Battersea – The Butcher & Grill (review)

Rating: 6/10

Average meal per head: £30 (Mondays) / £45 (rest of week)
Where: 39-41 Parkgate Road, Battersea. SW11 4NP.
Websitehttp://www.thebutcherandgrill.com/battersea

One-line review: Good quality half-price steaks on Monday nights make this otherwise uninspiring place worth a visit.
Top Dish: T-Bone steak with Béarnaise Sauce (N.B. this cut no longer part of half price Mondays)
Gripes: Service poor, unfriendly and not very knowledgeable. The deli out front promises more but feels a bit soulless.

Review

I have retyped this sentence a few times now and am struggling to soften the initial impact into something that doesn’t make you want to gag into your keyboard so here it is: I think its in my nature to inherently look to find the good in people and things, more so than the average person. There. Its out there.

However, I don’t think this is necessarily a laudable trait. For all the optimism it generates, it is in fact one that I’m often abhorred for as I tend to gloss over the bad qualities of something (or someone). This is especially true if I’ve spent money on it (the something in that case). Often the more money, the worse the ‘halo effect’, if you will allow me to incorrectly use some business jargon that I picked up the other day. It is because of this that I figured I would never be a good reviewer of food, or indeed anything.

If you will allow me to self-indulge, I imagine that if I became a food reviewer in my current state that pandemic obesity would clutch the world in a lardy grip. Much like the episode of the Simpsons where Homer does just that, only to miss the poisoned eclair by the skin of his teeth.

Point to this being that the following is a review for a medioca restaurant and it pains to put that down after my initial foray into reviewing SushiSamba. However, any phantom guilt I felt over the positivity of that review has since been exorcised by comparison.

Rib-Eye

Rib-Eye

I wouldn’t bother going here on any other day except for Monday when you can take advantage of the half-price steak menu. Getting a well cooked and OK-ish sized 280g Rib-Eye for £10.50 in London is no mean feat. You can also choose from Rump, Sirloin and Fillet cuts on the half-price too. I was most disappointed to find that since my first visit, they have taken the T-Bone steak off the Monday menu meaning you need to lay down £32 for the pleasure which is too much here.

The meat was cooked perfectly (medium-rare as per above). Texture, taste and juiciness also ranked highly. The accompanying sauces all seemed to go down well. I loved my Bearnaise and my fellow diners lapped up their peppercorn and fillet combos with gusto too.

The sides were hit and miss. The chips were very good, crispy and chunky. However the rest was forgettable and a little greasy.

The staff were also fairly unfriendly and this was accentuated by my time at the bar when I overheard two waiters complaining fairly loudly about another customer. Plus the dessert was naff. Really naff. Although in fairness it looks pretty good down there; it was not.

Dryer than a cracker challenge

Dryer than a cracker challenge

In its defense it was a Monday night, but the deli at the front of the restaurant added to the cavernous feel of the place. I would put my neck out though and say it probably does decent breakfasts. Would say I’d give it bash but our breakfast radius tends to be staggering distance from the front door. If anyone else has though, would be keen to know.

Planning to get back on with the baking soon. Its just so hot right now.

‘South African’ Eggs Benedict with Parmesan Hollandaise / English Muffins

The Daddy

The Daddy

As a breakfast, I didn’t think regular Eggs Benedict could be topped until I tried this (yes, even by a Full English). As far as I’m aware, there is no such thing as South African Eggs Benedict. I have just only ever eaten this or seen it on a menu at The Peech Hotel in Jo’berg. Hence the imaginative leap to the name of the dish.

In total I think I’ve stayed at the Peech for seven nights over the space of a year. Six times I’ve had this breakfast and once I regretted my foray into omelette territory. Not that it was bad, but a far cry from the above.

I knew I must recreate this dish at home. The difference being between a regular Eggs Benedict that instead of spinach, avocado is used. And of course the parmesan that goes into the hollandaise. I had thought bacon instead of ham was also an innovation but apparently this is a more common exchange.

For this, I also made a batch of English Muffins (veering for a change away from the safe doughy hands of Paul Hollywood and using this recipe instead). You can obviously use store bought ones (in which case skip the below), but I’d urge you to give it a go. They were dead simple to make.

English Muffins

Having never made them before, I was expecting oven baking to be involved but was more than pleasantly surprised to find I’d be shallow frying them in a ton of melted butter.

Golden brown, texture like buns

Golden brown, texture like buns

 

I cannot implore you enough at this stage to cut one of these open while they’re hot, slather it in butter and make it your bitch. Muffins done.

The Eggs

First things first is the hollandaise. There are tons of ways to make this from quick cheats to slow cooking. I figured as I’d bothered to already make the muffins, I should probably give this a full going over too so I went for the latter option, reducing down some white wine vinegar and water with a bay leaf and pepper corns. Boiled it down to about a tablespoons worth.

I’ve made hollandaise a few times now and it can be a cruel mistress if you’re in a hurry. The eggs will curdle at a moments notice if they get too hot. Use a bowl like the above, moving it on and off the top of a boiling pot, using the steam as heat. If in doubt, slow it down until all the butter has been slowly added and set aside. While you cook the bacon and eggs, occasionally bring it back over the heat to stop it solidifying.

Apologies for the photo above. For the assembly, toast the muffin and thinly slice just over two thirds of an avacado over the top.

As the bacon crisps up, poach the eggs in boiling water (with a dash of white wine vinegar) for exactly 3 minutes. Make sure you use a whisk to create a swirling vortex before sliding the eggs into the water.

Add the cooked bacon as per the above. You might want to depress the middle and do your best to create a dent for the eggs to sit in, or they will slide off.

Add the eggs on top and at this point grate some parmesan into the hollandaise. If you don’t want to use all the hollandaise at this stage, section some off and add the cheese to this otherwise the main mix will curdle. Then, whisk it up for about a minute to get it nice and thick (something I neglected to do).

Revel in its buttery decadence!

 

Street Feast – Final Weekend

I woke up on Saturday morning blinking in disbelief at the offensively bright surroundings that I found myself in. This was my room but, as is the benefit of an eaves skylight bedroom, when summer actually arrives it takes no prisoners. Its either windows open and searing 5 a.m sunshine, or windows closed and its more an equatorial Batcave. Neither of which are conducive to a whisky hangover.

However, this particular hangover was accompanied by a heady sensation of feeling content and self-loathing. Feeling content because I’d spent the evening before sampling the eateries and watering holes of Haggerston’s Street Feast, self-loathing because this weekend marks its final outing (at least in its present carnation) and I had only bothered to go once. The monkey drilling a Wild Turkey bottle size pneumatic drill into my skull did not help either.

As we are Claphamites by trade, venturing into the Dalston area I was worried we would be the least trendy people on site. Even though the place was full of families with strollers, I’d say we weren’t far off but that didn’t stop us having an awesome evening of stuffing ourselves stupid.

Street Feast founder Dominic Cools-Lartigue (top name, top man) was inspired by the Merchant Yard space and wanted to create a no frills, community atmosphere with great, affordable food produced by London traders. On top of this, the aim was to also use it as a showcase for local design, art and music as well as making it the perfect place to have a casual night out with some tasty cocktails. I would say he has hit all of the proverbial nails on their heads. Its a fantastic space and atmosphere.

With good portions of everything available at decent prices, the real agony of this place is the choice. That being said, we still managed to tuck into 1.5 dishes each, plus desserts:

Chorizoo & Halloumi Wrap

Chorizoo & Halloumi Wrap

Kimchi Cheeseburger from Kimchi Cult

Kimchi Cheeseburger from Kimchi Cult

Rib Sandwich with 'Holy Fuck' Hot Sauce from The Rib Man

Rib Sandwich with ‘Holy Fuck’ Hot Sauce from The Rib Man

Doughnuts with Salted Caramel Sauce and Marshmellows

Doughnuts with Salted Caramel Sauce and Marshmellows

The Holy Fuck sauce on the Rib Man sandwich nearly blew my face off. Laura (girlfriend) managed to chomp her way through several mouthfuls, even dipping the roll itself so that it was slathered with the stuff. Impressed and emasculated.

After eating we hit The Gin Store which is a pop up cocktail bar run by Milk and Honey who (I was told) have won the best cocktail bar in London for 3 years running. Definitely one to add to the list. I felt a little sheepish ordering whisky cocktails in this place but was rewarded with a seriously strong (and delicious) off-menu Manhattan. This and a few Old Fashioned formed the structural base of my next morning woes.

The beginning of the end...

The beginning of the end…

I have no real sense of what time we left but the queue outside was enormous and the party was still very much in full swing. I fear we peaked a little early but at least we outlasted the toddlers (I think).

I’m also very gutted to have missed out on Ben Spalding’s Stripped Back pop-up that sat upstairs of the main bar. Apparently its the real foodie highlight of the whole place and hopefully they’ll be another opportunity to have a crack.

On that note, there were rumours that the next Street Feast will find a home somewhere a little closer to Brick Lane. There’s also an upcoming Truck Stop set to happen in Canary Wharf from the same people. You would think with this winning formula that doors would open and it won’t be long till Street Feast is back in earnest. Here’s hoping!

Bigotry and Pasties

The other day I received some detailed feedback to my blog which I have in turn shared below:

‘Right mate, while I can appreciate you put alot of effort into this I don’t see any mention of the northern classic, the meat and potato pasty.

I’m not talking about any fancy rubbish that makes you slobber like pavlov’s dogs or whathaveyou, son, I’m talking about greenhalgh’s own. Follow it down with a pint of bitter or few and bob’s your uncle.

Perhaps your palette isn’t suited to England’s true culinary delights, perhaps italian and french quisine is more your cup of tea but the thing is mate, the time to learn is now. As an aspiring food critic you are no doubt constantly looking for ways to improve your ability to evaluate what the culinary world has to offer, well let me tell you now boyo, the greenhalgh’s meat and potato is the bee’s bloody knees. It’ll take your tongue to places unimaginable and line your stomach good and proper while it’s at it.

Now you might be thinking, eh, greenhalgh’s, why don’t I just skimp and go for Gregs, it’s the same, right? Well, you’d be bloody well wrong. Greg’s pasties are an affront to pastry and supporting that defiler of the north’s greatest treat is a travesty against food that even Houdini couldn’t escape. My mate Chris saw a spider crawl across the pasties on display in the front of Gregs and let me tell you mate, I’ve not let their produce touch my lips since.

Let the taste of meat and taters take you to paradise.

Also, now I’m fine with people being up for “playing for either side” in bed mate but if you’re going to drop such blatant hints as ” Plus plus, I’m a massive sucker for anything that includes black beans on the side. A truly spectacular affair and I’m salivating right now more than the collective of Pavlov’s dogs just thinking about it. “, you may as well just come out and state your new orientation bud. We’re all behind you bud, don’t you worry, you’ll be no less of a man.’

Given the length of the comment, my immediate reaction was that this must be one of my friends. However, upon further investigation, it turns out that this chap (who goes by the username ‘Ghostymudy’) is a completely random reader and obvious pasty enthusiast. I am flattered he has taken time out of his busy schedule to share his thoughts and, amid the occasional grammatical slip and thinly veiled homophobia, he does make a point. I have neglected the pasty.

Shame on me as I talked of scotch eggs, sausage rolls and pork pies without even tipping my cap to this cornerstone of Great British snackery. So I thought I had better rectify that fact with the below attempt, although I fear I haven’t done Greenhalghs proud…

Cornish Pasties

Battle lines are drawn

Battle lines are drawn

I didn’t exactly use the same recipe as on the link here but I think I probably would have been better off if I had done. It seems to pay much more attention to the creation of the pastry which was my ultimate undoing. The proceedings started positively enough though as I sliced and diced my way through onion, potato, rosemary, thyme, skirt steak, carrot and butternut squash. All into 1cm pieces. Chuck in a bit of nutmeg and plenty of seasoning/olive oil and we’re looking rosy:

Breakfast of champions

Breakfast of champions

With the filling quite frankly nailed down to a tee, I swaggered over to the mixing bowl to begin the pastry. Plain flour, butter, water. Seemed simple enough especially after all the bread making. Naive fool I was and quickly found myself with a sticky ball of unusable gloop. Having run out of flour though, there was no turning back. The depressing montage below speaks for itself:

Six packages of pure disapointment

Six packages of pure disapointment

2013-06-23 14.19.48 2013-06-23 18.55.47I ate half of one of these an hour before having to play football. The undercooked innards plagued me well into the final third of the game.

Well Ghostymudy, we can but try…

One is the Loneliest Number (Part One)

I was absolutely positive that a Simpsons episode existed where Homer moped down the street with this song playing in the background. After thirty fruitless minutes spent searching on YouTube for the video to insert, I’m still not convinced I’m wrong. If anyone knows which one I mean please let me know, its driving me insane!

Anyway that aside, I wanted to start what I hope will be a string of themed posts around a subject that I’ve struggled with over the years – being bothered to cook a proper meal when you’re on your tod. My aim being to create a collection of tried and tested recipes for the solo chef with the following criteria to dissuade away from the usual suspects of the stir fry, pasta or ready meal:

– Quick to make. Ideally 20-30 mins all in, no more than 50 mins.
– Cheap
– Tasty and varied in ingredients/cuisine
– Doesn’t rely on just cooking more and eating half the next day.
– Also, not a marked point, but stuff that uses up store cupboard items is always a bonus as a money saver as per the two recipes below.

Points one and two are self-explanatory but I think three and four are just as important. When you walk into your high street supermarket, the sheer range of different cuisines available at only a five minute blitz in the microwave does make for tough competition for aspiring home solo cooks. People will always be tempted to pay for convenience.  On point four, you can always get creative with leftovers to make new dishes and this is obviously a great way to save money. However, as I sit mashing my keyboard at work, usually by noon I’m giving serious thought as to what I’ll be eating that evening and I’m not often inspired by eating the same basic meal two evenings in a row.

So without further ado…

Pork with Garlicky Bean Mash

2013-06-11 20.15.00

Speed: 25 minutes
Cost: £9 approx
Taste/variety of ingredients: Good chunk of pork made a change for mid-week plus garlicky bean mash was delicious and not something I’ve ever made. Healthy alternative to mash tatties.
Leftovers: None (but I did eat both pork loins like a boss)

Really simple, quick and nutritious to make. I also had some leftover tomatoes and carrots that I grilled and boiled respectively. Cost is a little higher than I’d hope for single service but it wins out speed, taste and the no leftovers. Can see how few ingredients needed below.

2013-06-11 19.57.19

Shepherd’s Pie Potatoes

2013-06-18 19.42.25

Speed: 50 minutes
Cost: £4.50 approx
Taste/variety of ingredients: As mentioned before, mince for me is actually a bit of a treat so I lapped this up. Although the ingredients won’t win any prizes for novelty, it is a clever way of making a single service Shepherd’s Pie, essentially using the potato as the baking dish.
Leftovers: Decided to cook the rest of the mince pack at the same time, will sling on some spag later in the week no doubt.

Bit more labour and time intensive than the first recipe but basic and cheap to make. Little stodgy for the summer but would be perfect with a glass of red wine on a cold winter’s eve.

2013-06-18 18.54.47On an entirely unrelated note, check out these badass Gaming Cakes. Rock and/or roll.

Raita Here, Raita Now

Apologies to the owners of the two pairs of phantom hands

Apologies to the owners of the two pairs of the hash-tagging phantom hands

‘It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a tipsy man in possession of a good hunger, must be in want of a curry.’

Amen.

I had started to rack up an increasing food debt with a few friends of mine so I decided to wipe the slate clean and have an Indian themed bash. Amongst these friends (above) lurks a vegetarian and I had been somewhat nervous about how to cater for a majority of carnivores with him in the midst. My main issue was that my go-to dishes for entertaining normally involve a massive hunk of meat with trimmings bringing up the rear.

I’ll admit in my weaker moments planning this evening,  part of me wanted to fob him off with a Linda McCartney Bean Burger and be done with it. However, as he had put on two stellar Mexican evenings round his in quick succession, I thought I had better step up. And what better cuisine to step up with than Indian; the home of vegetarianism. So here’s what I did:

———————————————————————————————————————————————————————-

Starter

Poppadoms with homemade raita, homemade piccalilli and mango chutney

Piccalilli presence - raised a few conservative eyebrows

Piccalilli presence – raised a few conservative eyebrows

Raita - simples

Raita – simples

Main

Roasted Veg Vindaloo with Curried Chicken Skewers

Dry Chili Paneer

Mushroom Bhaiji

Homemade Naan Breads with mango and raisins (not exact recipe on link but more or less, real one in Bread)

Basmati rice

Paneer - didn't quite soak up the flavours as I'd hoped

Paneer – didn’t quite soak up the flavours as I’d hoped

But came out OK I suppose (for a veggie dish)

But came out OK I suppose (for a veggie dish)

 

Mushroom Bhaji - suprising star of the show

Mushroom Bhaji – surprising star of the show

Dessert

Haagen-Dazs (apparently all that was left at Sainsbury’s on the way up…but at 1 a.m. was pretty decent)

———————————————————————————————————————————————————————-

The food got demolished which is always a good sign. Unbelievably the whole meal only cost £52. It fed 8 but could have stretched to more.* No wonder people decide to be veggie!

Post-dinner it was into the lounge for a heated game of Trivial Pursuit (won by yours truly and the veggie, our erudite pairing seeing off two other teams of three). The question that swung it: who was Darth Maple?

Then as the evening wound down we tried to make a cocktail out of what remained in the fridge and our eclectic collection of half-drunk spirit bottles. Three different rums, concentrated lemon juice, soda water, caster sugar and a huge amount of mint might have tasted good at the time, but it made the tidying up the next morning a Herculean task.

*George – if you’re reading I am truly sorry.

 

Maneesh Flat Bread with Baba Ganoush / Chunky Chilli con Carne

Laura (girlfriend and occasional fussy eater) hates minced meat and lamb. Minced lamb, don’t even go there. If I ever suggest eating mince, I get a face that looks like I’ve just asked her to swallow slug pellets. Apparently its the texture.

I, on the other hand, think mince is one of the greatest comfort foods available to mankind. Spag bol, shepherd’s pie, chilli, lasagna, moussaka, meatballs, tacos etc. Needless to say, its a bone of contention and I frequently find myself, like a thief in the night, rustling up a bolognese sauce if she’s ever away for a weekend to get my fix.

As hideous things like Quorn substitute don’t even bear thinking about, I’ve been forced to do some bobbing and weaving to find some of the favourite recipes above, but adapted for mince-racists. We had some marked success with this Cheese and Bacon Lasagne but I’ve been meaning to make the title dish (Chunky Chilli con Carne) ever since I had it at a mate’s house a while back. The key to the dish being its use of chunks of braising steak rather than mince.

I’m aware I haven’t mentioned the bread yet and that this is rather arse about face as its in the photo above. I made these two dishes separately, the bread and dip for a (slightly laborious) Saturday afternoon snack and the chilli for a slow-cooked Sunday dinner, but in retrospect I think they’d partner really well as a starter/main for a shindig.

Browned stewing beef - is there a more promising sight?

Browned stewing beef – is there a more promising sight?

But back to the chilli if I may. I normally find Ramsey’s recipes a little on the arduous side for home cooking as they involve too many ingredients/steps. However, this one was pretty straightforward and bloody delicious.  I’d say its more of a cross between a beef bourguingon and a chilli as it uses half a bottle of wine. Ramsey wants you to use Pinot Noir (flash bastard) but I just dumped in some Gallo left over from having people round the night before (cooking minesweeping = classy).

Coriander creme-fraiche offsets the cayenne pepper like a TOWIE reem

Coriander creme-fraiche offsets the cayenne pepper like a TOWIE reem

I like my spice and this was pretty bang on. If you prefer things a bit milder, I’d put less cayenne in the beef marinade to start with though. Critically, it passed the Laura taste test and I have to say it was much better than a regular CcC, although is more of an effort.

Baba ganoush - the poor man's caviar

Baba ganoush – the poor man’s caviar

Apparently (according to Paul Hollywood) Maneesh bread has been around for thousands of years in the Middle East. I can see why they persevered with it. Its bloody tasty.  Hollywood has put the recipe online here.

Likewise with the Baba ganoush, quick/easy to make and full of flavour.  Just roast some aubergines and mash it up with salt, plenty of garlic, tahini, parsley, lemon and oil. Job done.

I did have a bit of a mare with this though as by the time I actually finished the bread/ganoush I only had time for few mouthfuls before going out for dinner. It was fairly rank reheated the next day. Eat it fresh and don’t store it.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to sneak a lamb chop before Laura finishes watching Revenge…

Parma Ham, Mozzarella and Basil Brioche Couronne

The Yeasty Beasty

The Yeasty Beasty

I’m just going to put it out there, this butter enriched Brioche Couronne contains roughly 3,429 calories. That’s around 7 Big Macs. Its for the big dogs…and its totally worth it.

Its another one of Paul Hollywood’s masterpieces but he’s really outdone himself here. Containing a whole block of butter, 3.5 balls of mozzarella, 10 slices of parma ham, a large handful of fresh basil and good sprinkling of Parmesan this is by far and away the most ambitious and delicious bread I have set out to make on my Pollan-esque ongoing quest for the perfect sourdough loaf.

Typically a sweet bread, the Couronne here (literally ‘crown’ in French) has been adapted with oozing cheese to offset the buttery, flaky bread. I have to say I didn’t quite nail the aesthetics (as displayed more elegantly by a fellow blogger here) but the flavours were spectacular.

Because there was so much egg, butter and full-fat milk in the dough from the get-go, it made it very difficult to handle and shape. In fact, Hollywood recommends using a food mixer with a dough-hook attached but, despite my increasingly whimsical and frequent visits to Dentons Catering in Clapham North, I am still to acquire one of these bad boys. So I set about it by hand, gently canoodling the pieces of room temperature unsalted butter into the sticky dough yellow cube by yellow cube.

Then once it was mixed, popped it in for a first proofing into a greased cake tin into the airing cupboard. It emerged doubled in sized (going smoothly so far) and then I dumped it out onto the surface for the serious business of rolling it out and decorating with ham, cheese and basil. A holy enough trinity to transform even the humblest dough.

Pre-proof 1

Pre-proof number 2

This is when it started to go a little pear (or more specifically doughnut) shaped as I tried to elegantly roll, split and then tie the two stuffed dough-sausages into a crown shape. It was supposed to overlap like two pieces of rope but instead I just lost patience and mashed it together. Still, apparently doughnuts are the new cupcakes so I’m bang on trend with this monstrosity.

The couronne/doughnut was left to proof again (as per above pic) and then came out for a quick egg wash and generous coating of Parmesan (as per below pic). Needless to say, I was getting pretty excited at this point. Even timing my walk upstairs to the airing cupboard so I could garner praise from my housemates and visiting brother, feigning nonchalant. “Oh, what this old thing?”

Pre-oven

Pre-oven

Into the oven for 25 mins and the BOOM, the money shots:

Money Shot One: Cheeky Kitchen Wedge

Money Shot One: Cheeky Kitchen Wedge

Money Shot Two: Snack-on-way-to-Wandsworth-Road-Rail

Money Shot Two: Snack-on-way-to-Wandsworth-Road-Rail

I forlornly binned the last mouthful of this fine companion this evening as it was getting a little dry and my waistline was getting a little stretched. Fat-Bastard Special mention should go to my brother though who, on Saturday’s birthday visit, stumbled back to my house at 7 a.m on Sunday morning to demolish over half of the remaining loaf. I make that 3.5 Big Macs. Not bad.

God Save the Cream

First off, I should probably begin by apologising for the pun in the post header. I was also tempted by something like ‘God Save the Queen! / Send her Victori[a Sponge Cake]’ but I think I chose the lesser of two evils in the end.

I’m struggling to think of the best way to start this post as it has been brought on by a trio of events all centred around the common theme of our dear old Queenie, Liz II. The three events in chronological order being the Diamond Jubilee 2012 (and some homagely cooking), a play called The Audience and also the anniversary of the Coronation on 4th June 2013.

Also known unofficially on the global stage as: - Mother of all People (Canada) - Missis Queen (Jamaican Patois) - Paramount Chief of Fiji - The White Heron (New Zealand) - Admiral Elizabeth (US, Nebraska)

Still got it. Also known unofficially on the global stage as:
– Mother of all People (Canada)
– Missis Queen (Jamaican Patois)
– Paramount Chief of Fiji
– The White Heron (New Zealand)
– Admiral Elizabeth (US, Nebraska)

The temptation is to start with the food (as this is supposedly masquerading as a food blog) but before that I wanted to give the play a mention. I’m not sure if this story broke abroad, but for those of us in the UK I think the most recognisible association with The Audience is when Helen Mirren went more Iron Lady than Queen Liz as she gave a band of over zealous drummers a good tongue lashing in full costume during the interval. I’d argue good on her but, whether you agree or not, it definitely boosted publicity for the show.

I’m not going to pretend to know a thing about reviewing theatre, but I thought it was incredible. Funny, insightful and also a more sombre and reverential reflection on the institution of the British Monarchy over Queen Liz’s reign. The whole play centres around a confidential weekly meeting between the current PM and Queen. Helen Mirren plays the Queen throughout the ages, interacting with 12 different PMs, each of whom confide in her their own respective crises of their term. From an aging Churchill to an insecure John Major and a charming Harold Wilson, you’re privy to the whole brilliant spectrum.

But I think what struck a chord most with me was the private struggle of the Queen herself in her total dedication and sacrifice of her life in service to her subjects and country. To become a perfect emblem from the age of 25 and never veer from that path for a nation is rightly heralded, regardless of the opulence of her surroundings. Now the obvious counter-argument to this slightly gushy sentiment is the cost to the taxpayer, again a theme explored in the play. However, as an unbreakable link of present culture to past traditions surely this is a price worth paying? If not, I fail to see the difference between tearing down the monarchy to tearing down all the expensive music venues, museums, art galleries and public spaces that we all hold dear. Or perhaps I’m just naively making sweeping statements from a comfortable middle-class existence in Clapham? Well yes that is also probably true.

Anyway, coming back to the food, the play reminded me of an awesome (both in taste and appearance) cake that Laura created for the Diamond Jubilee last year:

Queen Vic on the inside, Queen Liz on the outside

Queen Vic on the inside, Queen Liz on the outside

It was more or less done using this Victoria Sponge Recipe and then covered with white icing and decorated with a black icing pen and silver balls. Needless to say, she’s much more artistic than me! Continuing a similar vibe though, my contribution consisted of a Diamond Jubilee twist on the classic Coronation Chicken. Tasty stuff.

So to round off with the third event, come the 4th June lets all raise a glass, whether pint or flute, to HM in celebration and gratitude of her service to us. And if that sounds like another deplorable waste of tax payers money to you, then at least enjoy the excuse to drink guilt-free on a Tuesday.

SushiSamba (review)

Rating: 9.6 / 10
Average meal per head: £70 – £80
Where: Heron Tower, 110 Bishopsgate, London. EC2N 4AY. (also NY/Miami/Chicago/Las Vegas)
Websitehttp://sushisamba.com/

One-line review: Unbelievably good Japanese/Brazilian/Peruvian mash-up food with stunning views, great bar and friendly staff to boot.
Top Dish: CHURRASCO RIO GRANDE (ribeye, chorizo, wagyu picanh served on hot stones with five dipping sauces)
Gripes: Just the price. Come prepared to (quite happily) lighten your wallet.

Review

I was certainly not anticipating my first review on The Whimsical Onion to be of such a flamboyantly swanky establishment but imagine, if you will, the emasculating yelp of excitement I let out when I realised where we had arrived for my belated and surprise birthday evening out. Nestled amid the omnipresent reflective glass and bustling drabness, the neon sign blazed across the City like first light into Dracula’s tomb. “SUSHISAMBA!” it cried. If only the disgruntled sushi chef (who to be fair I paparazzid upon entry) shared its welcoming embrace:

2013-05-22 18.41.24 (1)

From start to finish I have to say the whole evening was beyond excellent. Before you hit the main restaurant, there’s a three tier bar serving up awesome Asian/South American fusion cocktails (around £10.50 a pop) and a Sushi kiosk (pictured above) if you don’t fancy coming in for a full blown meal. Needless to say, the drinks and the views are more than enough reason to come by themselves. We took a Tonka Bean Old Fashioned and a Shiso Fine out onto the terrace for a cheeky aperitif.

2013-05-22 18.53.35

2013-05-22 21.28.39And from there we were whisked into the very cool dining-room, where people were munching away to a decidedly funky Bossa Nova backdrop. If you want the best views, best to ask to be booked at the back.

As I’ve already alluded to in the summary above, the food was superb. The menu is a little confusing to start with, divided up into subsections such as ‘Samba Rolls’, ‘Robata’ and ‘Raw’, but our waiter (lovely chap) was more than happy to help out while we munched on some spicy Padron Peppers. We went for three small plates and one large to share at his sagely recommendation. What followed was a taste-sensation:

Wagyu Gyoza

Wagyu Gyoza

Mixto Seviche

Mixto Seviche

Samba Roll London

Samba Roll London

But, and apologies if this has become rather a slide-show of decadence, nothing could prepare us for the main event. The Churrasco Rio Grande: chorizo sausage served on top of wagyu and rib eye steak on a bed of hot stones with five dipping sauces. A veggie’s nightmare, a carnivore’s wet dream.

Churrasco Rio Grande

Churrasco Rio Grande

Linda McCartney can fork off

Linda McCartney can fork off

I can’t remember ever having a slice of beef as tender as the wagyu component of this dish, melt in your mouth doesn’t even cover it. Plus, its not just the tender aspect that makes this dish a winner. The wagyu is offset by its meatier and slightly tougher partner in crime, the rib eye. Plus plus, I’m a massive sucker for anything that includes black beans on the side. A truly spectacular affair and I’m salivating right now more than the collective of Pavlov’s dogs just thinking about it. We were both pretty stuffed at this point but the desserts provided a welcome palate cleanse.

Chocolate Banana Cake & Apple Tiradito

Chocolate Banana Cake & Apple Tiradito

Apparently the same people own the Duck and Waffle which inhabits the floor above and is open 24/7. You can go there to watch the sunrise for breakfast, a feat I imagine is more easily achieved during the shorter winter hours. But still, definitely topping our next hit list for a special occasion. Now just need to rustle one up. Could ridding our cupboard of the moths count? Probably should.

Oh and did I mention the views? They’re not half-bad either.

IMG_20130523_182358