Monday, 8 August 2016

Gilgamesh, Camden - Review

I'd been looking forward to this one for six months. It was a birthday gift from two fabulous friends who seem to be under the impression I like food! Well... The voucher promised two Champagne cocktails and three courses in a unique Eastern atmosphere with the chance of spotting celebrity clientele (does an ex-tennis-player turned morning-television-presenter count?).

The setting immediately transfers us East. Gliding up the escalator to behold giant wooden sculptures and carved reliefs with bamboo plants dominating the dark wood interior and the newly refurbished retractable roof promising alfresco dining on warmer Camden days. We were warmly welcomed and walked by the bustling sushi station to our table. On venturing to the dark copper-clad bathrooms, you can sneak a peek at a whole range of private rooms, a nightclub and a lounge bar (Ginger Martini, anyone?). Comfy leather-clad booths dominate the window area with views over the Stables Market, while us voucher-bearing clients get to sit centre stage on dark oak tables with a slightly suspicious motif (if you squint sideways and cover certain parts...).



Gilgamesh's menu is quite extensive, offering dim sum, sushi, wok dishes and curries, and its pan-Asian theme is carefully selected for the set menu, a version of which we were offered. We started with cocktails which were fruity and icy, though on checking the drinks menu there were many classics and much champagne as well as an extensive wine list. Which of course we delved into soon after. To start I ordered the crispy chicken wings with a kimchi glaze and crispy garlic, served with a  thick sweet chilli sauce. This was delicious. I couldn't resist using my fingers and gnawing on the bones (luckily they had anticipated this and there was a finger bowl at the ready). Himself ordered crispy baby squid with a teensy amount of sweet soy sauce. Again, delicious, the tempura batter was crispy and the squid, which was served in its entirety (therefore not for the squeamish), was tender and tasty.


Cocktails; chicken wings; baby squid
a tentacle of baby squid; seafood jungle curry; spatchcock chicken in miso sauce.


 We were less blown away by the main course. A choice of four - seafood jungle curry and baby spatchcock chicken with miso dressing won out. I was tempted by the beef bulgogi - spicy boneless ribs - something I've never tried, but wanted to gauge the place on how good their curry is. And the jungle curry was like a thick Thai green curry. Plenty of seafood, calamari, prawns, and even a scallop, as well as some random lychees to sweeten it up. The chicken with miso tasted a little bland and unexciting, and even the extra noodles we ordered couldn't liven it up.

Dessert was beautiful. In appearance only. They were beautifully presented but tasted gloopy and lacked any flavour. Another table had a chocolate brownie - always a good choice - but our cheesecake with lime sorbet and yuzu tarts were, well, disappointing to say the least. 

Gilgamesh has a reputation to uphold. And I'm sure it does in many senses, but if you go for the food, prepare to be a little underwhelmed. The decor and location (and potential celeb clientele) is the real draw, I believe. You could, in theory, have a similar dish from one of Camden's market stalls of a percentage of the cost you pay here. But it's worth a visit just to see what all the fuss is about. So go along and dine in a Babylon-esqe palace with whatever vouchers you can find, but I wouldn't wish to pay full price for the food. Choose carefully.

The Stables Market
Chalk Farm Road
NW1 8AH

Meal for two (with voucher) and drinks ~£100




Gilgamesh Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato Square Meal

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Washoku Masterclass with Valentine Warner

Washoku literally means 'food of Japan', covering all traditional Japanese cuisine, from sushi, sashimi to teppenyaki and yakitori. The focus is on fresh, seasonal ingredients (sometimes raw), sometimes rare but mostly accessible even in our western supermarkets. It's most definitely a user-friendly cuisine, using cross-over ingredients from our own gardens (well, the fresh vegetable aisle) and the freshest fish or meat you can get hold of. Fish in Japan holds a god-like status, so only the freshest and the best will do. Washoku by trained Japanese chefs is created with consideration for the environment, a simplicity which retains the nature of each component, and beautifully presented on a plate to celebrate it's natural beauty.

On a Washoku masterclass with TV cook, food writer, and now, Hepell Gin distiller, Valentine Warner, hosted by Panasonic in their test kitchen, we learnt just how simple it can be, and oh my, how delicious. Mr Warner spent some of his childhood in Japan (his dad was the British Ambassador there in the '70s) and returned many times to visit sake breweries and develop his own skills as a chef. Japanese chefs are super clean, sleek and graceful and their knife-skills are notoriously fast and meticulous.

Valentine demonstrated three recipes, using three kitchen gadgets by Panasonic, which we got to taste and then recreate. Firstly, Crab Chawan Mushi, or savoury fish custard, steamed in a cup. Sorry, did you say savoury fish custard? Well, yes... it did sound odd, but tasted absolutely wonderful - like a good quiche but without the pastry. Gently beaten eggs, with dashi slowly poured in, then sake and Kikkoman soy sauce. This is then poured over the crab in it's dish, and topped with shiitake mushrooms. With some cling film over the top, the bowl is then steamed (in Panasonic's Steam Combination Microwave, obviously) for about 15 minutes until there is a slight wobble. Then scattered with spring onions, toasted black sesame seeds and Furikake seaweed seasoning. See? Simple!


While the Chawan Mushi was steaming, we moved onto Mackerel Tataki. Mackerel is bang in season at the moment, and it's one of my favourite fish. Growing up in South West Kerry fresh mackerel was literally just off the boat in the summer months and little did I appreciate that luxury then. I loved it, just grilled. That's all. Fresh mackerel should be stiff, with a dark green back and iridescent shine.

For this recipe, Valentine used the Panasonic Slow Juicer to remove all the pith and juice from a lemon. The fresh fish was then chopped very thinly into small cubes, and gently mixed with toasted sesame seeds, ginger, Dijon mustard, lemon juice, Kikkoman soy sauce and reduced mirin. The tataki was then presented in a bowl and garnished with spring onion and thinly sliced nori. This recipe can also be made with fresh salmon or fresh sustainable tuna. A few of us had a go at making this and although it wasn't quite as aesthetic, it still tasted utterly sublime.


 Lastly, but obviously my favourite, a Summer Umeshi Cocktail. Deliciously refreshing, this drink is the perfect accompaniment to Japanese food. The sweet plum wine can be sourced in any Asian supermarket, and I've used it before as a dessert wine for a Thai meal. Really easy to make with aid of a Panasonic Blender to whizz up some ice cubes. See below for the recipe.




Ingredients:


·       125ml Umeshu sweet plum wine 

·       1/2 tsp yuzu (Japanese orange) juice Available in Waitrose 

·       Ice cubes 

·       Soda water

·       Fresh mint


Method:

-          Whizz up some ice cubes in the Panasonic Blender

-          In a highball glass fill halfway up with crushed ice

-          Pour in half a teaspoon of yuzu juice 

-          Pour over the Umeshu plum wine and top to the rim with soda water 

-          Garnish with a big sprig of fresh mint pushed well down into the glass 

-          Push in a straw 



Of course, all recipes are just a guide. Some of Valentine Warner's tips for cooking include using the best and freshest ingredients, and then experimenting and especially tasting your food - this is key to cooking Washoku for a healthy and balanced meal. Buy daily and fresh, instead of stock piling fresh ingredients. And don't keep opened sesame oil or soy sauce for more than a few months as they will lose their flavour.


Huge thanks to the Panasonic team for hosting the masterclass, and to Popcorn PR for the invitation and the photos.

Product Info:

Panasonic Slow Juicer MJ-L500 | RRP £199.99 | Available to buy now.

Panasonic Steam Combination Microwave NN-CS894 | RRP £499.99 | Available to buy now.

Panasonic Food Blender MX-ZX1800 | RRP £399.99 | Available to buy from August 2016.










Saturday, 16 July 2016

10th Birthday Cake

My little girl's birthday cake this year was designed by Mimi herself. She chose a design based on the leopard skin cake I made a couple of years ago for my friend, square and diamond in shape, with pearls around the edges and a big bow on top.
 
At the bottom a Victoria sponge, filled with vanilla buttercream, and on top a chocolate sponge filled with the same plus melted chocolate. Both layers crumb coated in vanilla buttercream with a giant pink bow and love hearts dotted around, silver writing and moulded pearls around the edges. Pretty simple, and very effective.
 
Happy birthday my darling. Love you. xx 
 

Saturday, 9 July 2016

Barraka, Mediterranean Street Food, Liverpool Street - Review

Barraka is a newly opened Mediterranean takeaway nestled in Artillery Lane, between Liverpool Street Station and Spitalfields Market. Ideal for a quick lunch away from your desk, or to grab something before you head to the pub after, Barraka serve food fast and fresh. The staff are friendly and full of enthusiasm. If you are a first-time customer you will get a cheer and the gong will be banged in your honour. They believe in a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere - get this right and all else will follow.



From the menu you can choose a baguette, a Laffa wrap or a salad. Then fill with a choice of Mediterranean chicken, Chicken Schnitzel, Halloumi, Steak, or Chorizo. Sauce options are Baraka sauce, Tahini, chimichurri or chilli. Believe me they are big portions! And they really are fresh and tasty. My chorizo wrap was a range of flavours from the soft sensual pork chorizo to the subtle heat of the chilli sauce. The Mediterranean chicken was steeped in the secret sauce, and it was sumptuous.

Mediterranean Chicken Salad

Chicken Schnitzel baguette

Wander down Artillery Lane and you may be lucky enough to be offered a taster outside. Judging from where I was sitting (at the window) the fast-moving queue, the number of passers-by tempted in, and the banter between the staff and the regular customers, shows Barraka is a 'blessing'.

In July you can get a 25% discount on the food at Barraka by voting for your favourite dish below. Go along for your very own gong! 


What gets your taste buds going? Vote for your favourite dish to reveal your perk from Barraka. Valid in July 2016 only


Barraka
7 Artillery Lane, E1 7LP
Open: Mon-Fri 11am-9pm
Photos blatantly lifted from their website. Dead phone...


Friday, 1 July 2016

Tang London - Review

The best thing about living in London is that there is always something new, something unusual or something hidden away that can delight you and inspire you. Tang London is one of those. A newly opened noodle bar on Great Russell Street (just off Tottenham Court Road). The entrance is tucked away between the flashier VQ restaurant and the YMCA. Or, if like me, you can't read the street names for scaffolding, through the entrance of the St Giles's Hotel.

 

Head Chef Chen Ng, who was born in Singapore, and has worked her way through South East Asia, is the creative mind behind Tang. Commissioned by the patron of the hotel, she has recreated a noodle joint reminiscent of the traditional 'fast food' stall found all over the busy cities of SE Asia, and given it her own branding. High wooden benches, Chinese newsprint on the walls, framed images of food-related scenes from the sub-continent, colourful noodle bowls on shelves and as a focal point, an open kitchen where Chen herself cooks each dish to order.





The menu is concise, but covers everything. If you are familiar with ramen, then Chen's Tang Bowls are a lighter, less creamy version - bowls of comfort, incorporating specialist Chinese herbs and spices. For gluten-free and dairy-free diners, the two starters are coated in rice flour/cornflour batter and deep fried. Vegetarians too are catered for. Black bean tofu. Ever heard of it? Regular tofu, meh... this stuff is awesome. The texture is like fluffy clouds. Served with a white miso sauce, this dish alone is enough reason to visit. The other starter is chicken marinaded in soy milk (again, a shout-out for the lactose intolerant) and served with a homemade chilli sauce, or a lemon tofu dip.

Fried Chicken with hot sauce
Black bean tofu with white miso sauce


The Tang Bowls are then served in beautiful noodle bowls (try not to knock them off the shelf in your excitement!). A choice of prawn, chicken, mushroom or rice again caters for all tastes, and you can make any dish gluten-free by choosing glass or rice noodles, though wheat noodles are also on offer. Each protein comes with its own broth and an array of Asian vegetables and a 6 minute egg.

Chicken Tang with rice noodles

Prawn Tang with glass noodles

Lunch times are particularly busy and Tang is well suited to theatre goers in a hurry, with takeaway available too. Craft beers and house wine are carefully selected to complement the food. If you stumble upon this new hidden gem, do let me know in the comments below what you think.

And if you fancy a little something afterwards, perhaps a cocktail or four in Hudson's bar in the hotel next door... or maybe that's just me!


 
 
111 Great Russell Street
London WC1B 3NQ
 
 
Starters £4.50-5, Tang Bowls £10-12, Bottle of wine £22.
 
Open Tue-Sun 12-10pm
 
 Professional Images courtesy of Crisp Media.
 


Square Meal

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Old Bull and Bush Pub, North Hampstead - Review

What better way to spend a Sunday afternoon than strolling around a sunny Hampstead Heath followed by a sumptuous late pub lunch? Or, in our case, a morning frantically finishing homework, followed by an overheated car stalling on Hampstead Way and a sumptuous late pub lunch?
I was invited to try out the new spring/summer menu at the Old Bull and Bush, between Golders Hill Park and the Hampstead Heath extension - not far from the famed Spaniards Inn where it is notoriously difficult to get a table on the weekend.

The Old Bull and Bush is a modernized traditional British pub, with cosy corners, comfy armchairs, and when it's not so sunny, an open fire. The décor both in the bar and in the dining room has been recently refurbished to give a modern airy feel with calming greys and high ceilings, and beautiful tall windows, particularly prominent in the dining room with enormous bay window seating areas. Outside seating at the front offers canopies and comfort to tempt those wishing to prolong the sunny outdoor feeling.

Exterior


Dining Room

On a Sunday, the menu offers a variety of Roasts, including a nut roast, with the most enormous Yorkshire puddings! Ample portions, with mini versions available for the kids (though the Yorkies are just as big). However we were here to try out the new menu so...

We arrived soon after 3pm, and it was still busy post-lunch. By the time we left it was nice and calm again, so the later the lunch, the better. A crisp and refreshing glass of Pinot Grigio was essential to start proceedings. To start, I chose Deep-Fried Somerset Brie in panko breadcrumbs with apricot and cumin chutney. Creamy cheese with a crispy edge and the sweetness of the chutney worked well. Himself had the pan-fried Tiger Prawns with sweet chilli and ginger sauce. Messy, but full of zing and flavour. The kids' meals were served, on request, at the same time as our starters. The brioche burger was a good size, served with skinny fries (lettuce and tomato removed immediately!). Some of these were swapped in the interest of fairness with the carrot sticks served with the chicken breast strips with warm tortilla. The chicken itself was a little dry and crusty, and the lemon yogurt unfortunately was immediately refused - kids, eh?
Pan-fried Tiger Prawns; Deep-fried Somerset Brie
9oz 28-day-aged Rib-eye Steak with Peppercorn Sauce; Duck Leg confit and Waffle
Duck and Waffle; Glazed Lemon Tart; Chocolate Brownie with vanilla ice cream

Duck and Waffle is so famous now (in the food world anyway) I couldn't resist ordering OB&B's version. A sweet, yes, sweet, crispy waffle topped with greens, honey-roasted pineapple rings, and a confit leg of duck. The meat was tender and meltingly delicious, though most of it was scoffed by a small person across the table. Delicious sweet potato fries garnished with Parmesan finished the dish and although it was unusually sweet for a main, I really enjoyed it. Did I mention the sweetness? Himself went into summer holiday mode and ordered steak with peppercorn sauce. He polished it off after begrudgingly offering me a small piece to taste, so I take it it was fairly tasty!

It suddenly went quiet when dessert arrived. Chocolate brownie with vanilla ice cream, and two scoops of caramel ice cream. Mmmm. We grown-ups shared a glazed lemon tart, served with a raspberry coulis, whipped cream and edible flowers. Beautiful. And also, delicious.

Glazed Lemon Tart
OB&B also serve a range of fruity cocktails, from only £6.50, an extensive wine list (including magnums of specially selected wine and fizz), craft beers, refreshing ciders and premium gins with limited edition twists.



Gin&Tonic Twists

Classic G&T




I would recommend booking a table if visiting on a sunny Sunday afternoon. It would be pure luck to grab a table after just strolling in off the Heath. Service was efficient though, so if you didn't mind a few drinks at the bar first...

North End Way
NW3 7HE
Mon-Sat 11am-11pm
Sun 12pm-10pm

Food Served Mon-Sat 12-10pm, Sun 12pm-9pm

Dinner for four (2 adults, 2 children) incl. drinks: ~£100

Thanks to Mitchells&Butler PR for images.




The Old Bull & Bush Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato Square Meal

Friday, 17 June 2016

Taste of London 2016

Taste of London runs in Regent's Park from June 15-19th. I popped along on Thursday 16th with Karen from StemAndGinger for a pop at some of the best food and drink our fabulous city has to offer. Whilst waiting at the tube station I spotted a few well-known faces like Valentine Warner and Michael Portillo (that renowned foodie!?) heading to the Purple Garden, and inside a wealth of talented chefs, restaurateurs and food loving fans.

The park is laid out with purple carpet and all the stalls and staff are colour co-ordinated! It's certainly not just-another-food-festival. Daily changing menus from a stellar list of London's top restaurants, our finest bars serving artisan beverages, and masterclasses from world class chefs are all here to tickle your taste buds and tempt all tastes. Here are my best bits:

Camino

I love this place. I've visited their King's Cross restaurant as well as their Bankside launch and even took at sherry flight at Bar Pepito. Fantastic authentic tapas with each drink, superb wines, and on site Iberico ham charcuterie carving.

Camino

The Cinnamon Club

A mango shrikhand (that's Sanskrit for 'curd') with summer berries and cardamom meringue from this renowned Indian restaurant. Beautifully presented dishes with fantastic flavours.

The Cinnamon Club


Duck and Waffle

We all long to frequent the D&W on the 40th floor of the Heron Tower. I've yet to have the pleasure, but bumping into Dan Doherty himself it's only a matter of time - he's a thoroughly down to earth guy and made us feel super special.

Dan Doherty - thankfully not dressed as a mackerel today
AEG Taste Theatre and School of Wok

We certainly couldn't pass by these guys without saying hello. Chef Nev gave an inspiring and informative masterclass where we got to cook up (and then eat!) spiced roasted quail, steamed scallops and lettuce cups with prawns. Chef Jeremy walked amongst the wokkers, luckily for me (too much oil!) giving tips and guidance. Awesome goody bag too!




Sipsmith Gin

Charming boys tempted us in to sample a crystal clear and crisp gin with tonic - a classic, as well as a gorgeous sloe gin with lemon tonic. Quirky and cool, proper artisan gin, copper-distilled from right here in London.

Sipsmith Gin


Roka

With restaurants in Aldwych and Canary Wharf, Roka is an award winning Japanese restaurant. Melt in your mouth barbecued pork make you want to sushi-fy all your barbecues from now on...

Roka

Chase Distillery

Based in Hereford, this family-run distillery offer field to bottle award winning vodka. We can totally recommend the rhubarb with ginger concoction...

Chase Distillery

Avant-Garde Theatre

Whilst sipping our rhubarb vodka cocktail we watched Monica Galetti sporting her new peroxide crop, whip up some sort of apricot parfait, making it look super easy, whilst explaining her tattoos (Samoan traditions) and her busy busy schedule.

Monica Galetti



Mr Fogg's Safari Camp

A lavish colonial pop-up serving Gin&Tonic and wonderfully refreshing cocktails with hilarious names. The light and airy tent houses eclectic décor, vintage paraphernalia and staff dressed in proper colonial khaki with obligatory safari hats. We sure had a Frikan Good Time here!

Mr Fogg's Safari Camp
 
 
 

Pimms

No better time to bring out the Pimms teapot!

Anyone for Pimms?

Meringue Girls

These girls are everywhere! Always beautifully presented, always delicious. Our coconut and raspberry brownie was the perfect sweet finish to the day.

Meringue Girls
 
Overall a great day - rain or shine, wellies or sandals, Taste is a great day out. If nothing else, check out the loos - the cleanest, nicest-smelling portaloos I've ever seen, with vintage wallpaper and scented hand cream. As with any restaurant, if the loos are good, then the restaurant must be too.

Taste Of London continues this weekend - June 15-19.

Can't wait for next year!