Glowing reviews can be both a blessing and a curse for a restaurant. They obviously provide an influx of customers, a welcome blessing in London’s competitive restaurant scene, but these customers then come armed with very high expectations. Something of a curse.
No accolade is this more true of than being named ‘National Restaurant of the Year’ as Gymkhana, an Indian restaurant in Mayfair, was a few months ago. With a label like that you don’t go expecting a ‘nice’ meal, you go expecting something of an exceptional one. A bar that high is tough for any restaurant to consistently reach. Read more
When Ceviche, Lima and Coya all opened their doors in 2012, I scratched my head. Peruvian food was clearly having a moment, yet I had anything but fond memories of the food I had eaten there some eight years earlier. Horrible greasy hot dogs. Stringy guinea pig. Tasteless humitas (mashed corn and cheese wrapped in a corn husk and steamed). It was only the ceviche we found in the tiny seaside town of Mancora that made any made sort of positive impact on my palette. Fresh, hot and so full of lime it made our lips pucker, we ate at least one bowl of it every day of our stay. So it was with slight trepidation that I booked a table at the then newly opened Lima. Pretty and refined, the food definitely did not look like anything I had eaten in Peru, and for the most part, thankfully, it didn’t taste the same either. But there were a few mouthfuls that chimed with the memory of a taste, and I found myself suddenly back in hot, dry Peru, wearing those horrific patterned trousers that are part of the gringa traveller uniform, and buzzing with the adventure of everything. I loved Lima and Ceviche (although stick to the ceviche and Pisco Sours at the latter, most of the other dishes aren’t worth the price). Coya, not so much. I’m not one to write scathing reviews of restaurants, so you’ll just have to trust me on this one: give it a miss. Read more
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