Belated Festive Post #2 – Smoking Bishop & Eggnog

“A merry Christmas, Bob!” said Scrooge, with an earnestness that could not be mistaken, as he clapped him on the back. “A merrier Christmas, Bob, my good fellow, than I have given you, for many a year! I’ll raise your salary, and endeavour to assist your struggling family, and we will discuss your affairs this very afternoon, over a Christmas bowl of smoking bishop, Bob!”

– Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol (1843)

On hearing these words (or a version of) being uttered by Jim Carrey’s animated form towards the end of A Christmas Carol, I was roused from the kind of semi-catatonic state only brought on by the heady combination of Christmas films and too much Stilton. Although this is obviously not the best rendition of A Christmas Carol, I hope you will forgive me.

To clarify, Patrick Stewart is the best Scrooge…although its hard to argue that both the Disney version, featuring a Victorian-ised Scrooge McDuck (Ducktales…a woo-ooo), and the Muppet’s effort with Michael Caine (Michael Caine! Can anyone else believe that? I’d completely forgotten), are not superb efforts in their own right.

Back to Carrey though. It was upon hearing these words that I remembered watching Rick Stein’s A Cornish Christmas for the umpteenth time, specifically the scene where he is sitting huddled in the corner of a dimly lit pub with a saucy maid and big steaming bowl of Smoking Bishop – the true Dickensian festive drink!

I knew I must have it. And Eggnog too of course, because what’s not to like about bourbon and custard?

Smoking Bishop

Russian Roulette - in lieu of a bullet, the disgraced West Ham mug

Russian Roulette – in lieu of a bullet, the disgraced West Ham mug

I was delighted to find this recipe and also the above quote at the very helpful blog The History Kitchen to which I am eternally grateful for providing the Phillips’ family household with this beverage on Christmas Eve. It (nearly) inspired us to go carolling it was that good. But then we played Trivial Pursuit instead which is always going to be hard to beat.

The key part of this is to leave the baked and clove-studded citrus fruit (above) to soak for 24 hours in the red wine before adding in the port. The waft you get when you unveil it after this mulling feels like Father Christmas himself has punched you square on the nose and asked if you’re man enough. In a jovial, good hearted way.

The port, spices, red wine and fruit completely knock the socks off any mulled wine I’ve ever tried. I would seriously recommend giving this a go. I’d even crack this out now during the grim dark nights to enjoy by the fire (or perhaps a hair dryer under the sheets if you’re as environmentally friendly as Laura.)  Bottle up any leftovers in the port bottle and it’ll mature nicely.

Eggnog

I had been wanting to drink this for every Christmas since I can remember. I think its testament to how corpulently lazy I get around this period that I’ve only just managed it in 2014.

Slightly less helpful recipe here as it uses American measurements (it is the HOLIDAY season after all) but just convert it on Google and you’ll be fine.

The forgotten sherry glasses, dragged from the back of the cupboard and bastardised.

The forgotten sherry glasses, dragged from the back of the cupboard and thoroughly bastardised.

I would say that, unlike the Smoking Bishop, this drink isn’t for everyone. If you’re a fan of cold custard (and we are habitual family of such), then you’ll be well away. Vamp up the bourbon measurements though to give that much needed bit of bite.

Egg-static lads

Egg-static lads

 

Belated Festive Post #1 – Stollen Wreath & Cola Ham

Get in the hole!

Get in the hole!

It would take a bold man to argue that anyone is feeling Christmassy any more. In the midst of a bleak January riddled with guilty drinking and furtive feasting, there is arguably little for our stomachs to look forward to in this fallow month. So, if you will allow, let me take you back to a time when all was well and full of stodge, binging and general merriment…

‘Big D’ (Dad) rules the roost when it comes to the main event in the Phillips’ household over the holiday period; judge, jury and executioner on the 25th without exception. However, this does allow us minnow Phillips’s to have a pop in the kitchen in the run up and usually afterwards for good measure.

This year I thought I’d chip in with something sweet that would also flex my bread making learnings and the ham (a righteous honour once the sole responsibility of provision by Ronnie ‘The Rocket’ Goldfinch, my grandad).

Unless a dish is reasonably tried and tested in our household, it tends to come under major scrutiny even before the ingredients are bought. Anything involving ‘too much red meat’ normally requires draining negotiation with my mum and anything that is initially dismissed by my dad is a long slog to win back around.

The Cola ham certainly raised a few conservative eyebrows around the family, with I think only my little brother giddy at the prospect of meat boiled in sugary syrup. The stollen wreath less so but only because none of us really knew what it entailed, myself included.

Stollen Wreath

As alluded to above, this is basically a big sweet bread with boozy fruit and a marzipan center running through the middle. Niiiiice. You can find the recipe here.

Rum soaked fruit - always a good shout.

Rum soaked fruit – always a good shout.

Despite coming out looking seriously pimping (if I do say so myself), it was surprisingly straightforward to make. Anyone that’s made a loaf of bread before should be able to tackle this with ease.

The only morsel of advice I would offer is when adding the boozed fruit to the dough, use a slotted spoon or even drain it off beforehand. I had to do some emergency flouring halfway through to patch up some very moist dough. To say Jules (mum) would have been unhappy with the mess would be the understatement of the year. And given that we were nearly at the end of the year at the time, she would have been pretty miffed had she known. And Mum, if you’re reading, now you do.

I ended up going a bit rogue in the absence of a small cake tin for the middle, instead using this rather fetching pot which worked a treat:

Cracking with a bit of Eggnog. More on that to follow.

Cracking with a bit of Eggnog. More on that to follow.

Cranberries, pistachios, marzipan, boozy raisins and generous lashings of icing…proper Crimbo in a mouthful.

Cola Ham with Maple & Mustard Glaze

I won’t linger long on this as I feel like I’ve come rather late to the ‘ham boiled in coke’ party and may be preaching to the choir. If you’re yet to give it a go, I’d heartily recommend following this recipe here. It is face-meltingly good.

After a slight malfunction on my part (I cut the strings off before starting to boil) and a swift fix from Big D (manfully locating some string in the garage and retying the ham), we were off. Having chosen a 4 kg behemoth of a specimen, we could barely fit in the pot as it bubbled away, the stock turning a sticky brown, sweet and meaty aromas perforating the air amidst an offensively loud Strictly Come Dancing semi-final.

Following the boiling, it warranted a quick stint in the oven, being reglazed over and over with the maple and mustard in a gluttonous caress. Beltingly good meat; sweet and salty, melt in mouth and a perfect fatty crust.

The conservative eyebrows were firmly put back in their place. Unfortunately for me, I was still destined to be emasculated at the last moment as Big D stepped into carve the spoils. I don’t think that will ever change.

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.

Economy Gastronomy: Collar of Gammon

Grizzled and warier from my last outing into the world of Economy Gastronomy, I was determined not to make the same mistake twice. This time the pedigree of my bedrock ingredient would sing from the proverbial rooftops to all that would care listen!

And so I began my search, first punching in the number for our dear friends at William Rose Butchers to sound them out for their finest 2.5kg specimen. However, I was told in no uncertain terms (but incredibly friendly and polite, as is there way), that they didn’t stock uncooked collars of gammon. A tragic shame.

My hand was therefore forced into calling our not so dear friends at Moen Butchers for the same request. Again, I was told they do not carry this item in stock. I was informed that perhaps I was “better off trying one of the large supermarket stores”. Did I imagine a hint of a sneer accompanying that statement down the phone line? Possibly. Is the humble collar of gammon looked down upon by independent butchers en mass? It would appear so.

With my tail between my legs and the thoughts of a painstakingly reared ham diminishing fast, I scurried off to Sainsburys to salvage the situation. The best I could do in the end would be a £10 2kg Dutch unsmoked gammon. Smaller than I had in mind and certainly not as romantic. Paltry even, I thought as my mind flitted back to that blockbuster but ultimately hair-singing Brixton afternoon this summer past. The crackle of the skin over the open charcoal, the fatty smoke billowing out across the yard and the first bite of the flame-licked and juicy flesh still laced my senses. Staring down at the limp offering in my trolley, surrounded by bacon’s watchful eye, I felt a porcine sadness threaten to overwhelm me.

Fortunately, words of warning from my erudite lower sixth form English teacher, Dr.Greenhalgh, chose to materialise at this moment. “Beware the trappings of nostalgia, for it is a false emotion.” Steeled by this I pushed on to gather the rest of my ingredients.

A wise man indeed. And incidentally now published by Penguin.

A wise man indeed. And incidentally now published by Penguin.

The gammon, plus a variety of other ingredients, cost around £30 (same as the pumpkin) and yielded the following:

3 portions of Boiled Ham with Spinach Dumplings, Root Vegetables and a Grain Mustard Sauce (all eaten).

Spinach and Ricotta Dumplings

Spinach and Ricotta Dumplings

3 portions of Honey and Maple Glazed Ham with Cheesy Champ (all eaten).

4 portions of Spinach, Ham and Ricotta Gnocchi (2 eaten, 2 frozen)

And finally 2 absolutely belting ham sarnies with h0me-made bloomer bread.

The money shot.

The money shot.

All in all that’s 12 portions of food at roughly £2.50 a go. Not as good value-wise as the pumpkin bedrock, but still pretty amazing and cheaper than most ready meals that you would probably consider eating. With the remaining ham stock I also made about eight portions of freezable Sausage and Lentil Soup which was absolutely delicious. Lentil (or any pulse based soup) being the only option as ham stock is too salty and strong flavoured to use in most other ones.

However, the big question following the pumpkin was how did it taste? Did the £10 gammon stand its ground in the face of a thrice-time cooking? Definitely.

Everyone knows a glazed and baked ham is a treat of the highest order. That’s just a fact of life and I won’t waste both our time by preaching to the choir. However, I was pleasantly surprised at how tasty and decadent the boiled ham dish turned out. Boiled meat is often something I turn away from, mainly due to the texture, but this was juicy and succulent. Plus the mustard spice sauce gave it that needed bite.

The ragu was the simplest of an already simple batch of recipes. I pretty much inhaled it and its frozen relations over subsequent nights. Indeed, coupling it with the leftover pumpkin risotto made me reach a Nirvana-esque level of smugness.

Laura’s faith is also restored. That is, at least for now.

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’…

Pheasant, liver and a rude awakening

A couple of Saturdays ago, I had made plans to have some of the chaps round for dinner. It would be an all male affair and I was keen that the food reflect this. Having watched Braveheart only a few days before (which unbelievably Laura, 26, had never seen), I could not think of a more suitable theme than Scottish.

I also wanted game to play a part. Another forbidden meat group during our midweek cooking, a dispute I often cry freedom from as I cut into yet another chicken breast.

It didn’t take me long to find the perfect recipe. One that I envisioned garnering sagely nods of approval in a dimly lit room, around a table strewn with empty glasses, heroic tales and half-baked banter.

Golden Pheasant & Chicken Liver Hash, with a Rack of Lamb and Pearl Barley Risotto

Golden Pheasant & Chicken Liver Hash, with a Rack of Lamb and Pearl Barley Risotto

It so happened that the Saturday coincided with us house hunting in East Dulwich so I took the opportunity to drop in on a butchers that I have often admired from afar but never actually been inside. William Rose Butchers on Lordship Lane.

Even though the queue was fairly sizeable (and having been back I realise now that it is every Saturday), to say I was not disappointed would be a serious understatement.

Can you spot the pale ghost of Lordship Lane?

Can you spot the pale ghost of Lordship Lane? (hint: its not the ginger kid)

Not only was the selection top drawer, the meat enticing and the produce all locally sourced but the real winner for me was the service. Incredibly helpful, friendly and (despite it being absolutely rammed) still very much up for a chat. Very different from our local butcher Moen & Sons that I’ve fallen out of love with over the two and a bit years I’ve lived in Clapham.

After some pootling around houses and down potential roads, we ducked into The Palmerston (top pub) for a swift half, me clutching my pound of flesh.

The food that evening I thought turned out rather well with the pearl barley risotto packing the surprise package. Creamy, cheesy and with a bit of al dente chew that tends to get lost a little in a lot of regular riced risottos when they are overdone even slightly.

Have to say the pheasant and liver hash with a twist of bitter marmalade at the end really reminded me that Christmas wasn’t far around the corner.

Piccalilli (no matter how delicious and homemade) does not go with cheese. Fact.

Piccalilli (no matter how delicious and homemade) does not go with cheese. Fact.

We finished the meal with a cheese board and a bottle of port (sure). I imagine this caused Dyson’s cursory nap minutes later in the lounge. It was a carbon copy of about a year ago when he fell asleep in exactly the same position and fell foul of exactly the same fate.

This is after having his mouth smeared by a chopstick covered with Pain 100% Hot Sauce. My favourite bit is when he tries to drink the candle…

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.

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.

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.