Monday, 18 July 2011

Kimchi sliders at the zoo

Although I love the idea of blogging my every mouthful, I don’t blog enough for a number of reasons. The first one being that I don’t have an iphone, nor a clue how to get photos from my old Nokia to a computer so I have to remember to carry my camera around with me. Not ideal. The second being that I don’t have a computer so I have to arrange to bring my computer home from work. Fingers crossed this will all be resolved soon as I have a birthday coming up (please, Present Fairy, bring me an ipad) and I have a very kind sister who might give me her iphone when she gets an upgrade (if i'm good). The main reason for not writing enough is lack of time to actually write (not sure how you other bloggers do it) so I’ll keep this short and sweet.
Kimchi burger - photo stolen from Kimchi Cult's website.
I usually don’t blog about things I haven’t managed to take a photo of but I had such incredible food at the zoo the other night that I thought I had to mention it to the world and will just steal other people’s photos and hope they don’t mind.
The London zoo has been running 'zoo nights' every Friday in June and July and this year they had a really impressive collection of street food stalls. I finally settled on Kimchi Cult and had 2 sliders for £5 - one beef with kimchi and bacon and the other pulled pork with ginger coleslaw. Both totally incredible but I think the pork had the edge because the ginger coleslaw was so tasty and juicy. Hope they come to a street near me soon as I can't wait to stuff my face with their sliders again.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

A coastal walk and the pasty of dreams, Cornwall

We recently spent 5 days down in the depths of Cornwall, in Pendeen, near Land's End. We took a beautiful coastal walk in the Porthcurno area, wandering from cove to cove. It was quite a grey, overcast morning so my heart went pitter patter when we heard the news from a friendly fellow walker that there was a Cornish pasty shop awaiting me round the next bend.

I'm not a conoisseur of Cornish pasties but this was nothing like a pasty at one of those crappy places in London stations. It was peppery, meaty and honest and was a very welcome respite from the drizzle on a slightly grizzly day.
Cornish pasty of dreams
I wish I knew the name of the pasty shop but I can't so I'll just say that if you're in the area, take a walk and hopefully you'll stumble across it!
What started out as a fairly grey day actually turned into a beautiful day and we ended up sunbathing on a beautiful beach.
Porthcurno Beach

Friday, 1 July 2011

Porthminster Beach Cafe

What do you get for decided to take a holiday in Cornwall instead of heading to the South of France? English drizzle. Never mind though. We decided to splash out and eat ourselves silly instead of buying flights and accomodation and boy, did we eat! Cornwall is a mecca of seafood and we really took advantage.
Surfers in the drizzle on Sennen Beach
Our splash out dinner came on our penultimate night and we loved it so much, we considered coming back the following night for our finale (we didn't, but we should've as the final dinner was disappointing). The restaurant has that real seaside vibe to it; a bright and airy whitewashed wood room, with an informal and relaxed vibe. This is the kind of place that is just as lovely during the day as it is at night. We had a prime spot in the window, overlooking the beach as the sun went down and it couldn't have been more idyllic or romantic. We would have loved to have gone back to see St Ives properly during the day as it seemed like a lovely place, but sadly we ran out of time. Next time.
Porthminster Beach Cafe, St Ives

The view from our table.

The Porthminster has a list of 'tasters' on the menu before the starters so we did try one to share. They were really designed to be amuse bouches so I think we missed the point, by sharing, but we really felt like this was a restaurant that really wanted to be able to give its customers an amuse bouche, but it couldn't factor that into its margins. I don't know how many people go for these tasters but I don't think they're necessary when you have such beautiful starters to choose from anyway.

Taster portion of squid with pea and mint puree
I loved the way they used a beach bucket to keep the wine chilled. Very cute. Our wine was delicious.

I'm not sure who the chef is or where he trained but there seems to be an Asian influence on lots of the dishes. By chance, without realising, I went for two dishes with Asian flavours. The first was an Asian broth with pork and prawn gyozas, noodles, spring onion, chilli and coriander. Delicious rich deeply-flavoured broth with soft gyozas was a total triumph. I've never been able to achieve that incredible rich flavour that Japanese or Thai soups manage.

Light Asian broth with pork & prawn gyozas - absolutely perfect!
Cornish scallops, avocado espuma, tartare of scallop and caviar dressing.

After much deliberating over the menu, next up was John Dory fillets and crab fritters with chilli, coriander & spring onion salad and chilli ponzu dressing (are you spotting the similarities?). Ponzu is one of those mysterious ingredients that has suddenly shot to fame (thanks, I reckon, to Mr Oliver) and some people say you can substitute it for lime. I don't think you can and the ponzu dressing really pulled this dish together. Generally I don't go for crab as I don't love it but I thought the other flavours in the description were enough to make me like this. I wasn't wrong. It was utterly perfect. Light and flaky John Dory fillets, crispy-on-the-outside-soft-on-the-inside crab fritters were beautifully complemented by the Asian flavours and each componant was as good as the next.

John dory fillets and crab fritters with chilli ponzu dressing.

Hake fillet, broad bean gremolata, celeriac puree and a truffle yolk parcel.

The only thing that was slightly disappointing was the dessert. Although beautiful, after such a tasty meal, nothing was going to live up to expectations!

I can't wait to go back.

Friday, 10 June 2011

Hong Kong Part Deux

It's taken me so long to get round to writing this second post about Hong Kong's amazing food so i'm just going to summarise the best bits, rather than write about every meal we ate!

Korean Barbecue
This was my first time at a Korean BBQ and I loved it. It's down a pretty spooky back street (sadly I can't remember the name of the restaurant or the street) which is poorly lit and has no signs in English, so we were the only tourists in there, which was reassuring. The waiters found us very amusing to watch and came over to show us exactly how it was done (even though it was pretty obvious!).
Korean BBQ with the 20 different types of kimchi.
Korean BBQ comprises of deeply marinated chopped up meat or fish (we went for a mixed platter of both) which you cook yourself (or in our case the waiter cooked for us!) on a hot plate sunk into the centre of the table. They brought an incredible selection of around 20 different types of kimchi, delicious soy bean paste, chilli paste and lettuce leaves. Basically you fill the lettuce leaves with the meat, bean paste, chilli and kimchi (the cabbage one being my favourite), roll it up and munch. This is right up my street, being seriously satisfying in the flavour department and fairly healthy too...well, that's what I'm telling myself anyway! We loved it so much that when we came back to London we went straight to Koba, just off Charlotte Street, and had their Korean BBQ (which was very good too).

Peking Garden
Kenneth carving the duck
We were recommend a place to go for Peking duck that was tucked away in a shopping centre, up a back staircase that was nearly impossible to find. We obviously went for the Peking duck pancakes, being in a Peking duck restaurant and were very excited to try some ginuwine Peking duck. The theatrics of the place were in fact far more impressive than the food. Sadly the duck was very bland and the skin was totally under-seasoned so it didn't have that characteristic salty flavour, and the portion that came off a whole duck was so measly! You can see it in this photo. I know a whole duck doesn't really have that much meat on it but it was so sad to see him (let's call him Kenneth) walk away with all the flesh still on the legs. We assumed he was coming back to give us the rest once we'd finished the first plate, but alas no. However, two things really made our night: 1. having Kenneth carve the duck at the table which really got our tastebuds going and 2. the hand pulled noodles performance.

Duck pancakes
Unfortunately, we didn't have noodles, although I wish we had tried them, but I learned so much about them here. I had no idea how they were made before seeing this. The noodleman started with a ball of dough which he bashed out on the work surface, stretching and folding it as he went along. After a number of repetitions it started to separate into strands until the whole thing had perfect noodles. We were all gobsmacked this. How did we not know this before??

Noodleman making the noodles

Noodleman with his finished noodles
Peking Garden Restaurant
3/fl., Star House
3 Salisbury Road
Tel. 852 2735 8211

Friday, 18 March 2011

Mochi class at Atsuko's Kitchen

A while ago I did a Japanese sweet making class (mochi lesson) at Atsuko's Kitchen on Kingsland Road. Absolutely loved it, not only because I adore anything mochi but also because Atsuko herself is absolutely adorable. She runs Japanese cooking classes from a cafe in the back of a healthy/organic/Wholefoods-y type shop called The Grocery (54 Kingsland Road) which is itself a lovely shop to browse.

Of the 5 of us there for the class, I was the only one who was a new face. They had all taken part in either her beginner or advanced course which says a lot to me.

The class was brilliant and the food was so interesting and if it weren't so darned far away from SW11 then I'd definitely sign up for her beginners Japanese cooking class which is a 5 week course and you learn all kinds of soup stocks, rice dishes, miso, gyoza etc. I'll have to think hard about whether I can commit to going to the back of beyond once a week!

I took photos on my phone but, sadly, can't figure out how to load them to my computer!

Friday, 8 October 2010

Dim sum in Hong Kong

I knew I'd love Hong Kong. Everyone said I would but I didn't realise quite how much. It is an amazing city with so much to see, do and above all, eat! I went in September with my sister. We’re both dim sum obsessive fanatics so we had dim sum for lunch every single day. The dim sum we tend to always order are: har gao, shu mai, char siu bun, cheung fun, yam croquette, turnip cake (a recent addition to the repertoire) and quite often glutinous rice wrapped in lotus leaf. I have eaten a lot of dim sum in my time but in Hong Kong we discovered a few gems to add to the list of dishes we love. When I go on holiday, I like to have personal recommendations from people of where to eat, rather than rely on the guidebooks so a huge thanks to all the people who offered their recommendations, especially Fanny Leung who listed around 10 restaurants and probably didn't expect us to eat at every single one of them!

I will dive straight in with the best meals we had.

Dim Sum trolleys at Maxim's restaurant at City Hall.

Fantastic atmosphere as it's in a beautiful enormous room that feels very regal. They come round to your table with trolleys of dim sum, so although it might not be the most amazing dim sum (according to locals), as some of it has been on the trolley for a while, the setting made it all worthwhile and so much more delicious. We loved it so much we went back a second time on our final day, though we were incredibly hungover. From the moment you sit down you get bombarded with ladies on commission coming around with trolleys of different types of dim sum, all fighting to be the first one to serve you. A great view too.

Please mind the lip-licking! This photo is to show the beautiful room:
Maxim's Restaurant
Low Block (2nd floor),
City Hall,
Connaught Rd. Central and Edinburgh Place,
Central District

Luk Yu Tea House:
Our rule with dim sum is we can order the stuff we love but there always has to be something unknown in there. At the Luk Yu Tea House we ordered 'mince beef balls' thinking it sounded delicious. It certainly wasn't! They were rubbery, bouncy balls of gristle and tendon and for pretty much the first time in my life, I had to leave food to one side. However, it was also here that we discovered the amazing 'polo char siu bao' (bottom centre of the following snap, almost out of the shot).

These are baked, rather than steamed, char siu (barbecued pork) buns which have a sweet biscuit-y casing - the topping is sweet, the pork is packed with flavour (as it is in a regular char siu bun) and the whole thing is indescribably delicious. They were an absolute revelation. I have never seen them at a dim sum restaurant in London but will keep my eye out for them now.
Luk Yu Tea House
G/FL 24, Stanley street, Central
Tel. 852 2523 5464

Tim Ho Wan - the cheapest Michelin starred restaurant in the world.
We knew we'd have to queue to get into this place so we decided to go late in the afternoon and arrived at around 4pm. In amongst the gun shops and the 'Romance High Class Hotels' of Mong Kok, lies a little gem called Tim Ho Wan, famous for being the cheapest Michelin starred restaurant in the world. As you can see, there was no need to take photos of the food as there were actually photos on the placemats of some of the options! This place certainly deserves its Michelin star for the quality of its food, if not for the quality of the service or the atmosphere! We tried 'deep-fried glutinous dumplings' which are hard to describe but slightly sweet and quite chewy in the most delicious sense of the word! You can see these in the bottom left of this photo:
Check out the hottie heading into 'Guns 'n' Guys'!
The queue to get in:

Obviously our knowledge of Chinese led us to the restaurant, not the queue outside!
You can see here that the interior is very basic: Tim Ho Wan's famous polo char siu bao - delicious but not quite as incredible as the ones at Luk Yu Tea House:
Yummy cheung fun - I think these were prawn but I can't quite remember:

I think there will always be things in Chinese cookery that I simply don't get. We also tried their 'steamed rice with pork' (also recommend by Hollow Legs) which was bland, chewy and dry and I think I must have missed the point of it entirely (like Tigre in Argentina!).

We ate our body's weight in dim sum, paid the princely sum of $114 (£9.50) in total for the pleasure and left as quickly as we'd arrived, with the queue still piling up outside. Definitely worth it.

Yan Toh Heen at the Intercontinental (NOT the Intercontinental Grand Stanford!)

After persuading The Sister that we could walk to the Intercontinental for lunch at their renowned dim sum restaurant she reluctantly caved and we arrived, sweating and cursing, at the hotel. Upon entering we asked someone to point us in the direction of Yan Toh Heen restaurant. After a few minutes of deliberating whether the restaurant had recently changed its name, the hotel staff clicked and told us that we were standing in the Intercontinental Grand Stanford and not the Intercontinental which was 'just a bit further down the road'. After about 45 minutes of walking in the blazing midday sun (albeit a lovely walk along the promenade by the water) we finally saw the hotel. Well, we saw it, and it then took us a further 15 minutes to finally figure out how to get inside it!

Once inside (sweat and curses once again emanating from The Sister) it was a picture of 5 star hotel calm. We felt seriously underdressed and seriously over-sticky but nobody seemed to mind and we were treated like princesses. The food is dim sum but not your every day dim sum. They try to make their fillings more exciting than the usual suspects, however, I do always find comfort in eating the old favourites and although we tried lots of new ones, the ones we loved the most were the trusty old favourites. And what a view.

G/fl Intercontinental hotel
18 Salisbury Road
Tel. 852 2313 2323

Wu Kong
I will talk about the 'xiao long bao' at the Wu Kong Shaghainese restaurant, even though I've never seen it as part of the usual dim sum menu and it was the only dumpling-y thing we ate here, because for me they really stole the show. Xiao long bao are probably the most fresh and clean tasting thing I have ever eaten. They are little steamed dumplings and i'm not sure exactly what's inside them but when you pop them in your mouth (and you have to do this all in one mouthful or it will explode all over you!) the most delicious rich ginger broth bursts out and makes you go "oh wow!!"! That's them in the middle of the table:
Wu Kong
L/G., Alpha house
27 Nathan Road
Tel 852 2366 7244

More to come from Hong Kong about our other meals…don’t go away!

Monday, 2 August 2010

Barcelona...such a beautiful horizon

A slightly belated post as we actually went to Barcelona on the May bank holiday weekend. I've been meaning to post for a while but I we ate so much in Barcelona I felt so overwhelmed every time I sat down to write it! So, I have decided to provide a kind of abridged version but I have a feeling it's not going to end up very abridged! I think I may get carried away...

Our first evening, Saturday night, was a wet one (as was much of the weekend). We dumped our bags in the hotel and headed straight out to Cerveceria Catalana. This place is so popular there's always a queue for it so we decided to sit outside, under the umbrellas as no-one but Brits would put up with that.

We had the usual tapas to ease ourselves into the trip: patatas bravas, gambas, pan con tomate, manchego, jamon and more.
The highlight of the meal was the coconut 'flan' which was like a coconutty creme caramel and was absolutely delish. The last time I had flan in Spain I thought I was put off it for life when I found a rogue broad bean in it but this has turned me back on to it!

On Sunday, having visited the major Gaudi buildings and walked for miles, we headed over to Barceloneta. I'm so glad we decided to do this on a Sunday as the atmosphere down there was incredible. Such a buzz and bustling with Spanish families and tourists alike. Time Out had recommended a place called Kaiku so we wondered past all the obvious over-priced sea-view restaurants to a more rustic place, full of Catalans, tucked away right at the end of the promenade. We couldn't get a seat outside but we were lucky to get a seat at all.

This modest restaurant with paper tablecloths specialises in paella, so of course we ordered one. Surprisingly, there was a starter of a foie gras salad with blueberry vinaigrette. When there's foie gras on the menu, the Neal girls never say no (yes, I do feel guilty saying it!)! Even more surprising was the innovative presentation of the salad: if you look at the photo you see that it looks like the salad is covered in breadcrumbs. These are in fact shavings of foie gras! I think they must have frozen the foie and then grated it. I will have to give it a try, as you can make a little go a long way.

Next up was the paella with squid ink, wild mushrooms and mixed shellfish. This was a proper paella and not a red pepper in sight!

All washed down with a chilled bottle of red, this was the perfect way to spend a Sunday in Barcelona!