Posts Tagged ‘Food’

Resto 6 Tomo, Hornsey

February 17, 2019

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Back in Hornsey for a play (someone else’s) at the Great Northern it was thought wise to lay in some bait before in prep for the after-show party. Not having had the greatest experience at La Giaconda across the road we decided to give their rivals a go.

Tomo was busy but not too busy to squeeze us into a corner table. The menu is full Italian – pizza, pasta and fish/meat – but we kept it simple. A Tartufo pizza with sausage and truffle (an altogether superior production to that we saw at the National the night before) accompanied by a rocket salad with artichokes. The pizza was delicately turned and sausaged enough to satisfy. House white by the carafe did the job on the side.

The service was outstanding – three members of staff keeping the whole room happy. If I hadn’t had an appointment with fringe theatre I would have stayed for home made sorbet and grappa. I’ll happily go back soon to amend that.

8/10

To see where else I’ve eaten go to the GoogleMap …

Resto 5 Franco Manca, Kings Cross

February 11, 2019

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Once upon a time the only place to get a decent drink or a bite to eat if you were on the way to Kings Place was either the Lincoln Lounge or the venue itself. Now all sorts of shit is springing up around York Way to service the ever gentrifying residents and workers of the area.

The Lincoln Lounge is still keeping it real but alas they don’t do bait (well, they’ve got crisps) so we took a punt on a quick dinner in Franco Manca before the excellent Steven Osbourne did Prokofiev as it should be done.

This FM is proper restaurant-sized so it was a mystery to me why, in a half empty restaurant, the waiter should squeeze us into a corner between two other couples. I couldn’t be arsed to argue, I was too hungry.

The menu is pleasantly brief – snacks, salads, pizzas and pasta. We went for an alfalfa (or as they called it when I was growing up, ‘cress’) salad, a meat board and a mushroom pizza to share.

Then the craziness began. The salad arrived in record time. Now I like a salad but I don’t really see a small bowl of it (and no plates to eat it off) as worthy of putting down in front of two people and retreating as if you’ve just delivered a feast in Cana’. So we stared at it and wondered if anything else was going to show up. After about ten minutes we got the pizza. Counterintuitive – where was our thin, raw meat?

Oh, you wanted that? Yes, we did.

Someone taking your order without writing anything down is only impressive if said food is actually delivered.

So now we had pizza, two plates, meat board, salad, wine and water on a table the size of a postage stamp. But we managed. The pizza base was excellent but was scant of mushroom. The meat too was top quality, while the salad was a salad.

If you want to survive in the Italian market you’ve got to do better than that.

5/10

To see where else I’ve eaten go to the GoogleMap …

Resto 4 Saigon, Northampton

February 6, 2019

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I’ve been working in Northampton for about six months now but thus far without the opportunity to eat anything but canteen fare and humble pie. A visit from the Old Boy was an opportunity to break out of the campus routine and see what the town has in the way of gastronomy.

I’d been recommended Mandarin by one of the students – James had other ideas. He’d spotted Saigon on his way from the station and I was happy to do that. After a pint in the excellent Wig & Pen we strolled up to Saigon with phô in mind.

We were early (I was booked on an 8 o’clock train) so the room was empty of customers but that was okay – there were plenty of staff to make up the numbers. We took a table in the window; who would want to deprive themselves of the Northampton street scene? With its broad vista of pound shops, chicken shacks and Polski skleps it was like being at home in Harringay.

But looking at the menu I knew I wasn’t in Harringay any more – everything was about 30% cheaper. We went for a summer-spring roll mash up to start and a beef phô for main. The summer rolls were fat tubes of fresh veg with a sticky sweet sauce. Hard to get wrong and the bees knees when done to perfection (as these were).

Spring rolls were wrapped in a crunchy green shell and came with a haystack sized pile of fresh leaves alongside. We spurned the veg and got stuck into the rolls straight away. This prompted a rapid intervention by the owner who stormed over and enquired, ‘You ok?!’ ‘Yeah.’ ‘You wrap the roll in mint and lettuce – MORE FLAVOUR!!’ This seemed less a piece of advice than a command. We complied rapidly. ‘The girl not tell you?’ We couldn’t help but admit that she hadn’t. ‘I tell her.’ Oh dear.

The girl (who looked like her daughter) didn’t seem overly fussed about getting a bollocking when she brought us the phô so all was good. The phô was a big bowl of good stuff – a rich broth and about half a cow in it, the fat melting into liquid, sitting amongst a good helping of noodles.

The owner brought us the usual fish and soy sauces but these were unnecessary. We’d already tested what looked like a home-made chilli sauce in a little china bowl on the table, dipping the complimentary prawn crackers in it when we got our first beer. This sauce was straight from Vulcan’s kitchen, chilli seeds visible in a bright red paste that promised sweet burning fury in the gob and utter devastation of one’s middle-aged digestive system. I piled it into the phô and ordered another beer as an antidote. I was in chilli heaven.

Meanwhile the owner started gearing up for Chinese New Year by sticking a kitsch pig in the window. ‘Year of pig! VERY LUCKY!!’

Indeed we were.

#food #Northampton

9/10

To see where else I’ve eaten go to the GoogleMap …

Resto 3 – BFI Riverfront, Waterloo

January 28, 2019

 

Bonnard provokes nostalgia – all those sunburst gardens, shady book-supporting desks, sinister cats and naked bints in baths (together with their underlying psychological tremors) recall times past in many climes.

As does the NFT. It will ever be the NFT for those of a certain age.

Reincarnated many times since I proposed marriage while waiting to see Hamlet Goes Business, whatever is done to the Riverside Bar it will never recapture the tobacco-stained, schlobby fading glory of my first visits with Clive James in my pocket.

However, the latest splurge of cash on the place has seen a definite improvement since the time when I had a memorable row with one of the rudest servers I’ve ever encountered. (And there have been a few.)

The offer now is Italian small plates, which was exactly the kind of thing we were looking for. We took a spread of cold and warm things, including a vegetable pizza (vulcan was at the pizza forge, doing a damned fine job as far as I could see). This brought high quality salami and olives, zucchini (battered) and excellent pizzette.

A bottle of house white did the job very well and I’m glad to report that the service was excellent. Though perhaps less so for the lady next to us who had a glass of white poured down her dress.

So, a vast improvement in food, service and atmosphere, I’d like to go back some time and try out the rest of the pizza. Alas, we didn’t have the time to linger and watch some Antonioni, spontanaiety being more elusive thanks to my recent marriage to Mrs Woof.

8/10

#food #London

To see where else I’ve eaten go to the GoogleMap

Resto 2 – Holborn Dining Room, Holborn

January 21, 2019

Back in Blighty, I was to Holborn to meet a friend for dinner. He insisted that I book the Holborn Dining Room on the recommendation of Jay Rayner. (I don’t read The Guardian – not because of JR but because I can’t be arsed. As an academic this is quite the social disease.) In return I insisted we have one in the Princess Louise first, it wasn’t a difficult sell.

The HDR turned out to be in the Rosewood Hotel, seemingly a venue where superlawyers of various nations go to spend their Brexit earnings. We seemed conspicuous by our normalcy, perhaps that was why the waiter marched us past a whole slew of empty tables and plonked us in a corner at the far end of the room. Was he worried that we might make a break for it before settling our bill? Certainly Phil, with his double hip replacement, isn’t up to some Olympic-level table hurdling, so he needn’t have worried.

And besides, that’s not the way we roll.

This minor irritation aside the service was excellent throughout, as was the food. And at £23 for a steak and kidney pudding (accompanied by the richest sladge of gravy, poured steaming hot from the boat) I should bloody well hope so. But Rayner’s no liar, this stuff was the shit and no mistake. Fray Bentos seemed a very distant memory.

Sides of sprouts (a bold move in the post-festive season!) and chips were equally good even at the risk of pushing the bill to the yamma hamma end of expensive. If you’re on a budget and hungered for stodge load up on bread, it’s complimentary.* The cheapest wine comes in at £34 (if you’re drinking red) so bear that in mind too.

The room is a great barn of a place, quite masculine and, frankly, full of the kind of people I would usually cross the street to avoid. So a weird one this – I had an excellent dining experience that cost me a packet yet I couldn’t wait to get back to my usual milieu amongst the Pitmen of The Whippet for a digestif and a good chat about home.

6/10

*Though I forgot to check if there’s a cover charge.

#food #London

To see where else I’ve eaten go to the GoogleMap

Resto 1 of 2019 – Gaffel Haus, Berlin

January 17, 2019

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Rather a slack start on the reviewing front in 2019. It was a couple of weeks ago that we were in Berlin for a very brief visit. The arrival day food equation was very simple to calculate:-

Hunger + zero temperature + Berlin = Sausage

After a quick drink in the cocktail bar next door (Windhorst, highly recommended for drinks and music) we opted for the Kölnisch delights of Gaffel Haus as our sausage merchant. I was worried for the integrity of this place – from the outside it looked like a tourist trap – but once inside I was reassured. Yes, it was a tourist trap but the locals didn’t seem to mind and there were plenty of them in evidence.

The room is big with plenty of Köln memorabilia around the walls, enough to remind me of fun times in 2018. The menu had everything I expected (and wanted) and nothing more. So it was sausage, chips and sauerkraut with tiny beers on the side please.

The food didn’t disappoint (it’s not the most complicated cuisine to get right I guess) and the service was excellent. As the evening progressed the room filled up and we realised we were actually lucky to get a table. It was a good way to kick off the trip.

8/10

#food #Berlin

To see where else I’ve eaten go to the GoogleMap

Resto 45 Winchmore Hill Tandoori, Wichmore Hill

December 24, 2018
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One of these teams knows how an offside trap works. Can you guess which one?

Having watched Granit Xhaka and his defensive chums only just fail to sabotage a fine attacking display by Arsenal’s front four in a lunchtime kick off by the time we’d reached the food part of our post-match festivities in Winchmore Hill stomachs were empty but we were bonhomie full.

The WHT was buzzing of a pre-Chrimbo Saturday night. Did we want three popadoms? Did we hell. We wanted many popadoms. And rice. And naan. We wanted to tick off all of the clichés and possibly coin some more. The staff were gracious in indulging our middle aged goofery.

And we ate like kings in our own tiny minds.

8/10

#Food #London

To see where else I’ve eaten go to the GoogleMap

Resto 44 The Betjeman Arms, St Pancras

December 23, 2018

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Christmas is the time to catch up with old friends and family isn’t it? The Betjeman is an old friend; a reliable standby to meet other friends freshly arrived on trains from the North or fellow football fans on the way to various matches. So I’m well used to the pub side of the operation but less so with the restauranty bit.

Trying to remember the prices of the food (a key part of a review being the price/quality quotient) I looked at the JB’s website to find that they weren’t as high as I recalled. But I also discovered atrocious grammar and an insidious whiff of nostalgia-laden commercial bullshit in the copy.

‘Reminiscent of 1920’s nostalgia and times gone by; a charming spot to wait for your train to Paris whilst soaking up the iconic atmosphere of The Grand Terrace. ‘

Were one of my students to have written this guff I would have been forgiving of youthful lapses in grammar, syntax, honesty and style. The misplaced apostrophe, the redundant semi-colon, the appearance of the hideous ‘i’ word, and the frankly idiotic use of the word charming to describe a ‘spot’ usually inhabited by drunks of varied income and states of dishevelment.

Ah but that 1920’s (sic) nostalgia! Who wouldn’t yearn for the days of chronic unemployment, civil war in Ireland, Armenian genocide, the rise of fascism and sterile, bat-dominated Test cricket? Really they could have gone much further back for the authentic whiff of nostalgia – their toilets need no linguistic gloss, being genuinely mediaeval most of the time.

But what about the food? It’s standard pub stuff – burgers, fish & chips, platters to share and a smattering of vegetable things. Being already booked for the India Club (a room suffused with nostalgia in a way that marketing arseholes just can’t comprehend and thus recreate) I wanted a light lunch. Moules frites did the job and unlike my previous pub moules didn’t give me gastro enteritis. Which is a shame, I could do with losing a bit of weight.

The moules were cooked nicely but the cream and chilli sauce was notable by the absence of chilli. I wonder if anyone in the kitchen had actually tasted the dish. A glass of white on the side was fine. My fellow diners were unimpressed by the fish to batter ratio on their no doubt iconic fish & chips. The room is fine, in fact the height of the ceiling does give a sense of light and space even on the dullest of December days but with erratic service and bog standard grub there are better places to eat at the same price within staggering distance of the Betj.

It is, however, a good station pub.

5/10 (a mark off for whoever wrote the website)

#Food #London

To see where else I’ve eaten go to the GoogleMap

Resto 43 Tavistock Tandoori, Bloomsbury

December 13, 2018

After the final S&L seminar of the year (and it was a good one, thanks to Dave Dee) I suddenly found myself craving Indian food. Which would usually mean Motijheel in this neck of the woods. But oh dear, it did look bleak in there as we approached.

So we strolled on, following the scent of spice for not very long before we arrived at Tavistock Tandoori, which had at least half a dozen customers as the M. In the same room. With the same menu. And the same music. Why mess with a seemingly increasingly unappealing format? I can think of a £eason why.

Well, I’m old fashioned so it still appeals to me – I went for a chicken rezalla with the usual trimmings and sag bhaji. Bottled Cobra was fine and the curry, though a bit on the sweet side for my taste, was good enough. Chutneys, popadoms, rice, nan and sag were all decent.

The meal rounded off with a comic air as a regular customer stuck his head through the door to exchange some Baba-like bants with the waiter but by this time we were already halfway to the door and unable to join in the fun in any meaningful way. Which was a shame. Still, for curry in this part of town it’s worth going the extra half mile to The Rusty Bike for something beyond the bog standard.

7/10

#Food #London

To see where else I’ve eaten go to the GoogleMap

Resto 42 De Peerdestal, Antwerp

December 2, 2018

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After a rather intense couple of week of starting a new part-time job and beginning the production of a new play (of which more soon) it was a real pleasure to be able to switch off for a day or two for an overnight trip to Antwerp.

Key to kicking off this kind of jaunt is selecting the restaurant for the arrival meal. Antwerp was new to me so I was happy to let Mike take a pop and with one caveat he made an excellent choice in De Peerdestal.

It was a late lunch so were concerned that we might be the only people in the room for the afternoon. However, with a big party on one table and a smattering of other customers there was enough atmosphere to give the room a bit of a buzz.

The downstairs room is dominated by the back end of a horse (not a live one you’ll be glad to know; though I remember some meals where I wish the person seated opposite me was sitting under a horse’s arse) and this is a rather unsubtle clue to De P’s USP. I didn’t go for horse up front, instead opting for a shrimp bisque (shrimps also being a local speciality) which was deliciously fishy and salty.

The fact that it arrived about two minutes after an apéritif of gin and tonic was an indication of the one flaw in the meal – erratic timekeeping. We took the hasty delivery of the starters as an indication that they wanted us out of there in a hurry. Boy were we wrong.

Anyway, I snaffled up the G&T and we moved onto mains (this time perfectly accompanied by a bottle of the ‘Bosch’s – Stellen not Hieronymous – finest red). Fillet of horse was a new experience for me, but a good one. Lean and flavoursome with a good dollop of béarnaise and mushrooms, this was excellent cooking. Stodge was chips (cos, like Belgium) delivered in a gurt big bowl to share. And they were very good, I wanted to tip the bowlful into my mouth.

We were feeling pretty convivial by now and it being a holiday we decided to get stuck into dessert. Some devil inside prompted me to ask for a Grand Marnier alongside my trio of lemon things. The waitress pointed out that since I already had a dose of limencello coming on the plate I hardly needed more citrus booze in me. It was difficult to argue with such powerful logic.

By this time it was around half three and we’d been in the company of the horse for a couple of hours. It would take us an hour to take delivery of dessert and the bill, which seemed odd given the way the meal had started. But mebbe it was for our own good … a little rallentando at that stage of the day (and a siesta on arrival at the hotel) ensured that we could make the most of gatecrashing a 70th birthday party later in the day.

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Partying like Belgians – birthday boy is with the grey hair in the background

8/10

#Food #Antwerp

To see where else I’ve eaten go to the GoogleMap


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