Whyte & Brown, Kingly Court

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The standard week long ‘I can’t possibly go out for dinner after eating all that cheese on holiday’ mantra has come to an end. And last night was one of those classic Soho evenings where there was an afternoon of texting back and forth about where we should meet for dinner and what we wanted to eat. No decision was made, obviously, because I’m rubbish at decision making. But we met in Kingley Court and thought we’d chance it.
Didn’t fancy seafood, Ramen wasn’t my friend’s thing, Pizza Pilgrims had a queue out of the door and Senior Ceviché wasn’t going to cut it in the cold February weather. So Whyte & Brown it was.
After a ten minute wait at the bar with our buzzer and a bottle of red we headed upstairs to be seated.

Chicken crisps, a Spanish Scotch Egg and Chicken, Ham and cheddar croquettes to start with. All were fine, nothing exciting I’m afraid. The croquettes were hotter than the sun with little cheddar in them, the crisps I think need to be warm to avoid the slightly unpleasant fatty taste that chicken skin can get and the scotch egg was bland. The egg needed something other than minced chicken to man it up a bit. I think there was supposed to be some chorizo in it but if it was there it was on some kind of stealth mission.

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We had a burger each. Both naked (bunless). Both served on a f***** slate, so everytime I cut through the burger and my knife touched the slate it screeched and set my teeth on edge. Everytime, no matter how careful I was. To the burger itself, it was nice, but I just don’t think a chicken burger works. Minced chicken doesn’t have enough fat to make a good burger. What it does have, when put under pressure, is enough density to become a fairly solid spongy lump. The problem is, the taste was good, a nice char from the grill. But the texture and density of it wasn’t right. Whine over.

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We shared some skinny fries, these are toothpick skinny, not French fry skinny – but they were well cooked and well seasoned. And there was a cute little salad served in a mini colander which was lovely actually – good and refreshing to go with the weighty burger.

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It was all ‘fine’ and ‘nice’. And that, in my uneducated opinion is the problem I have with it. Service was fin    e. Decor was fine. And the food was just fine, not special, not exciting, not something I’d bother trying again, not that they’d probably want me to after writing this.

Ginger Pig, Butchery Class

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It’s been a while since I wrote a post so I thought I’d pen a short note about the Masterclass I attended last night at The Ginger Pig. The certificate for the Masterclass was a Christmas present and covered a 3 hour class at their Moxon St HQ with knife skills, a meal at the end and a joint to take home.

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Obviously I turned up late for starters owing to a huge error in judgement by trying to take a bus down Oxford St instead of walking. No matter we snuck in and listened to the remaining introduction about the providence of our pork and the history and passion of the guys at Ginger Pig – sounds a bit cliche I know, but if wasn’t – they kept it short and interesting. Then upstepped Perry, who with audience participation and a lot of laughs proceeded to take apart half a pig in front of us showing us all the cuts and talking us through what is good for what etc.

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I should add here I had (obviously) decided on the Pork class owing the fact that in the trade I am in I’ve seen a lot of beef, lamb and game butchery and never really pork. And, you never know I might turn into Barbara from the Good Life or Hugh Fearlessly-Eats-It-All one day and have to butcher my own pigs – long way off and but of a pipe dream I know, but….
I digress. Once the pig had been take apart we were shown how to debone and roll the loin that we were going to do and take home. I got the back end of the loin which meant I got the beautiful tender loin bit too. Win. I was fairly proud of my attempt at deboning the piece, there wasn’t much left on the backbone, but it wasn’t my tidiest work. Seasoned with garlic, salt, pepper and some ground fennel seeds the loin (all 2.9kgs of it) are now ready for me to find 8 friends to come and eat it.

Loin
Roasted loin with the best crackling I’ve ever had, dauphinois potatoes and a couple of glasses of Picpoul de Pinet were next on the schedule (carefully orchestrated so we only got wine once we’d put the crazy sharp knives down), followed by a massive portion of bread and butter pudding laced with melty chocolate and we were off home.
Roast Pork
It’s not the cheapest way to spend 3 hours on a Monday night, but the class was fantastic and I have consequently looked up evening classes for a proper butchery course – yeah yeah – I know, not very ladylike but come on, wouldn’t it be so cool to know how to do it all yourself?!

The Ivy Market Grill

Here’s a concept for you; take your well oiled high end brand, much sought after by the trendies, the tourists and the out-of-towners and turn it into an accessible, middle-of-the-range ‘brasserie’ bang slap in the middle of Covent Garden. Day two of opening I managed to get myself a table at the Ivy Market Grill for a catch up lunch with mother.

The menu is huge, although once you look properly you quickly find that half of it is irrelevant to dining at lunchtime. The wine list is fairly sparse; they’ve covered the basics and very little else. So we went for a bottle of Pinot Grigio and some tap water.

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For starter I had a favourite dish of mine ever since I once went vegetarian for lent – mushrooms on toast. Except restaurants do it so much better than I do because they have access to such a fantastic range of these delicious fungi. It was creamy, it was rich, it was probably saltier than it should have been but it was gorgeous. A lightly toasted baton of brioche held itself together surprisingly well languishing in a puddle of cream and weighted down by mushrooms. Sorry, I’ve gone all Nigella with that description. Mother opted for the crispy wasabi tempura prawns. Which came on a slate, sitting in a couple of different puréed. It’s a pretty looking dish, but it seems like an odd thing to have on a menu consisting of classics absolutely nothing else vaguely resembling a nod to Chinese / Japanese cuisine.

photo 2On to the mains and I had their version of what is gradually becoming my usual choice of dish vienna schnitzel, except it wasn’t veal – chicken Milanese with a fried duck egg and black truffle – which was way way too greedy for lunch, but it was lovely. The chicken was good and moist under the crispy breadcrumbed coating and it had a good flavour. The egg and the shaved truffle along with whatever sauce it was that was zig-zagged over the chicken made for a delicious dish, but as I mentioned above, too much even for me to finish.

photo 4The only slight gripe, and I imagine it’s purely down to it being very early days, is that the service is slow. Charming and subtle, but slow and it was clear a couple of times that the waitress’ grasp of English wasn’t as good as it should be, but at the same time, they didn’t get anything wrong, so it’s a bit unfair of me to say that. I had arranged with a colleague to take a long lunch but once the main courses had been cleared I realised we were approaching 2 hours which was a little over the – oh, I’ll be back in an hour and a half – casually said over my shoulder as I was leaving. So a quick coffee and the bill. And we were off.
I didn’t see the bill as mother kindly took care of that for us but, as a guess, for the quality of food and size of portions the bill wasn’t too scary. Obviously because it’s part of the Ivy and because it’s in Covent Garden they can probably charge a little more, but I think it’s a great addition to the area and I would choose there over Balthazaar any day.

Baked Eggs & chorizo

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I have discovered the huge problem with taking the long-haul ferry to France and stocking up with huge amounts of wine on the way back… It’s fairly obvious, but I didn’t realise (more likely ignored the flippin’ obvious) that my wine consumption would increase as a direct result. It is waaaay to easy to crack open another bottle or two and put the world to rights until 4am if you’ve got 12 bottles lying there just waiting to be consumed. Consequently yesterday was spent in a slightly hazy state of trackie bums, comfort food and movies. Oh and 3 hours of ironing – I know – don’t you all just crave to be part of my rock and roll lifestyle – yep, thought not. It got towards dinner time after what felt like the longest time without food, it had, in fact, been all of 2 hours. The remains of cottage pie I was informed was not enough for two – it clearly was – but none the less I went for a hunt through the fridge and came up trumps with this little beauty.

Baked Eggs & chorizo

Serves 2 as a starter
These are cooked in a Bain-Marie so you will need a baking tin as well as the ramekins

INGREDIENTS
10cm piece of chorizo
3 chestnut mushrooms
A squeeze of garlic purée or a clove finely chopped
1tbsp fresh flat leaf parsley
2tsp creme fraiche
2 eggs
1tsp fresh grated Parmesan

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METHOD

  • Pre heat the oven to 170. Place the clean empty ramekins in to the baking tin and boil the kettle for later
  • Place a small saucepan on the heat – no oil necessary due to the fat in the chorizo
  • Peel and chop the Chorizo and mushrooms into small chunks
  • Add the chorizo to the pan (try to keep it moving in the pan so it doesn’t burn), once it’s been sizzling for a couple of minutes add the mushroom chunks
  • Sqeeze in the garlic into the pan and stir
  • Add a 2 tsp of water to stop the ingredients catching on the base of the pan and add in the chopped parsley
  • Stir through the crème fraiche and pour the lot into the ramekin

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  • Crack an egg into each one – making sure it doesn’t overflow
  • Place the baking tin into the oven – pull the shelf out of the oven slightly and pour hot water into the tin until 1/3 way up the side of the ramekin

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  • Close the oven door and bake for 10 minutes
  • After 10 minutes sprinkle the grated parmesan over the top and change the oven to grill
  • Grill for no more than 2 minutes otherwise you’ll have a hard yolk
  • Remove from the bain-marie and place on a small place and serve – either on their own or with a bit of bread to mop up the creamy bits.

As an aside – I didn’t put any seasoning in this as the chorizo has so much flavour, coupled with the rich crème fraiche, egg and salty Parmesan on top it shouldn’t really need anything except maybe a teeny grind of black pepper when serving.

Also – on a completely different note – the layout of this blog will be changing soon – it annoys me everytime I click on it, so please bare with the messiness of it at the moment. I am working on a solution.

The Imperial, New King’s Road

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Obviously the diet isn’t going too well as my number of blog posts is increasing slightly… Another sort of local of mine this time. The Imperial has had a number of re-incarnations over the years, I used to try (and fail) to get served in here has a teenager – the joys of being a redhead – I’m rubbish at lyin    g, the blush factor is huge when lying about my age, it was then and still is now. It went a bit dodgy a few years ago and was very footbally, not the sort of place you’d go for a nice mid-week meal. But now, it’s under a newish ownership – I think they’ve had it for a year or so – and it’s great.

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I went for the tail-end of someone’s Christmas party last year and this year I’ve been for dinner twice. The staff are so friendly, the décor is comfortable and if you don’t fancy sitting at the one and a half tables outside the front looking onto the busy New King’s Road to smoke they’ve got a lovely garden out back where they grow loads of vegetables, salads and herbs.

The first time we went we sat outside, it was seriously quiet. It was a Friday in August, and in that area all the Fulhamites bugger off to their parents’ holiday homes yaaaah every Friday (yeah,yeah, I know I’m one of them). But having been outside for an hour we had the garden to ourselves. With the rosé going down a treat we stayed for dinner. Moules to start for me were delicious and the sauce was perfect for dipping the gorgeous toasted homemade bread into.

Imperial 2 The Cornish Crab & Fennel, Chilled Tomato & Saffron Tea was a cute dish that came with a little teapot to pour over the crab. The second time we went, we shared the meat platter of salt beef & pickle, slow cooked duck egg, lamb sweetbreads & brioche, chorizo salsa to start which was also very good and a perfect sized starter for two.

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The first time I went I had the charred pork tenderloin with sautéed wild rice, broccoli, chilli & soy, coriander & spring onion which was really good. The pork was slightly pink and tender as anything (I suppose it should be, given it’s called a tenderloin) there was slightly too much soy for me which was unfortunately as it did overpower the pork – we fed this back to the waiter / co-owner who was very kind and open to feedback it seemed.

Imperial 3 For my main course on the second visit I went for the burger as I had remembered having slight food envy last time round. Well cooked, with smoked melted cheese oozing over the top with chips and a massive gherkin quarter which I avoided. It really was very good.

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But both times I’ve been it’s been super quiet, a Friday in August and a Monday in September are probably not the best judges of how busy it gets and I walked passed on Wednesday evening and it was busy. But I really really hope it stays busy because it’s a fantastic place and the owners have put a lot of tlc into the place. You should go. Definitely.

Harwood Arms, Fulham

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Last week I decided that I needed a list. Not a shopping list as such but a list written down of the London restaurants I really wanted to go to. The usual happened, when I started it, I couldn’t think of any restaurants all of a sudden, my mind went blank, but it has now been populate with some 20 places and is being added to on a daily basis. A local pub of mine that I went to 11 years ago  is on the list, it now has a Michelin star and I’ve been meaning to go back for years. Often, I’m told, you can get a really good deal at places with stars if you go at lunchtime. So in a bid to keep my early birthday party vibes going I booked in at the Harwood Arms and off we toddled.

It was busy but not full, it was only Wednesday lunchtime afterall. Bread, butter and menus were instantly brought to the table along with filtered water. I have no idea what was in he bread but it was lovely – dense in the hand but light when eating – weird, but good. And the butter was wonderfully salty, I hate being that person who adds salt to restaurant butter.

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To start, a glass of sherry, well, why not? I went for the special starter of Hereford snails with oxtail, stout and parsley which were so beautifully presented and had a slice of cheese and Guinness on toast which was divine.

harwood 6 Although the snails were good, I think, if I’m truly honest I wouldn’t order them in that format again, I think I’ll stick to garlic, parsley and butter with my snails. The pigeon faggots were delicious though – very rich but fantastic.

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For my main I did Grouse. I’ve not had it yet this season so a Michelin starred version I thought ought to good. It was. The breast meat was very pink and beautifully tender with brown bread sauce, cabbage and bacon and some gorgeous chanterelles.

harwood 10On a separate board were the legs and a grouse and venison consommé. The legs were way too gamey for me – that’s not at all meant to be a criticism – it’s just my tastebuds aren’t up to that level of game.

harwood 9But the consommé was amazing – a tiny Pyrex glass which was hotter than the sun, filled with a browny clear liquid that was the most comforting and warming 4 sips I’ve almost ever had. Campbell’s tomato soup and Heinz beef consommé can do one, this was delicious. The Muntjac dish was beautiful, with several different cuts of meat on the plate, beautifully pink and a generous portion too. All washed down with a delicious bottle of Crozes Hermitage Les Amandiers, Domaine Du Murinais 2011.

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Obviously it being a super posh recovery lunch it would have been rude not to have a pudding and the doughnuts with damson jam and vanilla cream which were straight out of the fryer coated in warm vanilla sugar, just perfect.

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Such a lovely way to spend the best part of a mid-week afternoon. I’m glad I’ve been back, I probably won’t be fighting to go back in the immediate future, that’s not to say I didn’t like anything. I think I might go back outside the game season when things are a little lighter to see what they do with their summer menu.

Simplicity is simply the best

photo 2 Following that amazing mozzarella salad thing I had in Paris what was now nearly a month ago, I’ve been dying to have it again. But it’s so hard to find that kind of a dish in London, restaurants seldom do such simple food lest they get booted for charging too much for a couple of slices of tomato and a hunk of mozzarella. But it’s the quality of the ingredients they use in restaurants are so fantastic they do have to charge a premium rate to actually make their margins.

So, rather than wait to find it on a menu, or indeed until I go back to Paris, I made it for lunch today. I’m currently dog-sitting and sifting through old photos while my parents are at a party ‘Up North’ for the weekend. The bonus about doing this, is that Mum fills the fridge with all my favourite food and I happened to come across some vine ripe tomatoes and tub of buffalo mozzarella. I can’t really call this a recipe as it’s so simple, the importance of using the best ingredients you possibly can will make this dish what it should be. Mine was just a solo lunch but the recipe below is for two.

6 vine ripe tomatoes
1 ball of buffalo mozzarella
10 or so fresh basil leaves
1 tsp white wine vinegar
3 tbsp good olive oil
1 garlic clove

  •  Finely chop the garlic and crush it under the knife so it releases all its juices
  • Pour the white wine vinegar and olive oil into a cup. Add the garlic and a teeny tiny pinch of salt and leave it to one side
  • Cut the tomatoes into wedges – I did about 8 per tomato and place in the serving dish
  • Rip apart the mozzarella gently and add them to the dish so you have uneven morsels throughout the dish
  • Dressing time – and it’s a bit ponsy – but dip the tip of a fork into the dressing and let the drips drop onto the salad, do this until there are a few drops everywhere.photo 5
  • Basil leaves onto the salad and a sprinkle of black pepper
  • Serve and enjoy

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