Curry Club 2014 Season – Amirah’s Kitchen, Wandsworth

January 9th February March April May June July August September October November December
Ranking Member Current Score Penalties Amirah’s Kitchen, Wandsworth
Ace Chinhead 10 0 -2
King Saltieri 11 0 -1
King Boxing Steve 11 0 -1
King Glenhole 11 0 -1
King Dyson 11 0 -1
King Mobile Disco 11 0 -1
Queen Skinny Pete 12 1 -1

January Leaderboard*

A New Year and new beginnings, at least for the seven intrepid members who converged in Wandsworth Town last Thursday to mark the opening of the 2014 season. Shrugging off the mid-winter chill and meek excuses (work commitments and a poor cover-up for staying in with the WAG…shame on you Curry Ace of yesteryear), the club descended upon The Alma pub with parched throats and increasingly grumbling bellies.

Pints of Youngs all round, apart from the obligatory lager for member Dyson, of course, in a welcoming drinking establishment indeed. Perhaps a little busier than the usual pre-pubs of CC lore but it did not take long for the eagle eye of member Skinny Pete to carve out a suitable enclave around the far end of the bar.

Five finished their drinks with veteran member Saltieri (inaugural 2011/2012 Ace) joining just in time for the steeled march onto Amirah’s Kitchen, only moments away. Entering through the almost offensive neon green lighting, the club were ushered to a table at the far end, away from prying eyes.

Disdain was rampant at the lack of large Cobra bottles but this was quelled somewhat by the cracking chutneys that found their way to the table, punching well above the average. With a knowing look and the canny comparable to that of riding a bike, the members began negotiating in hushed but firm tones. Latecomer member Glenhole fell afoul of this, finding much to his dismay that the table had already split into two factions on his arrival, with sides and sundries all accounted for. Despite his protestations, no one would come to his aid.

After a very lengthy lecture about watches from member Mobile Disco and a decision to move to a golf-based scoring system* this season: splendid, splendid curry. The Lamb Rogan Josh I can personally vouch for, braised to melt in the mouth. From memory, the other curries received strong shout outs too and the Bhindi Do-piaza came in as a strong favourite for the sides. Seven liquor coffees (five Irish, two decaffeinated Irish and one traditionalist Jamaican) did push the final bill up a little which led to certain member proclaiming that “the cost of the bill has rather tainted my enjoyment of the meal.”

After a brief tour of the dilapidated nearby Young’s brewery by Boxing Steve and a quick discussion about the merits of opening a Kentish poppy farm, the club arrived at its final destination, The Grand Union. Despite the clear instructions to DANCE!, no member took them up on the offer. Instead, they remained staunchly huddled in the corner with over-priced cocktails (as is tradition), putting the world to rights and discussing Dyson’s mum, before secreting off into the night.

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Economy Gastronomy: A Whole Pumpkin

I carry around with me a sordid little secret that only those closest to me are privy to. It weighs heavy on my soul and mocks me from a relentless and endless base of ammunition. Whether its the half-full packet of chicory that I bought for just one recipe, slipping further from its sell by date or a plate of cold cuts that grow drier and drier with each passing day, everything screams at me in protest as its swept once more unloved into the abyss. To paraphrase: “You cruel and deplorable wretch! Does thou know no end to thy gluttony?” That’s right, I am a chronic food-waster.

I’ve tried to right this over the last six months but in all honesty I have found it a struggle to build any real consistency in my efforts. My one ham-fisted weapon being either to bung all of the remaining veg into a mega pasta or a stir-fry dish on a Monday night. I knew there were far more exciting things I should be doing but I suppose the forward planning aspect (bulk buying/menu planning/freezing) had put me off.

As I’ve now got a dauntingly enormous mortgage just around the corner, I thought it would be a good time to revisit this in earnest and that’s when I remembered this book that I had procured on first moving up to London with a promise of saving money through eating more intelligently. A whim that died off as quickly as many others over the years.

Although Economy Gastronomy contains a huge array of recipes, the cornerstone of the book is built around the following premise:

– Invest good money in a high quality ‘Bedrock’ ingredient on a Sunday for a hearty weekend lunch/dinner.
– Bedrocks include things like: leg of lamb, shoulder of pork, a whole salmon or a ton of chickpeas.
– Follow the recipes in the book to create 2/3/4 meals more out of the bedrock ingredient throughout the week.
– Each time you cook a recipe, you are cooking in bulk and then freezing the leftovers.
– Thus creating a constant stash of home-cooked, frozen ready meals that can be reheated when you have no time to cook.
– And so, keeping you away from expensive and unhealthy options elsewhere (i.e. the takeaway).

So I began on my first. The pumpkin…

A 4 kg pumpkin plus all the other stuff required for this course of recipes set me back roughly £30 which is pretty amazing considering it yielded the following:

4 portions Pumpkin Risotto with Roasted Walnuts, Red Chicory and Gorgonzola (2 eaten, 2 frozen)

The Risotto

The Risotto

4 portions Pumpkin Cannelloni with Sage and Ricotta (2 eaten, 2 shamefully binned)

The Cannelloni

The Cannelloni

The Cannelloni

12 portions Spicy Pumpkin Chowder (2 eaten, 2 fridged, 8 frozen)

The Chowder (not sure why this isn't just called soup, because it definitely is just soup)

The Chowder (not sure why this isn’t just called soup, because it definitely is just soup)

And ready for freezing…

That is a whopping 20 portions of food at roughly £1.50 a portion. Granted yes, there is no meat present which would normally drive up the cost but I did push the boat out a bit on the other ingredients (top range cheese, organic etc) so its still spectacular value. Especially when I probably average about £10 to £15 per visit to the Sainsburys Local on the way back home for a single meal for the two of us.

My one issue with this was that (bar the soup, which was amazing) none of this really tasted that great. I do however think that this was my fault for not following one of the key principles of the book which is implicit when it tells you to invest in a high-quality bedrock ingredient (the pumpkin) as it will inform the rest of the dishes.

Incidentally, and counter-intuitively, Halloween time is probably not the best time to be cooking with pumpkin. The shops are flooded with cheap and enormous orange beasts such as my 4 kg one above. In retrospect, I realise these are terrible to eat as they are not designed to be consumed.

This is coupled with the fact that the pumpkin I used was the one that had been sitting on our windowsill for a few weeks after Halloween had passed. Laura hadn’t got around to carving it so it sat facing out of first floor lounge, a limp offering to All Hallows Eve. It was fine to eat in terms of decay. I think.

I’d recommend either finding a guarenteed high quality pumpkin to make the above recipes or using 3/4 kg worth of butternut squash which should be more readily available.

Still, I’m pushing on this week to the next batch of recipes which involves a 1/2 collar of gammon. I’m hoping this proves my theory correct, that a higher quality bedrock ingredient will yield much more consistent results, and not Laura’s insight that the ‘recipes in the book are just crap’…

Curry Club – Full Season 2011/12

If you’re not familiar with Curry Club, or even if you are and just fancy brushing up on its heritage, I’d recommend starting here for a brief history.

The following twelve entries mark the outings of the 2011/12 full season.

2012/2013 was a little sporadic but we are all getting back on the horse for 2013/2014. Updates to follow.

Now, to start at the beginning….

7th July – Tandoori Nights, East Dulwich

A big thank you to Mr. Minns for a delectable evening and a superb choice last night to kick off Curry Day proceedings.

For those not in attendance, the outing followed a casual pace with an initial pint of ale at The Palmerston before moving onto the main event at Tandoori Nights.

Impeccable service, delicious Pakistani Handi’s (with a side of bawdy gags) and a quite superb Tarka Saag Daal were my personal highlights.

The evening was rounded off with a brief live jazz interlude at the small (but economically viable*) Adventure Bar accompanied with two Caiprinha’s and two White Russians.

* according to a July 7th 2011 survey carried out by R ‘P’ Pritchard & S Williams.

4th August – Lahore Kebab House, Commercial Road

A stellar turnout marked the occasion of our second monthly Curry Club rendezvous at the Lahore Kebab House, Commercial Road with many new faces among the grizzled veterans.

The evening commenced for half of the group with an alfresco pint at the Hoop and Grapes. The establishment boasting a fine selection of South West ales (Tribute, Doom Bar) along with the usual continental lager. Different drinks, different people.

Wielding black bags of Cobra, we approached the humble eatery. “Enough meat for nine” was the order and saw a splendid array of curried lamb chops, tandoori chicken and sheekh kebabs flood the table. “This is what curries should be about – meat” chimed Dirtbox, nailing the lamb with a fresh chapatti.

The main course fractured the group into two splinter cells, in keeping with the Pakistani theme of the House. Lovely dishes all round. Associate Dyson chose this moment for the odd action of hurling his bowl of curry onto The Lawyer’s plate, splattering The Lawyer, Kev and Dirtbox with delicious sauce. Poor curry etiquette indeed.

Several minutes of indecision later, the group found its way to what has now become a post-meal theme: a bar with 2-for-1 cocktails. Vintage chat all round. “Out of everyone here, who would you let your mum shag?” was a highlight with Dyson emerging as a strong favourite.

1st September – Gurkha’s Diner, Balham (guest writer: Boxing Steve)

Chapter three saw the club Loyalists brave a bustling northern line, hampered by delays. Emerging to the dim twilight, the loyalists, dizzy and apprehensive, each set upon Balham High Road (was it North towards gentrified Clapham, our south, as they hoped, towards Tooting Bec London’s own subcontinental republic? They wondered*)

In the shadow of the monolithic Du Cane** Court, nestled Gurkha’s Diner. Quaint and inviting, this curry house had a certain plain and self confident charm. An original menu, aromas of ginger and peanut whisked the Loyalists, upon entering, from the default Bangladeshi-Indian comfort zone, miles up the Bramaputra to it’s Himalayan source.

Whether or not the curry really was or wasn’t “Madras Heat”, didn’t matter – what the dishes lacked in heat they compensated in exquisite flavour and texture. In the tenderest way possible, the Knuckle of Lamb knocked the Loyalists, for six.

*It was south
** (literally “of the evil one”)

6th October – Village Tandoori, Abbeville (guest writer: Pedro)

October’s Curry Club began in the delightful Abbeville pub with several pints of Doom Bar in hand, championed by Phillips for it’s creamy taste and fabulous heritage. Just a short gaze across the road was Clapham Village Tandoori, the venue where the staff waited in anticipation for the 9-man booking they had received on a usually quiet Thursday night.

They hassled and hurried the 8 Curry Club attendees along to order their starters but the members were united in holding off until the 9th member, Boxing Steve, turned up 30 minutes later to salvage his ‘Curry Ace’ status.

The meal got underway with the usual procedure of poppadoms accompanied by chilled King Cobra’s. Alcohol flowed and jokes were shared, a cursory mention of curry-throwing incident at the Lahore Kebab House a few months earlier and the latest inappropriate e-mail to infiltrate the global institution’s e-mail system this time provided by Paul Salter and shamed by the ever so ‘traditional’ Simon Williams.

Potential customers of the opposite sex glanced at the menu outside as they marveled at the calibre of gentlemen sat inside and it wasn’t long before the first trio were located at the table adjacent to us, Dyson later claiming that he caught their eye on several occasions.

The Curry Club members filled up on the delightful food, taking full advantage of the 50% off and as such the post-curry walk was a leisurely one. Gigalum was the destination, a trendy bar close to Clapham South tube where many a White Russian and premium lager were enjoyed.

There was trouble afoot however, the man who had earlier saved his curry status despite his tardiness had decided to breach rule 5 of the Curry Club Code* and subsequently forfeited his point for the night and status at the summit of Curry Club. The crowd left in joyous mood and in anticipation of November’s Curry Club to be hosted by Paul Salter, coinciding with his 25th Birthday month.

*Rule 5 – No WAGS

3rd November – The Coriander, Vauxhaull

Following a month marred by duplicitous controversy, the Club was keen to set the record straight and return to its flavoursome roots. In fine fashion it achieved both of these and a firm tip of the cap must go to Paolo Salteri, our Manager of the Month, for choosing the quite excellent venue and surrounding entertainment.

The evening started for four members at the Black Dog – a delightful gem of a pub without ostentation. TEA (not in the bagging sense) was the tipple of choice, a sturdy Surrey offering which made a nice change of pace from the creamy South West ales.

An eventual tour-de-lad of 10 members descended on the main event at 332 Kennington Lane with two new faces and notable, high flying absentees. El Cobra did flow accompanied by some superb chutneys to kick off proceedings, the raita getting a particular mention. The menu gave a welcome nod to our original outing with the inclusion of a traditional Pakistani lazeez handi. Unfortunately no one went in for one this time but it did provide the usual banter.

Mid-meal entertainment was provided with Dyson yet again hurling curry like it was going out of fashion and a spectacular round of ‘fold Kemps face‘.

A special mention to Dirtbox who stole a last gasp point with a classic one-two Dansak/mushroom pilau combo.

The Club was thrown into momentary dissaray at the bizzare closure of South Pacific Bar but thankfully, showing the reason why he is the only residing Curry Ace of the pack, member Simian took charge and led us to welcoming, wooden-paneled Tommyfield pub up the road with a fine selection of beverages.

Lager, cider, White Russians, whiskey, a couple of pennying incidents and glorious hangovers all round.

1st December – Palace Spice, Clapham

“I’ll be there bang on six,” claimed our prestigious host, member DB, for our halfway and end of year wintry meet.

“Can you get me a guest ale in….I need it desperately!” he followed up with a text, 07.01pm, and sauntered into the deliciously well stocked Battersea Mess and Music Hall twenty minutes later. Textbook.

Eight ales on offer, a few US crafties and two local ciders. Highlight: Adnams Lighthouse for £2.50: ‘always’.

An unusually long pre-pub sesh meant appetites were rampant upon arrival at Palace Spice and the seven-strong Club inhaled crispy poppadoms with ruthless alacrity.

As is tradition, the classic ‘pairing’ approach to side dishes and mains thwarted a flash-in-the-pan Communist ‘let’s all just share and probably not have much of anything’ rebellion that threatened the evenings pleasantries. Hopefully this will be finite but there will always be revolutionaries.*

In equal parts begrudgement and sheer delight, hushed murmurings fluttered around the table between mouthfuls of the show-stopping recommendations (Garlic Chilli Chicken and the Mixed Tikka Grill to name but two) to tentatively declare this the best curry sampled at the mid season point. High praise indeed.

Three Irish, two French, one Welsh , one Calypso and a Belgian Dip**. Not a salacious gag, but liquor coffees all round for the gentlemen.
It would be hard to ignore the Colonial nostalgia thrown up by the attentive Bangladeshi staff with their complimentary baileys, whiskeys and firm handshakes. 50% off the food and top marks for service.

A few tropical cocktails at the open Sugar Cane, a few beers at BarSocial and a stroll home in the rain.

Back of the net.

* ‘Democracy is the road to socialism.’ Karl ‘Yarnold’ Marx
** “That’s how we drink it in Belgium. It’s called a Belgian Dip.”

5th January –Tayyabs, Whitechapel

The Ace is dead, long live the Aces, was the cry as three early bird members braved the winding alleys of East London to descend upon a true diamond in the rough, The Carpenter’s Arms. Maintaining a firm and approrpiate professional attire (suits, ties and a pair of felt gloves) amongst the hipster clientel, the trio saw off a swift pint apiece before returning to the brisk night air. The London Meantime Pale Ale left opinions divided.

Third off-licence was the charm, as Cobra gold was struck upon with a cheeky two 660ml for £4 deal, fulfilling the BYO component of the evening.

A hop, skip and jump over to the bustling and controversial* venue for the meet. The door to Tayyabs opened and the Club was welcomed instantly by member Boxing Steve who clearly moonlights as a curry house door greeter. A noble pursuit indeed and we shall be looking out for him at future events!

The four were ushered to a table downstairs and joined swiftly by member Pinky, belatedly by member Salad Boy. Pinky unveiling a threesome of Kingfishers as his chosen beverage (the first of the season we believe) and Boxing Steve, clearly underpaid in his new profession, whipped out a four pack of canned Carling boasting ‘quantity over quality’. To say it came back to haunt him would be an understatement.

The dinner conversation mulled over the obvious absentee, classic chat and New Beacon days of old.

Pete Croft Baker, our resplendent host for the evening, made a shrewd recommendation of the curried meats and they filled the Club’s plates en masse. Hard to pick a favourite, the cough-inducing lamb chops were excellent and just edged it. Simply named but devilishly tasty Karahi’s followed. Serious stomach distensions all round, Boxing Steve now really suffering from his earlier purchasing folly.

Clearly invigorated by memories of Beacon past, Boxing Steve hailed down a fellow diner outside in this fashion:

Steve (pointing at a random): You! You are a Beacon boy!
Random: err…no.
Steve: Yes…yes you were. You are a Beacon boy!
Random: umm don’t know what you’re talking about.
Steve: I swear you are a Beacon boy!
Random: Oh…New Beacon. Yes, yes I was.
Steve (smug, to the Club): I told you he was a Beacon boy!

The club headed for a few trendy cocktails at Exit Bar to the soothing backing tracks of Shaggy’s The Bombastic Collection**. After indulging in a few fly infested shots and a game of fives, the club went there seperate ways for another month.

A Boris Bike down to Monument, a tube and bed.

*See Dirtbox vs. Cecil Von Bismark, December 2011.
** http://www.amazon.co.uk/Boombastic-Collection–Best-Shaggy/dp/B001CTUHWE/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1325859440&sr=8-1

2 February – Radha Krishna Bhavan, Tooting (guest writer: Boxing Steve)

“I will unfortunately be unable to make this”…”Regrettably, I also have an unavoidable prior engagement this Thurs”… “Apologies, I will not be making this wks event”… “No can curry.”…”currently in the alps and so also cannot attend”…

“I’m unable to attend, which both saddens and … amuses me.”

As the apologies flowed in, it suddenly dawned on Dyson, the Designated Chooser, that he may be about to lose points for hosting a “non-event”. Gingerly he mustered the strength to type “Who is actually in?”

A silence of email traffic ensued, broken only by ever-shortcut-literate-Dyson nervously hammering F4 at increasingly regular intervals. Later, and after a sleepless night, attendance was confirmed by MD, P, K, and BS, to Dyson’s completed and utter relief.

After a couple of smooth jars of Mad Goose at “The Albatross“*, the evening moved from Avian to Asian, as the Loyalists headed to Radha Krishna Bhavan, known to Dyson as ‘tootingsouthindian.co.uk.’

A quick scan of the menu alerted the Loyalists to the culinary complexities of South India, at which point the five were relieved to see Boxing Steve withdraw a list of South Indian recommended delicacies etched on the back of a business card, from his wallet, and present it to the waiter.

“These, and any more of your finest dishes!” They briefed the waiter, with the unwaivering trust of newborn babes to a father. The result was a south indian banquet fit for a King, or, in this case, an Ace or two! (that’s Pinky and Disco!!!)

Onwards, and to a quiz night they went, and found endless amusement from finding pens and paper at the table. Comedy cock-drawing and jokes ensued; a night enjoyed by all and thanks go out to Dyson.

* or perhaps the antelope, although rewriting the line just wont do.

1st March – Needo Grill, Whitechapel

The Club early birds huddled around their amber pints of Crouch Vale Brewers Gold (Supreme Champion British Beer 2005/2006) against a Spring evening air that was both mild and ripe with philosophical debate;

“Should those that live in flaky houses cast stones at others?”
“Like the tree in its forest, if a Club Member hosts an event but no one can see him, does he get the points?”
“Does it really take only eight minutes to walk from Cannon Street to the Pride of Spitalfields pub?”

After careful deliberation, the four member present surmised;

Yes – but it must lead to good banter.
Just the one.
No – only a member as technophilic and addled as English Dan would reach such a retarded conclusion. It, of course, takes at least twenty-two minutes.

With the world set to rights, the Club ventured onwards down the winding Whitechapel cobble which in yesteryear played host to the oft misunderstood poverty reformer ‘Saucy Jack’. Fortunately, upon arrival (and only after a short wait) the proud new Ace flanked by his three Kings descended on a table already strewn with all the sauces they would require for the evening.

The devilishly hot mint (not to be confused with its cooling Raita cousin) was a highlight and definitely a leading contender for biggest Jonny Cash of the current season.

Due to the staggered nature of member appearances, the Club continued to munch down a dazzling ‘anti-dearth’ of pakoras, lamb chops and kebabs for the better part of an hour. No complaining but at least one prophetic concern from member Steve as to main course stomach capacities.

The usual Communist rumblings were present but a few seat swaps for easy access and Democracy ruled once more. Some cracking dishes – the Bindi Bhaji well received and a Keema Naan that was reticently yielded back up to the kitchen only half eaten. How right he was.

The Curry Club Armada truly (and eventually) let fly out of the Boris Bike traps with all six members taking to the streets in search of a post-curry bar which had been left controversially unprovided by our illustrious host Kev for the evening.

Drag races down to the Monument for cocktails taken in very welcome armchairs, some top-drawer 80’s rock* and home to bed.

*This is in fact by Starship

5th April – Gopals of Soho, Soho (guest writer: Boxing Steve)

The lads met at “The Endurance” on Berwick Street for some pints of ale. While some scoffed at the three-option offering, others just swigged away regardless (was there time to have another and make it to the restaurant in time), and the wiser gents plumped for Gin and Tonics, mindful of the necessary stomach capacity that is so often a CC concern.

“Cobras all round please” – there was certainly no need to ask the Club here. “starters?” “do I have to sit next to Nev” “no! Side dishes!” “poppadums?” “do you mind if we?… [gesture with poppadum towards the chutneys]”

[All the usual comments, made as ever, as a matter of course, despite the high profile absence of Chinead CK. Mothergate* – the reason for the absence, had been leaked the previous Monday. An all expenses paid Good Friday shop with Mother was the only silver lining to this dark dark cloud.]

“REMEMBER TO MENTION THE GREEN SAUCE IN YOUR WRITE UP MINNS” bawled Kév across the table, rudely forgetting Steve’s lad name during a rare moment of eccentric enthusiasm. But he had a point. Said Green Sauce, whose contents were much mooted by the lads, was one of CCs best to date.

On the whole, the classic strategy of “own main – share sides” was used, all lubricated by an auto top-up of Cobras (large).
A good night all round was had by all, but as bloatedness and weariness set in, the Club, decided to go home.

The “Home” – that is – of Thursday night blues!!!! Yes, that’s right. Thanks to a stroke of genius by Glen’ole, stage 3 was a Rockin’ night at the famous St Moritz Club known as Gaz’s – the best way to rock in Soho, established in the last century!

First on the scene, the lads hovered up dozens of easter eggs, set up camp, and tucked into the cocktails. Despite some peelers and flakers, it was a long night of dancing and singing (some song about monkeys?). Steve (aka Adrian) made a stage appearance as the club “put their hands in the air for Adrian”. Dyson showed predictably solid form on the female front, and Nick G (the newcomer) was the last man standing, who, having got a taste for Sennockian form with the lads, rooted out a female OS and, we can only assume, [insert your own joke about wood/carpentry/skills with wood].

Glen’ole, the next day, bombarded with congratulatory messages. One read: “Quite the best fun EVER had at CC…”

*Leaked Extract:

“Jon,
Reminder that it’s Mum’s birthday on Wednesday. We are going out for dinner on the Thursday (5th) as my birthday is on the 6th. Can you make it for dinner and if so do you want to stay over and do your birthday shopping with Mum on the Good Friday?
Let me know so I can book a table.
Dadx”

3 May – Masaledar Kitchen, Tooting (guest writer: Boxing Steve)

CONTROVERSY was the name of the game as FURIOUS debate arose over the repetition of venue choices. The Tooting Tram and Social was selected as a venue, as well as the Albatross (or was it the Antelope?), as the initial pre-Ruby destination, invoking UTTER FURY from the lads.

The height of the controversy was market by Dyson’s characteristically cutting and snide remark: “Is it acceptable to reuse a venue? Tooting Tram and Social is where I took The Club for after dinner drinks when I hosted.”

The sentiment REVERBERATED across the wires of London, with one anonymous punter even going so far as to say: “It’s a delightful place… That’s where I started mine too!”

Following a breakdown in relations, a small cohort of lads made it to the Masaledar Kitchen.

The venue was a fusion restaurant, with a menu exhibiting Spring Rolls, and Spanish tomatoes.

In the end, the more seasoned loyalists plumped for, in the main, Madrases (originally from Chennai, formerly Madras, India) with the remainder going down the fusion route and selecting the Jalfrezi (Jhal from Chinese/Bengali, and parhezi from the Urdu word for diet).
The food was absolutely delicious – “some of the best we’ve had!” it was proclaimed, in front of a suitably appropriate golden backdrop (was it made of real gold? Or Pyrite? Or glitter?)

Onwards and to the TTS for a game of INDIE BINGO. Of course, no one knew what the rules were, or whether or not it had started, but the lads, lads as they were, won anyway.
” 满贯!”…
“बिंगो !”…
“Maison Maison !”
They cried, in unison.

8th June – Delhi Grill, Islington

And so it ended in glorious fashion as the Club parted ways after the season finale – one onto a spicy date with his latest PWC squeeze, others to dance the night away under the haze of over priced mojitos and finally some into the greasy embrace and sordid throes of a 15 piece Chicken Cottage Value Bucket and chips.

The Club started the evening in the pub formerly known as The Compass. An ominous smell of mock-mahogany and grey paint, instilling a sense of dread in the first two members, hung heavy in the gastro air as they were ushered towards a long table and informed, with a knowing smile, that they would have to order drinks “from their waiter.” They quickly scanned the paper thin and faux-stained menu in front of them. Yes, the caramel and salt pork crackling at 5 each sounded delicious but where oh where was the beer!?

Several feet away, peering over at the taps was the only option. They called the skinny Asian garcon back over to order a pint a piece of pale ale A Murder of Crows. The Club members chortled among themselves that a pale ale should have a black label over the pump. This chortle turned to a flabbergasted squeak as they were interrupted by their server only to be asked:

“You know that’s an ale, right?”

The beer was delicious. Needless to say the tip was found wanting.

Onto the colourful Delhi Grill for the main event and a refreshingly simple menu split into tandoori and traditional curries. All offerings were delicious and, not for first time this season, I find myself writing that the curried lamb chops were a particular highlight.

The dahl divided opinions – some finding it too watery, others eating the leftovers of said people with relish. Needless to say, a solid amount of Cobra was imbibed, flowing effortlessly between brown bottle, pint glass and mouth in a well oiled machine as you would expect from a season’s practice.

The final League standings were announced with some late entries from Seabass and Gaz Stocker, obligatory boos and hisses for absentee Get in the Hole and culminating in the crowning of our resplendent Curry Ace: Pinky Salt(i)eri.

After a fairly long hike by CC standards, we bypassed one Wax Jambu (too many lads – guilty as charged) and onto another bar. Memories are fairly scattered at this point but here’s most of them:

-Member Dirtbox, afterinitially winning the favour of a number of ladies towards the start of the night, being branded a misogynistic pig by the very same
– Cocktails (bestnamed and worst tasting Pedro’s Dark Side) costing upwards of 9 a pop
– Member PCB making a late appearance and proceeding to get hooned
– Member Dyson trying to cop off with a small blonde girl but, as usual, being pipped to it by Member Boxing Steve
– A really irritating and rotund girl called ‘Hilary’

Here’s to September – cheers chaps! x

This Massive Piggy Went To Brixton

Proud Father

I think the sheer prospect of doing justice to our efforts on that temperamental day back in August had intimidated me into a three month writing hiatus. Plus, lets not forget my inherent laziness as a person. And GTA V, of course. Many an hour on GTA V.

However, I will now proceed to give it a go and do what I can to chronicle with mere words the day that was Yamb, Lamb and Ham…Please Sir, I Want Some More.

Our Porcine Muse(s)

There is a healthy element of debate between the three of us (Skinny Pete, Pete Croft Baker and I) as to who’s idea this was in the first place. I can only vouch for my portion (Michael Pollan) but, if there is an ancient barbecue deity out there somewhere, I imagine he had a greasy  hand to play in bringing us all together with a glorious vision. To roast a whole hog on a homemade BBQ in a small Brixton front garden.

Naysayers were certainly not scarce (“What’s the point?”, “Why don’t you just pay someone to roast it for you?” “You’re going to poison everyone!”). Actually, these were all from just Laura but there were plenty more. I like to think we won them round in the end.

The pig (a Gloucester Old Spot) was sourced from a great little place called Keythorpe Valley Farm in Leicester. Due to a slight miscommunication, the old fella was slaughtered a week early. This was fine at first as it could be kept on the farm in the fridge for five days. However, it then had to be released to us a day early which resulted in an overnight stay in Skinny’s bath tub (below).

Just chillin'

Just chillin’

Again (as would become a recurring theme to the next 36 hours), this was a perfectly agreeable solution in theory. What Skinny failed to realise though was the plumber (hence the tools, great time to redecorate) had detached the bath. This meant that come 2 a.m, pig juice and ice water began pouring through the ceiling. Grim yes, but the Tarantino-stylings weren’t to stop there as we moved into the prep the next evening.

The Prep

The Cleaver. Great new addition to any kitchen.

The Cleaver. Great new addition to any kitchen.

Aside from what proved to be the relatively straightforward job of lopping off her legs and tail, it all got a little weird for a while at this stage. In retrospect, it was a heady combination of the beer, the late night and lugging around a 50 kg pig corpse. But what tipped the transition from a little weird to downright surreal was PCB putting on our backdrop music Seasick Steve Never Go West.

It was to this soundtrack, which reminded me of the True Blood theme song on crack, that we proceeded to hammer in our (sanded and sterilised) scaffolding pole into the pig. I literally mean hammered with a sledgehammer. The hole wasn’t big enough. Picture that if you will and listen to Seasick Steve and you’re someway there.

But huzzah! We got there eventually!

Effortless.

Effortless.

I should at this point mention the oven itself. This was an incredible feat of ingenuity and all credit must go to Skinny Pete for its design and build. We’re all glad that those four years studying Mechanical Engineering have finally been put to good use. This was certainly his Magnum Opus.

And hardly cost anything. Cashback.

And hardly cost anything. Cashback.

The Big Day

As I cycled down to Skinny’s from Clapham at 5.30am, BBQ grill strapped to my back, I remember a distinct feeling of nerves and excitement. In theory (that phrase again) everything was accounted for.

The pig was fully primed, we had a fat drip, there was ample booze, Laura was on apple sauce duty, there was lamb for non-piggers, it only promised to shower occasionally etc etc. But I couldn’t shake a feeling of apprehension. We had one-hundred people due round for food at 3.30 pm and a completely raw pig spread eagle of Skinny’s lounge floor, violated by a scaffolding pole. Aside from the responsibility, I think a big part of the nerves was wanting to do the pig itself justice and cook it properly.

Part of the reason we had all agreed we wanted to do this was to get closer to our food, away from the endless packs of chicken breasts and sausages that are arguably a far cry from meat in its honest form. Anyway, enough of the amateur philosophising. We stoked the first of many (many) bags of charcoal, hoisted our good lady onto the pit and away we went.

Men at Work

Men at Work

Although Skinny’s rolling joints for the pole were another spot of genius, it did mean that every 10-15 minutes for 12 hours we had to manually turn the pig. It was also a two man job. Labour heavy, sure. Would it be worth it? Absolutely.

All went swimmingly for some time. Not a drop in the sky, skin crackling up nicely, fat tray working like a beauty.

Golden Wonder

Golden Wonder

Even when it started to rain, we took it in our stride. Constructing not only a practical, efficient shelter but one with some panache.

Pride before the fall...

Pride before the fall…

Looks too good to be true at this point. And it was. Ten minutes later, only a couple of hours before she was ready to serve, one too many coals plopped into the increasingly clotted fat tray at the bottom of the pit.

I have never seen a fire so quickly erupt from nothing in all my life. It took the tarpaulin, the board and half the top of my hair with it as well.

There were no photos of the fire, despite my useless mate Simian standing there chatting on the phone while I tried to rescue the hog single-handedly. You could have at least got a photo, you bell. Here is an artist’s impression:

This, but worse.

This, but worse.

The bad news was, we lost most of the crackling. The good news, the rest of the big was unbelievably unscathed! Onto the service…

The End

5pm. The moment we had all been waiting for. We hoisted our dear friend onto our shoulders once more and carried her into the lounge, placing her on the dining room table that would serve as her final stage.

What a carve up.

What a carve up.

The hog was served and I took a much needed shower, although I didn’t feel clean again for several days. And my hair didn’t grow back for several more after that.

It was juicy and packed full of flavour. At the sagely advice of many pro-hog roasting Youtubers, we had kept the seasoning simple: just salt and garlic powder. It was all it needed. Alongside went the lamb, the apple sauce and the rest. I’d also like to (selfishly) mention my own home-brew with a rather snazzy label designed by Rosie Davies:

I think I drank most of this...

I think I drank most of this…

After the food, there was much merriment and dancing, with our very own wedding DJ Dyson spinning the tunes until the early hours with his disco-ironing board and bushy beard.

I wouldn’t actually know though as I was in bed by 10.30 pm, exhausted and contented by a monumental day of hogging with pals.

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.

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!

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.

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