, but it was all a-hub with busy bar-peeps making up cocktails. The whole area was a modernized industrial warehouse space, apparently formerly a railway transit shed, for interchange of goods between rail, road and canal. In Bombay it would have been know as a Godown.

 It wasn't long before we were led downstairs to the Permit Room. Finally a permit to get a drink. We were expecting to be waiting another half hour for a table, so we ordered a round of cocktails, firstly a flute of Bollybellini, a sparkling cocktail with raspberries, lychee and rose, with a hint of cardamom. Next, an Edwina's Affair, pun-tastically, a threeway of gin, rose and cardamom, with fresh mint and candied rose petals. A taster of the Indian flavours to come. By then we were on the floor, with hunger, so we ordered a Far Far, a half crisp, half cracker, mistaking it for dried banana. It was delicious. Dipped in the accompanying mint sauce, onion salad, not a patch on the regular curry-house dips.



Edwina's Affair
Back up to ground floor level (high ceilings certainly don't cover it), walking on glass covering up mechanical stuff that looks so cool, but who knows what it was for, and following the trail of joss sticks, our table amongst the high-seated trendy crowd was what I would call cosy. It wasn't uncomfortable, but once seated, it felt unlikely I would be getting off that stool again for a while!

Water in silver glasses, our Edwina's followed us up, and the menu was explained as a sharing menu. 'We don't do starters', she said, 'we just share the small plates.' Well, yes...

Between four of us, we ordered four small plates. Again, your typical curry-house menu, it ain't. Mixed in with some familiar-sounding dishes were many tantalising British-with-a-twist options. Vegetable Samoans, Okra Fries, Dishoom Calamari, and the one in the box, Pau Bhaji, a mishmash of vegetables, made into an amazing sauce served with hot buttered Pau bun. No food is more Bombay, it says. I want to go and live there.



Veggie samosas, Pau bhaji, Dishoom calamari and okra fries.

We were given ample time to finish our (non) starters, and then choose from one curry (well, two, if you count the veggie one) and the grills. I do love a pun, so the Ruby Chicken was a must (Cockney, innit), as well as a paneer version. Along with this, we also chose the Lamb Boti Kebab, Mahi Tikka (any fish will do) and the signature Black House Daal. A rice, a nana, a bowl of greens and a roti, and we couldn't ask for more.

We dipped and dived into each dish, enjoying the British Raj feel to the occasion, deviating completely from the Indian food I know and love. All the flavours were still there, subtle, none too spicy and the portion size was perfect. The only teensy criticism I would have is the lack of chilli, but that may be just me. Staff really knew what they were doing, and we never once felt intruded up, nor rushed or kept waiting. 

Ruby Paneer, Black Daal, a bowl of Greens and Mahi Tikka.


Lamb Boti Kebab


Despite being totally full, we had a look at the dessert menu. Although the Guju Chocolate Mousse was tempting, we were instead intrigued by the Kala Khatta Gola Ice. 

'Fluffy ice flakes steeped in kokum fruit syrup, blueberries, chilli, lime, white and black salt. The first spoonful tastes bizarre. The second spoonful is captivating.'
  
Hilariously this was very true. It tasted like ice with spice. The first mouthful was bizarre. Two out of four stopped there. The second mouthful was strangely captivating and drew several more. But it wouldn't be something I'd choose again. But I'm glad I tried it. 

Overall, Dishoom really was amazing. Queuing aside, I would definitely go back, and I expect I would bring people here if I needed to impress them.
And pretty good value for money, making the whole experience a real treat. 



Dishoom, King's Cross
5 Stable St
N1C 4AB

Dinner for four, with cocktails, ~£160



Square Meal Dishoom King's Cross on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Cake Club - Persian 'Love' Cupcakes

 This month's theme was 'Love' as it was just after Valentine's Day.

The winning cake was a classic Victoria sponge with fresh cream and topped with strawberries in the shape of a heart. Simple yet most effective. And delicious.

We also had Peach Melba cupcakes topped with raspberries, a lemon drizzle sprinkled with sugared heart shapes, and Sailor Jerry brownies cut into heart shapes.

Me, I wanted to experiment. This Persian Love Cake recipe for two was perfect. I love the story behind it: a Persian woman falls in love with a prince, and baked him a cake to make him fall in love with her. Truly, the way to a man's heart is through his stomach! 



The flavours in this cake are quite different from your typical cake. The aftertaste of the cardamom was quite surprising, but in an 'ooh that actually works' way. The subtly of the rose water in the cake, the chopped pistachios and the saffron in the cream made it feel really Asian, as is the case, since it is a typical Iranian combination. All that was missing was the rose petals.

Obviously there were more than two people so I multiplied the quantities. I thought piping a rose with the cream would make it ever so romantic...









Next month - Easter. Eggscellent. 

Monday, 2 March 2015

Marco Pierre White Steak and Alehouse - Restaurant Review

I KNEW Marco himself wouldn't be presiding over matters at his steakhouse. I knew that. But maybe he should. For a meal costing as much as this did, it was somewhat disappointing. It wasn't terrible by any means, but it wasn't top-notch. Perhaps my expectations were too high. I don't often get the opportunity to frequent so-called High End restaurants, preferring local, or previously visited establishments where the food is the hero. Eating out is a treat, still, for me. And paying top dollar means it has got to be amazing. For something like a steak, I can cook it at home, yes, but I don't often. So this should have been one of the best steaks ever. What with it being a steakhouse, and all...

I had read several reviews before my reservation and was surprised. A restaurant bearing the name of the first 'celebrity' chef, a man who returned his Michelin stars in order that he could stop living the lie that meant he could 'charge high prices and not be behind the stove'.  I have much admiration for Marco for this reason and also because I met him at an event a few years back, (Mumsnet, turkey, anyone?) and he was charming and as genuine as could be. And this is why I still wanted to eat here. (I may have slight CWS*.)

 *Celebrity Worship Syndrome

The staff were great, so polite, with no over-selling. I did feel slightly bad at choosing the (second) cheapest option for everything but really, that shouldn't matter. They didn't seem to mind. They did subtly re-fill our wine very frequently so it was mostly finished by the time the steak arrived. 
The setting was comfortably spaced, again quite classic and traditional, with a 'high-end' feel . A bit of an '80s feel to it, perhaps? (Not that I remember any restaurants in the '80s...) Round tables for two gave it an intimate feel, and the lighting was low and romantic.

Disappointing starters, both cold. Admittedly I didn't think confit of duck was what it was. I was expecting a roasted duck leg marinated in lots of wine. Mmm. Potted confit of duck, I now know, is the flaked meat from the duck covered in a layer of lard. Not really my thing. I'm sure it's not that but that's what it tasted like. Prawn cocktail is the traditional starter that I've never seen the point of but Himself chose it purely for the nostalgic element. It just felt as though it had been sitting in the fridge all day. As did the confit.

Prawn Cocktail
Potted Confit of Duck

Steak was the obvious choice for main course. There were other options, such as confit duck but luckily I didn't make that mistake again! I couldn't justify paying £35 for a fillet or a ribeye - I like my meat, but not that much, so I was content with the sirloin. I would have expected it to be the best steak I've ever had. It wasn't. (That, my friends, was at a restaurant right next to where I grew up in Co. Kerry called The Thatch). For a medium rare, it was a tad chewy. It did have a good charry edge and not too much bone, which I liked. Served with a knob of Cafe de Paris butter.
Sirloin Steak with Cafe de Paris butter
Himself went for the rump with peppercorn sauce. Again a classic. His was also medium rare, yet chewy. The sauce was silky smooth but needed a bit more 'pepper-fire' in his opinion. Good portion size. Ooh the triple cooked chips were delicious! And the seasonal vegetables, surprisingly the simple things worked very well.
Rump Steak with Peppercorn Sauce
Overall I wouldn't really rate this steakhouse as 'The Best'. I think it's a slight tourist trap, enticing reasonably well off clientele, in a great location in the City, and with Marco's name. Without his name it could be rated as just another chain steakhouse. Which would burn a hole in your pocket.

I should point out, for transparency, that I had an £80 voucher from Zomato. Unlikely I would have been able to afford to eat here otherwise!

Also, please excuse the photography. I was a little furtive with my flash in this instance...

East India House
109-117 Middlesex Street
City of London
E1 7JF
020 3095 4733


Dinner for two with wine: (at least) ~£120


Marco Pierre White Steak & Alehouse on Urbanspoon Square Meal