One is the Loneliest Number (Part Two)

True story: I walked past Jay Rayner the other day whilst house hunting around Herne Hill.

It was the weekend of the Lambeth County Fair in Brockwell Park. I’m sure it was much to his displeasure that we did not engage in conversation as he headed east and I west to Britxon, ships passing in silence on this scorching hot day. It looked like he had put on a little weight since I had last seen him on the telebox but was still striding onwards with relish, curly black locks soaring majestically behind him.

Definitely would have made a good Death Eater

I don’t cite that he had put on a little weight as a criticism. I’m dead impressed that someone in his profession doesn’t need to be carted around like Pearl the Vampire from the original Blade movie. I would certainly need to be.  Although I suppose Peter Griffin look-a-like Charle Campion is on a slippery slope.

Sorry for the low-blow Chazzer

Anyway the point to this being that seeing Jay Rayner reminded me that since my first entry into this article series, I read a great piece by him in the Guardian about the pleasures of cooking for yourself entitled Cooking for one: it’s food with someone you really loveI’d recommend reading the whole thing but wanted to highlight this part:

‘Don’t get me wrong: I like cooking for other people (and if any of my family are reading this, really darlings, nothing gives me more joy than keeping you fed). But cooking only for yourself, well now, that’s the real deal. I am always baffled when anyone announces they don’t bother bashing the pans about if they are the only person who needs to eat. My conclusion is they’re not greedy enough. Cook for others and, however appreciative, there will always be something they don’t like…Cooking for yourself is…a culinary event without compromise.’

And with that endorsement under our belt, we push on!

One-pot Chicken Pilaf

Speed: 25 minutes
Cost: £7 approx
Taste/variety of ingredients: Pretty uninspiring stuff, but was good to have chicken thighs instead of breast whilst the other half was out for dinner (yes, chicken thighs are a new addition to the malleable blacklist).
Leftovers: Another portion, tucked neatly between 2 eggs and an Innocent smoothie the fridge.

Link to recipe in title above. Fairly average tasting although weirdly got better as it cooled down. I wonder if leaving the lid on at the end for a bit once the spinach has been added to let the flavours stew in together would have brought it together more.

Could also definitely have done with some lemon juice, coriander and a dollop of creme fraiche stirred in at the end. Did liven up with a good dose of cayenne pepper which helped. Still good amount of veg and protein for a very quick, inexpensive and easy dish.

Sri Lankan & Spanish Omelette

Speed: 12 minutes
Cost: £9 approx
Taste/variety of ingredients: Yes, it’s an omelette, but its the best omelette I have ever made and possibly consumed. Details below.
Leftovers: None

All the ingredients below featured but it was the mix of good quality chorizo (Bath Pig) and green chili that really made it sing. I’m sure most of you are familiar with the contents of a Spanish omelette (potato, onions) but we got quite hooked on Sri Lankan omelettes during our hols last year. Its basically just a thin omelette with tons of chili. Beaut.

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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.

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

 

 

Whims (the first of many I hope!)

On starting this blog my girlfriend has referred to me, not for the first time and probably not for the last, as Mr. Toad. I always took this to be a double-edged compliment as I remember him as a whimsical (albeit bloated) creature of fancy, hence the inclusion of the word in the name of this blog. However, having delved more into the Wiki link above, I perhaps should try to distance myself from the ‘narcissistic, self-centred almost to the point of sociopathy, and completely lacking in even the most basic common sense’ referenceAlthough I suppose all bloggers/writers have a slight tendency towards narcissism whether they admit it or not, but from my very limited experience this also comes with a hefty, offsetting dose of wracking self-doubt as to whether anyone cares about what you have to say or, even worse, does enough to criticise.

Which brings me to my reason for writing this. I’ve started three novels, two short stories and the briefest of screenplays (if you count three pieces of dialogue and a setting). I finished none of these, which of course fuels the increasingly accurate Mr.Toad caricature. However, what I hope this has taught me is that I’d be much better suited to two things; the first is blogging in short bursts may suit my nature as I’m clearly not cut out to write full blown Tolkein-esque epics and secondly, that I need to write about something that I’m passionate about. If you’ve carried on reading this far I hope you can guess at this stage that this is food, drink and anything in between.

At the moment my current whim is baking. Specifically bread but also the odd cake. I’ve baked five loaves in the last few weeks and I’m completely addicted. I fully blame Michael Pollan’s Cooked, not just for the bread-baking obsession but also for this blog. If you care a jot about cooking in any form (Fire/Water/Air/Earth as Mr. Pollan argues) then you need to read this book. Its up there with my top three books of all time. He’s also over in the UK at the end of the May in London for lectures. GO! He’s the man!

Finally, I’ve been asked what I hope to achieve by writing this food blog. As many people like to point out, everyone in London seems to write a food blog these days. Well, the truth is I have no idea. I just wanted to put my thoughts down somewhere and this seemed like the best place.

Now where to begin…maybe with some pics of recent baked goods. Seems sensible. And a picture of Mr. Toad (as I remember him) to toast this new venture!

Senor Toad