Saturday, 24 September 2011

Getting Lucky at the Lucky Chip

Everywhere I go there seems to be a new must-visit burger van or restaurant - from Honest Burger in Brixton Village to the Meat Wagon, burgers are trending in London.  I have been hearing a lot about the Lucky Chip of late and meant to go up last night to their joint party with a pop up version of the Off Broadway bar at the Netil market but got sidetracked by my Vietnamese feast at The Green Papaya. 

With the Fashionista and I determined not to go to Banh Mi 11 for once at Broadway Market we were on the search for something new - she was almost distracted by some delicious looking risotto balls in the extension to Broadway Market that has been set up in the school yard at the London Fields end - but I was single mindedly heading to the Lucky Chip at Netil Market - just round the corner from Broadway Market proper.

Apparently they had been hit pretty hard by the party the night before and were therefore running low on supplies so a couple of the interesting toppings for the fries were already finished - they still had more than enough to entice us. I went for the el chapo burger- 35 day aged "Ginger Pig" beef, roasted jalapenos, aioli and blue cheese- great burger, bit sloppy, and the cheese took away from the taste of the beef a little but nonetheless was still pretty darn good.

The Fashioinista went for a naked dog- an organic pork hot dog served in a toasted hot dog bun with mustard and tommy K- this was even better than the burger- really really tasty! 

A Naked Dog.
The fries were great- we had them plain but they were offering free truffle oil with them which smelled delicious- next time!

On the evidence so far I will no doubt return to the Lucky Chip again and again- it really is great- although, and this is perhaps splitting straws, it may just fall into third place behind my personal favourite, Honest Burger, and the legend that is the Meat Wagon.

UPDATE, JANUARY 2012: Lucky Chip has just had a week long residency at the Sebright Arms, a pub literally 25 metres from my bedroom window, so I decided to head on over to see if standards were being maintained.  Sure enough they were!!!

We had the chicken wings with chipotle and lime dip to start - crisp but juicy chicken which worked tremendously with the smokey citrus of the dip - spot on!

I then had the Kelly LeBrock burger - served very rare with caramelized onions, philadelphia, applewood smoked bacon, chedar and aioli - very, very sloppy but delicious.  The Fashionista had wanted another hot dog, but unfortunately they had run out.  No matter they gave her a free upgrade to a straight up cheese burger - simple, awesome!

On this evidence, Lucky Chip has now overtaken MeatLiquor to move into number two of my reasonably priced burger spots in London.  Honest Burgers is still just ahead though!

Lucky Chip on Urbanspoon

A huge slab of beef... Argentinian Style

When I am out for dinner I always try and steer clear of the steak on the menu- I know how to cook a steak and have a good butcher nearby so find that spending money on steak is always a bit of a waste when there are normally more interesting things on the menu.  In saying that, when I was in Argentina, steaks were the norm and how did I gorge.  I do, therefore, occasionally venture out to an Argentinian steak house in London and, while I normally try to avoid chains, Gaucho has never let me down.

Near to me on Broadway Market, however, is a little independent Argentinian Restaurant called Buen Ayre.  So with a visitor down from Scotland, I decided to take the opportunity to tuck into some Argentinian beef.

Emapanadas de carne.
 The menu is simple, a few nods to Argentinian street food (empanadas etc) act as starters followed by steaks, steaks and more steaks (oh and some sweetbreads).

We had a couple of empanadas to share to start- light pastry and, unlike so many others, these weren't greasy.  Tender mince, onion and peppers made up the filling- as good as the ones I remember getting in the central market in Salta, high praise indeed given that this is the home of the Argentinian empanada.

Rump Steak.
On to the steaks- I went for the rib eye and my guest went for the rump.  We also got a bowl of chips with parsley and a rocket and garlic salad to share.

Rib-eye steak.
My ribeye was reasonably tender (although not outstandingly so) and was served with a pickled pepper and a few butter beans.  The rump was absolutely huge- it was only meant to be a 10oz but it was at least one and half times that and was also served with the pepper and butter beans.  The beef was again good, but not outstanding. The chimichurri that came along with the beef was second to none- incredible!

While the steaks were good but not exactly mind-blowing, the chips were absolutely fantastic- light and fluffy on the inside, crispy on the outside- the rocket and garlic salad was a little disappointing- lots of rocket but the garlic seemed to be playing a game of hide and seek.

For the two of us with a decent bottle of Malbec it was 70- pretty reasonable given the size of the steaks even if they could have been a little more tender and tasty.

Buen Ayre on Urbanspoon

Green Papaya- A Taste of Vietnam?

I have never really taken to Vietnamese food- it has always seemed to me to be the blander less interesting version of Thai/Cambodian food.  In fairness though, credit where credit is due, the Vietnamese baguettes and the pho at Banh Mi 11 at Broadway Market are incredible.

However given that my recent experiences have limited to Banh Mi 11, as I am now living between those two heartlands of Vietnamese cuisine in London, Kingsland Road and Mare Street, I decided that I really needed to give Vietnamese another shot.  While I am sure that Kingsland Road does have restaurants of merit I have heard that it can be a little hit and miss/Brick Lane-esq and therefore decided to look further east on this occasion.  Having scoured a few blogs I settled on the Green Papaya on Mare Street.

Mare Street (as well as being the site of most of the troubles in Hackney of late) has a plethora of Vietnamese supermarkets and its fair share of Vietnamese Restaurants.  Green Papaya is at the top of Mare Street and is made up of two rooms separated by a rather strange glass box in which there is a a small fish pond and a plastic replica pig (no really!).  There also appeared to be an outside area which would no doubt be nice on a summer evening.

Now as I have already said, my knowledge of Vietnamese is a little on the light side, but thankfully the Fashionista and another guest from Scotland were on hand to guide me through.

For starters we had summer spring rolls (a favorite of the Fashionista), banana flowers with shredded chicken and spicy beef salad.  The spring rolls had juicy prawns and were nice and light.  The banana flowers had been fried and served with a small amount of chicken- although tasty this was a little salty.  The beef salad had juicy slices of rare beef, fresh red onion and crispy  fried onion- it was delicious.
Summer Vietnamese Spring Rolls.

Spicy Beef Salad.

Banana Flowers and Shredded Chicken.
For mains we went for slow cooked pork with winter vegetables and mushrooms- the pork was sticky and melted in your mouth, the mushrooms full of flavour, but the winter vegetables (whatever they were) were not apparent and it tasted a little too strongly of cinnamon- while nice I have the sneaky suspicion that this dish was more Chinese than Vietnamese.
Grilled Tilapia with Lime

Beef with Vietnamese basil and peanuts.

We also had morning glory with garlic (delicious), grilled tialpia with lime (fresh flaky fish simply done) and a shredded beef dish with Vietnamese basil and peanuts- very good.

For the three of us, the dinner with a few beers came to a very reasonable 60 quid.  I am not sure whether the meal was a true flavour of Vietnam but nevertheless it was a very tasty dinner at a reasonable price and you can't ask for much more than that.

Slow cooked pork belly with mushrooms and winter vegetables.
Green Papaya on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Xinjiangtastic- Silk Road

The Fashionista moved to London some two years before I managed to get myself in order and move down saaath.  When she did move, she didn't choose one of those places that everyone knows, the Claphams and the Angels- no she chose Camberwell (as an example of how well she knew London at the time she phoned her flatmate to be and asked for directions from Oval-Brixton- not realising that they were two different places!).

Camberwell is a funny little place- to people who don't know it, it is an area of south London sandwiched between infamous Brixton and Peckham- surely there would be no reason leave Clapham for such a place, let alone travel over the river!  But for those in the know it is a hub of great bars and restaurants, with a vibe somewhere between Brixton and Dalston (the art college nearby might have something to do with this!).

And so on to the restaurants- I have posted about the Crooked Well, that almost but just not quite there of a bar/restaurant which is the latest addition to the scene- other notable openings in recent years include Angels and Gypsies which serves fantastic tapas. Sometimes, however, the classics are the best, and Silk Road truly is classic!

One of the first times I came to visit the Fashionista we were wandering along Camberwell High Street and she picked out a rather scruffy looking restaurant- I said we should give it a miss.  The next time she persisted and so we ended up going in to be greeted by some of the most delicious, different, meals I have ever eaten- for those not in the know, Xinjiangese cuisine it is somewhere between Szechuanese and Russian- lots of noodles and chillies, but also potatoes, beef and kebabs. 

Spicy spinach.
I can honestly say, having now been through the entirety of the menu at Silk, that there is nothing on there which isn't up to scratch- it is all delicious.  Particular highlights include the tripe in chili sauce, the kelp and the belt noodles.  The dumplings are also fantastic.

Chicken with green chilies

This time we decided to go for the spicy shredded salad, chicken with green chilies, pork dumplings, noodles with lamb and spicy spinach.  The salad was a simple combination of fresh coriander, chilies and leaves which, although there was not too much to it, provided a nice freshness to the dinner.  The noodles were tremendous as always (you can sometimes see them making them through in the back kitchen), the dumplings light but tasty, the chicken with chilies was, well, chicken with chilies and the spicy spinach was delicious.

Noodles with lamb.

Fried pork dumplings.
There are not many restaurants that I have been back to so many times that I have managed to work through the entire menu- Silk Road is, however, one of those.  The food is tremendous, the prices are an absolute steal (£33 for the two of us, stuffed to the rafters, and with a beer!), and, as far as I am aware, this is the only restaurant serving food from Xinjiang in London.  It is definitely worth making that trip over the river...
Spicy green salad.
Silk Road on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Hereford Road: definitely not the St Johns of the West

This week the Fashionista had a visit from her second cousin once removed (or something like that- I get confused after cousin!) who was over from Singapore.  Traditional English food came the request- but of course, given the reputation that British food has around the world, I didn't want to take this guy for some simple pub fayre.  We tried to get a table at St Johns, that mecca for all things out-of-the-ordinary, but unfortunately they were fully booked.  Then we found Hereford Road, a restaurant out in Bayswater with links to St Johns (the chef at Hereford Road used to work there) and a plan was hatched.

We arrived to a rather confused waiter who appeared not to know that we had reserved a table- brushing this aside we were sat down in one of the red booths towards the back of the restaurant.  When you enter you pass the open plan kitchen and then head down some stairs at the rear to the seating area, all low lighting and soft colours.  The ceiling is made up of a large circular glass panel which I am sure must flood the restaurant with light during the day.

Having sat down and started to look through the menu, the first waiter returned again demanding to know where we had reserved.  On and on he pressed for details until it transpired that it was, in any case, not of consequence whether we had a reservation or not as the restaurant wasn't full - not the most friendly of welcomes.

For starters we decided to go for artichoke, smoked eel with horseradish and beetroot salad and duck's livers with runner beans and capers.  Ten minutes later, the waitress returned to say there were no longer any artichokes.  I changed my order to spatchcocked quail with radish and aioli.

Smoked eel and beetroot and horseradish salad
Quail with radish and aioli
The first course arrived after about twenty five minutes- eel was magnificent- firm and smokey with a hint of horseradish in the salad.  The ducks' livers were equally good- rich and full of flavour and the beans were cooked so that they had a nice bite- I had never had ducks' livers before but if they taste like this all the time I will be back for more.  The spatchcocked quail was okay but not particularly interesting and the aioli was just too intense to add anything to the dish.  The radish were nice.

Ducks' livers, runner beans and capers
For mains we ordered the rabbit, bacon and fennel stew, the pigeon with lentils and girolles and the smoked haddock with roasted cauliflower.  Other things on the menu included pork belly with mustard chard and a venison dish to share between two.

Now we had arrived at 8:15, been served our starters at around 8:50 and were waiting expectantly for our mains by around 9:05.  By 9:45 I was getting restless and decided to ask when we might expect the mains as we had now been waiting for almost forty five minutes.  The answer came- "you have not been waiting 45 minutes-I know because it says so on my till".  Now it may not have been forty five minutes, perhaps it was forty two, in any case enough time had elapsed for us all to notice and start talking about the lack of food in front of us. The waitress then said "the pigeon, it takes some time to cook". 

And so, another while later, the food arrived.  The wood pigeon (which had delayed proceedings) was served spatchcocked and was wonderfully rare, deep, delicious and velvety. 

The rabbit in the broth was slow cooked and fell off the bone and the fennel was tender.  The whole dish had, however, been over seasoned and was just a little too salty.

The smoked haddock was fresh (un-dyed like the unfortunate smoked haddock sold so often in supermarkets) and delicious and the cauliflower was, well, roasted cauliflower.

And then came another period of waiting- after twenty minutes the plates had still not been cleared- so we asked for the bill.  Cue another period of waiting (although not as long as the table next to us who had to wait for over twenty minutes after asking for the bill).  Then the card machine arrived, cue more waiting while the waitress tried to work out how to use the new system which had been installed.  By this time it was already after eleven- and so it took us almost three hours to order, eat two courses and leave, by which point we were just fed up of Hereford Road.

The food at Hereford Road was, in the main, very good, the portions extremely generous, and the prices very reasonable (£90 for three people for two courses sharing a bottle of wine), but the staff were simply not up to scratch. Now as I have said before, service is not something that normally bothers me.  I don't need airs and graces to enjoy a good dinner but when the staff accuse you of not having a reservation, suggest that you are lying as to the amount of time you have been waiting, and serve you a two course dinner in three hours, something is very very wrong.  Such a shame given the food on offer was rather tasty...

Hereford Road on Urbanspoon
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Morphy Richards