Whenever London supper clubs are discussed among the food-enthusiastic someone always asks, in a reverential whispered tone: ‘Have you been to the London Foodie’s Japanese one yet?’ (It’s always ‘yet’, because you can’t be a London-based self-declared foodie and not heard of it and desperately want to go, if not actually been). And until last week I had to reply through gritted teeth, ‘no, not yet’. I hate being the one who hasn’t been to the thing everyone is talking about! But now I can finally say ‘Yes, isn’t it awesome?’ And awesome it really is. It was some of the best Japanese food, no scrap that, best food full stop, I have ever had in London.
Before burgers, lobsters and chickens made single dish restaurants the talk of the town, there was Le Relais de Venise. For over fifty years the original Parisian restaurant has been offering its customers salad, steak, pommes frites, and not much else. There is now an outpost in Manhattan and three in London: Marylebone, the City and Canary Wharf, and it was this last one that I was invited to along with a host of other bloggers on Thursday evening. To say I’m not a massive fan of the area is well, an understatement. It’s all just so shiny and uniformly new looking. But arriving half an hour early for dinner I walked down to the river side. With the smell of salt, the squawk of gulls and the relative peace, I could have been beside the seaside. Until I turned around to face the cold gleaming-glass and sharp-edged towers of the Wharf. But for the first time I could see some sort of beauty in it. Read more
A while ago I wrote this post about my favourite cheap, casual and central places to eat in London. The sort of places to go with a group of friends on a work night for a proper catch-up without hurting your already bruised credit card any further. The sort of places where you can laugh loudly, rant about your passive-aggressive colleagues, and get all the salacious, gossipy details of your friend’s latest Tinder adventure while having one too many alcoholic beverages. The sort of places I really love, and that I think London does so well. And here, finally, is a full review of another one of these: Bi Bim Bap, a regular haunt of the NYSS (explanation here). Read more
London’s original Chinatown was in Limehouse in the East End (thank you Wikipedia for that nugget!). In the early twentieth century London’s Chinese population congregated there, setting up businesses to provide for the Chinese sailors coming in and out of the Docklands. The current Chinatown off Shaftesbury Avenue was only established in the 1970s, until then the area had been just another down-at-the-heel part of Soho, although Gerrard Street was home to the first Ronnie Scotts Jazz Bar in the 1920s. It’s one of my favourite parts of London, and I love just wandering around, grabbing a plate of dumplings, or stocking up on noodles, Sriracha, packets of miso soup and Jasmine Tea from Loon Fung supermarket. Read more
A couple of weeks ago I heard a story on the Today programme as I was getting dressed which, if it had been on any other show, I would have assumed was a joke. The whole hoo-ha is explained well here, but basically the author Jeanette Winterson had come under fire for tweeting a photo of a dead, skinned, rabbit she had killed and was about to eat. I paused, one leg in my jeans one out, as I tried to work out what the news story actually was. A woman eats a dead animal? How is that news? She captioned it ‘Rabbit ate my parsley. I am eating the rabbit’. Queue people saying the bunny didn’t deserve to die, but since when do we demand our animals commit some horrendous crime before being eaten? What really got me is that most of the people laying into her on Twitter will have eaten at least one McDonald’s in their life, and are probably frequent purchasers of non-organic chicken. Factory farmed animals lead horrible cramped lives, and many are still killed by electrocution, a very frightening and inhumane death. It is vastly more ethical to kill a wild animal quickly and painlessly. The issue was that Jeanette was showing people what they actually eat on a regular basis: dead animals, they are just used to seeing them cleaned and wrapped neatly in plastic. Chickens may not be as cute as bunny rabbits (Beatrix Potter has a lot to answer for) but they are still animals. And saying, ‘fine, but I don’t want to see it’, is cowardly. If you are going to eat meat, then you should recognise what it is you’re eating. Read more
Until recently, Portuguese wine meant Port and not much else. This is however changing, and the country’s table wines are becoming increasingly well respected. Yet its wines will never be mainstream. It’s a small country but home to 255 indigenous varieties of grapes, known by their local names which often vary from region to region. This makes it hard for customers to recognise their favourite grape varieties, and most wines from the country avoid naming the grapes within on the bottles, simply describing themselves as ‘white’ or ‘red’. However, the number of grape varieties is a rich resource for winemakers, and unlike other wine-producing countries, Portugal hasn’t focused on the more popular international grapes. Most Portuguese wines are blends as they are made by small vineyards who hedge their bets against the weather by producing a range of grapes, so even if one has a bad vintage they can still make a decent wine. However, as technology and knowledge of growing is increasing, crops are becoming more reliable and singular grape wines are beginning to pop up.
1) Giving birth
2) Eating a really hot curry
3) Running a half marathon in bare feet on up-turned plugs
This was the list I came up with the night before Run Hackney. It was of all the things I reckoned would be more painful than running the half marathon the next day. It was meant to calm my nerves and help me to sleep. It didn’t really work. When I finally nodded off it was to hopeful dreams of the race being cancelled.
Sake and Spice. I admit to doing a double take when I received the invitation. Sake, Japanese rice wine, at an Indian restaurant? Surely there was a mistake somewhere? But actually there wasn’t. The evening was the first in a series of Spice Dinners hosted at Moti Mahal in Covent Garden, which pair their food with a range of different beverages. The dinner series is the idea of Barry McCaughley, Head of Beverages at the restaurant and also at Soho’s Chotto Matte, who wanted to break away from the expected rich spicy wine and beer and see what other drinks might go well with his restaurant’s cuisine. Moti Mahal serves food from the Grand Trunk route, one of Asia’s oldest roads, and one that links the eastern and western regions of the Indian subcontinent. The route runs from West Bengal in India, on to Delhi and up through Punjab into Pakistan, and then through the Khyber Pass to Kabul, the heart of Afghanistan. It’s been an important trade route for almost two millennia, and many commodities have plied it, including the spices that are at the heart of Chef Anirudh Arora’s cooking. Read more
That I love supper clubs is glaringly obvious from this blog. I love the relaxed atmosphere, the unpretentious food, and the ease of the experience: you just sit back and wait for delicious dishes to be brought over to you. However, they’re not ideal if you really want to catch-up with someone, as you end up in conversation with those around you as opposed to each other. At a recent one my friend was desperate to tell me the salacious details of her recent holiday (and I was desperate to hear them), but we had to wait until we were in the pub afterwards to get to it. Supper clubs are also run fairly infrequently so you don’t have much choice of dates, and you do have to book fairly far in advance. Step forward Pipsdish. It takes all the good stuff about supper clubs and combines it with the convenience of a restaurant. Read more
Following last night’s performance, this post might well become redundant rather quickly. But even if England is out in the next few days (likely), I still have the perfect place for you to support your office sweep stake team from. I’m not a huge sports fan, but somehow each year I go from disinterested, to just watching the last few minutes, to digging out the face paint and shouting at my TV screen with the loudest of them: COME ON ENGLAND. GO MURRAY. KICK IT ROONEY. It doesn’t matter what sport it is (during this year’s Winter Olympics I found myself rather enthusiastically watching curling), it’s just fun to cheer someone on. Read more