My friend KK is so organised. Again he visited from Switzerland and he’d already made a lunch booking for us at The Dairy before I even learned he was going to be in town that weekend (we had discussed visiting on his prior visit here!). And two Saturdays ago, that’s where I met him, at The Dairy in Clapham Common. It’s a tiny place from the front (blink and you’ll miss it) but there’s enough seating within. I very much liked its pseudo-rustic cosy atmosphere.

Along with the menus, we received the following little snack: a Marmite crisp topped with cheese and onion. It was a very promising start, with the usually very assertive trio of flavours toned down into a very pleasing amalgam.

Marmite crisp, cheese, onion

There were a couple of menus for us to peruse. We didn’t choose the tasting menu (£45 per head) but instead chose a number of things we liked the sound of from the a la carte menu. We were originally advised to choose a snack, a vegetable, a fish or meat and a sweet for each of us but we ended up all over the shop on the menu. Just the one snack, one veg, two fishes and two meats between the two of us and we’d decide on dessert later!

Straight after putting in our order and returning our menus, we received bone marrow butter on a stone and a little canvas bag with a small round loaf of homemade sourdough nestled within. Oh, it was warm and cosy within that bag! This was one of the best breads I’d received in a restaurant in recent memory and I could have made a meal of just that and the luxuriously meaty butter.

Bone marrow butter, homemade sourdough

Our only snack was what we thought sounded like the most exciting thing on the snack menu – the Cured Iberico presa, parsnip, hazelnut (£6.50). The slices of  tender pork shoulder were here topped with parsnip crisps and shaved hazelnut. Delicious but yes, snack sized!

Cured Iberico presa, parsnip, hazelnut

Our vegetable was the Hay smoked curd, Jerusalem artichokes, roasted onions, chanterelles (£8.50). What impressed me was not only the flavour combinations but the variety of different textures too. The Jerusalem artichokes showed up in three different ways on this plate: braised to a slippery smoothness, mashed into a puree and fried to a crisp. Inspiring!

Hay smoked curd, Jerusalem artichokes, roasted onions, chanterelles

Our fish dishes both arrived together. The ‘Lady Hamilton’ smoked cod, charred leeks, sorrel, fried bread (£8.50) was delicious. I loved the way everything combined – the smokiness of the fish, the sweet and smokey leeks, the zesty zing of the sorrel and the crunch of the fried bread.

'Lady Hamilton' smoked cod, charred leeks, sorrel, fried bread

The ‘Julie Girl’ monkfish, toasted cauliflower, romanesco, dulse butter (£10) was equally excellent. Neither was “better” than the other; they were just different. I loved the way cauliflower, a normally kind of dull vegetable, was here again used in different ways – there was roasted cauliflower, fried crumbs, puree, and raw shavings. I’m still not entirely sure what dulse butter was but the slick of butter was quite nice under everything.

'Julie Girl' monkfish, toasted cauliflower, romanesco, dulse butter

Onto the meats! The Chicken oyster, crispy skin, cellar kimchi, burnt kale (£9) was a fabulous combination of two of my favourite chicken parts with homemade kimchi and the fashionable crispy kale. That pressed chicken skin terrine thing….wow. That was one of the best chicken skin things I’ve ever had. I have no idea what to call it. This plate was perfectly put together with the rich and the sour balancing ever so well.

Chicken oyster, crispy skin, cellar kimchi, burnt kale

We finished with the Suckling pig belly and cheek, cabbage, apple & walnut chutney (£10) which was also very good. The cheeks were braised and tender and the belly was roasted and also tender and both matched well to the sweet and tangy chutney. The cabbage came in large strips which were visually pleasing but y’know, they were just large strips of blanched cabbage. That said, I can see why they were included – their blandness were a foil to the richness everywhere else on the plate.

Suckling pig belly and cheek, cabbage, apple & walnut chutney

Of the three desserts on the list, only one really shouted out at us (we weren’t in the mood for rice pudding or pannacotta). Our choice of Salted caramel, cacao, malted barley ice cream (£6.50) was just incredible. It was all very moreish without being too sweet and cloying.

Salted caramel, cacao, malted barley ice cream

We were very happy with our meal. We were made even more happy with the lovely petits fours that came before our coffees. What struck me about their sweets was how they all weren’t too sweet – and the petit fours were no exception. Tucked within the folds of an old menu were pieces of short and buttery biscuit, a herby green cake with a red berry centre, and a pear jelly coated in sherbet powder.

Petits Fours

With a large bottle of sparkling water, 2 double espressos and service, the total came to about £37 each. I’ll be back – I can’t wait to see what other dishes they come up with!

The Dairy
15 The Pavement
London SW4 0HY

The Dairy on Urbanspoon

The owners of The Dairy have recently opened another restaurant in Clapham – The Manor. If you’re visiting London, I wouldn’t recommend trying both the restaurants on the same visit as there’s quite a bit of overlap between the two menus. My friend KK learned that the hard way.

I only recently heard that the Barcelonan chain Mas Q Menos had opened in London but it wasn’t until they opened their second restaurant on Wardour Street (the first is in Holborn) that I finally made my way there. On first impressions, the place is very promising. There’s an open, welcoming space and the ingredients were all on display in the front and all clearly were of high quality.

It took an absolute age for anything to happen while we were there though. Despite it being quite empty (there were only three tables full that afternoon), orders took forever, drinks arrived at a snail’s pace, even waiters moved in slow motion.

The first dish to (finally) come out was a toasted sandwich with Mallorcan cured sausage (sobrasada de Mallorca), brie cheese, and honey. Ah, one of my favourite combinations! It was a good thing this sandwich was excellent as I was on the verge of losing my patience with the place. This sandwich was generously filled with all my favourite things and perfectly toasted.

Sobrassada, Cheese and Honey Sandwich

One of the well-known offerings in the restaurant is their toasted coca flatbreads, a Catalan flatbread here topped with various ingredients. We had one with small sardines, seasonal tomatoes, rocket salad, piquillo peppers and spring onions. The sardines were clearly from a tin and of very high quality and were delicious. Excellent.

Little Sardines, Piquillo Peppers, Rocket, Tomato, Onion on Coca Bread

A slice of Spanish omelette (tortilla de patatas) wasn’t exactly a dud but it was a bit dull. But fine, it was fine, we ate it.

Tortilla with Tomato Bread

The food, in general, then is very good. Service, however, if you couldn’t guess, was extremely slow and I hope it’s improved since we visited. It’s the perfect place for a light lunch or an after work drink with snacks though and I’m glad it’s so much easier to get good Catalan/Spanish snacks here in London!

Mas Q Menos
68-70 Wardour Street
London W1F 0TB

Mas Q Menos on Urbanspoon

I went to visit my brother in Leigh-on-Sea a couple weekends ago and was utterly charmed by the little town, yes, by the sea. I loved the old fishing village of Old Leigh and I loved the independent shops and restaurants along the Broadway. And I loved all the food I ate while there. Dinner was at Agostinho’s, a Portuguese restaurant I’d identified as promising and we made a booking for the Saturday night.

Agostinho is the head chef in the kitchen and his very chatty and friendly wife leads the front of house team. Agostinho is from Madeira, which as a fact by itself isn’t odd but what is odd is that the other Portuguese restaurants in the Leigh/Southend area (there are three in total, I think) are all run by Madeirans. The only things I knew about this Portuguese island were the basket rides down the hills and the fortified wine. According to Wikipedia, a particularly Madeiran speciality is fish with fried bananas….. ok, I’d see what else Madeira has to offer then!

Do make sure to book a table – the place was packed when we got there at 9am. The menu is full of lots of tempting things but we decided to share just the one starter when we saw the size of the main courses. To start, one order of their homemade Pasteis De Bacalhau (£5.95). These fried morsels sure beat any of the manufactured frozen pasteis many Portuguese cafes use – these were light and fluffy and full of fish (and boneless!).

Pasteis De Bacalhau

We shared two of the mains. A Portuguese Caldeira De Peixe E Mariscos (£16.95) was a huge warming bowl of a tomato based seafood stew. Various fishes, mussels, and squid were found swimming inside along with chunks of potato and slices of peppers. The dish is perfect for any seafood lover and the broth was fantastic. We had rice on the side to soak up that broth.

Caldeira De Peixe E Mariscos

Rice

We also split an Espetada a Moda da Madeira (£14.75), a grilled skewer of sirloin and bay leaves in a wine sauce with lots of garlic. If this is Madeiran food, then Madeiran food is insanely delicious. The meat was perfectly tender (medium-rare at our request) and I was mopping up that fabulously winey sauce with the equally perfectly sauteed potatoes.

Espetada a Moda da Madeira

I was feeling guilty about the lack of vegetables and ordered a side of Runner Beans (£4.00 for two servings) for us. Simple (well, simple and butter-tossed) and just what we needed on the side.

Runner Beans

Dinner

Despite the both of us feeling pretty bloated, I insisted on squeezing in a dessert, especially when I saw (from a neighbouring table) that they had a homemade Portuguese Molotofe Pudding (Caramel Soufflé), Roasted Almonds (£5.25). This light and truly very airy dessert is like a regular caramel flan but with the texture and density of clouds. I mean, c’mon, it’s mostly air! I don’t think any of the whipped cream was necessary – if it’s just me and the Molotofe, I’ll be happy.

Portuguese Molotofe Pudding (Caramel Soufflé), Roasted Almonds

It was no surprise then that this restaurant was packed that Saturday night. Service was friendly, the food was excellent, the room was warm and cosy. It’s almost the opposite of many of the newer, louder wine bars in the area but I like it very much for that reason!

Agostinho’s
157 Leigh Road
Leigh-on-Sea, Essex
SS9 1JF

Yes, another local to Croydon review! This time it’s the West Croydon branch of Dosa n Chutny, the much beloved restaurant in Tooting. I was keen to see how the Croydon branch compared. I’ll just be upfront and say that service was an utter shambles the Sunday afternoon we visited but luckily the food was excellent. Hopefully the service does improve once the front of house and the cooks all communicate with each other.

Anyway, to drink, we ordered Fresh Lemon Juice (£2.25) and Orange + Ginger + Apple Juice (£2.95). Both were excellent but it was the latter that stood out, having a perfect balance of all three ingredients. Not too gingery, not too thin and appley, not tasting just of orange juice. Just perfect.

Our food all arrived at once. A Special Malasa Dosa (£3.50) turned out to have two kinds of potato mixture in the middle. Apart from the major colour differences, they both tasted pretty similar. The different chutneys were all coconut based and the green and orange ones had a fabulous kick to them. Great sambhar too. The dosa was both soft and crisp and a most excellent specimen.

Special Malasa Dosa

Inside the Special Malasa Dosa

A Bhindi Do Pyaza (£4.75) was well made and helped us with our vegetable content that lunchtime. I can’t resist any good okra dish.

Bhindi Do Pyaza

We ordered a Veechu Parotha (£1.50) to mop up the gravy and it was a good, tasty, if small, flatbread for it.

Veechu Parotha

Despite my seeing our waiter write down our order very very clearly, the kitchen managed to get one of our dishes incorrect (a lot of incorrect orders were also going to other tables that afternoon). There was a bit of a long wait then for our correct order of Paneer Majestic (£4.75). But what arrived was worth the wait! It was indeed majestic! Fingers of paneer were battered and fried and then tossed with a fried mixture of garlic, cashews, spices and …spinach? fenugreek? I’m still not entirely sure what the crispy greens were but the dish was utterly fantastic.

Paneer Majestic

After all of that, we decided to order another dosa to help mop up the rest of the bhindi dish. A Paper Roast Dosa (£3.50) came out swiftly – I do love these extra thin, extra crispy dosas and the one at Dosa n Chutny has the added benefit of being very cheap. Oh yeah, the prices are pretty good here, aren’t they?

Paper Roast Dosa

Good stuff. I only wish it was within walking distance of our house! Oh well, the bus ride is ok too.

Dosa n Chutny
466 London Road
Croydon CR0 2SS

Another travel post! I was in Genoa in Northern Italy for work a few weeks ago (my first trip there) and despite it being a very short visit, I managed to pack in quite a lot of eating. I really wasn’t very prepared for the trip, having to spend more time on the work part of things, but the city surprised me – it turns out that Genoa has the largest medieval city centre in Europe, an entirely rejuvenated old port area, and plenty of affordable and excellent eating. I also had a short list of the food highlights of Genoa and Liguria (thanks for the list, A!) and I did manage to eat all the main things on it!

It all started on my first lunch break when I wandered into Zena Zuena on Via XX Settembre. This “fast food” eatery had a number of foccacias and pizzas on display and locals were crowding the counter to get a couple slices for their midday meal. I joined the scrum and ordered a bowl of minestrone alla genovese and slice of Focaccia di Recco.

Lunch

The minestrone in Genoa is tinged green, being laced with the fabulous pesto of the region, and was served with a slice of the typical bread of the region – focaccia, topped with lots of olive oil and a bit of rosemary (tucked in the napkin in the corner). The foccacia di Recco is also known as focaccia al formaggio; it’s not like the usual thicker focaccia but is made of dough as is used with pizza, rolled very thinly and is used to sandwich a layer of cheese (usually a fresh stracchino). The entirely thing is cooked in a pizza oven until the bread is cooked and the cheese is oozing out.

After work, while wandering around the medieval centre, making the most of the fading light, I encountered many enticing food shops and bakeries and not having a moment for aperitivo, I stepped into one bakery with trays of farinata in their window.

Farinata

A snack sized portion of farinata was sliced off for me – only 60 cents! I think many people do this when alone as they didn’t blink when I asked for it.

Snack Sized Portion of Farinata - 60 cents!

As for the farinata – it was a thin baked pancake made of chickpea flour, not unlike the socca of Nice. I loved it.

Anyway, that little snack was a precursor to a proper meal – I had identified Trattoria Ugo as a place serving traditional Genovese cuisine at very reasonable prices and I went early to ensure I’d get a seat. I needn’t have worried; the trattoria was quiet on a Tuesday night but not worryingly quiet – many locals trickled in through the evening.

In the Trattoria

For my primo, pansotti con salsa di noci, a very typical pasta dish from Genoa. Pansotti are a type of ravioli that’s normally shaped as triangles but here were made into semicircles; they’re filled with wild greens and the intensely creamy and cheesy walnut sauce paired incredibly with them.

Inside the Pansotti

For my main course, I ordered the house special – acciughe ripiene (stuffed anchovies), served with breaded and fried mushrooms, a slice of aubergine prepared the same way, and grilled vegetables. I tried asking what the anchovies were stuffed with but there didn’t seem to be an actual answer – I believe they’re always stuffed with the same thing: cheese, garlic and breadcrumbs. Here they were fried but I saw many delicatessens also selling them roasted. Delicious.

Acciughe Ripiene

For dessert, I chose a budino alla vaniglia con cioccolato fondente – a homemade vanilla pudding with dark chocolate. This smooth pudding was a little firmer than a pannacotta but was no less delicious for it.

Budino alla Vaniglia con Cioccolato Fondente

Three courses (without drinks) totaled €27.

The next day, I used my long lunch break to trek to Antica Sa’Pesta, an old restaurant in the medieval part of the city. The place looks like time stood still from the beginning of the century, with its old wooden tables with shared seating.

Antica Sa' Pesta

I ordered only a single dish, their gnocchi with pesto (there’s usually something with pesto each day) – I had heard great things about their pesto and I wasn’t to be let down. The gnocchi were excellent but it was the pesto that stuck with me – it was an extraordinarily vibrant green and with a great basil and cheese flavour. If it was one thing that surprised me, it was the amount of cheese that went into the pesto here.

Gnocchi with Pesto

Various baked pies and dishes were also on offer for takeaway. I wanted to try one of the vegetable pies that are so common in the region and went with a slice of torta di bietole, made with Swiss chard, to takeaway.

Torta di Bietole

I ate it later after work and though it was a bit on the soggy side, it was fantastically delicious. There was a thick layer of a fresh cheese on top of the cooked chard and the flavour of it all had me wolfing it down with my fingers.

After the pesto lunch, on the way back to work, I grabbed a gelato from Cremeria della Erbe, meant to be one of the best gelato purveyors in the city. I was surprised by how soft the gelato was but was reassured by a local that this was how it’s meant to be. My strawberry sorbet and coffee-ciok (coffee gelato studded with milk chocolate bits) were fabulous.

Gelato number two

That evening, I sought a shop that has been selling candied fruit for centuries – Pietro Romanengo fu Stefano.

Pietro Romanengo fu Stefano

Inside, I found the saleswoman wrapping Christmas pandolce … for Carluccio’s! So yeah, Carluccio’s pandolce is from this most famous of Genovese shops. I’ll be trying one this Christmas for sure! Anyway, I returned home this time with some of their candied chestnuts (scented with a bit of orange blossom) and chocolate covered candied orange peel, some of our favourite things.

On my last morning, I returned to a cafe just a few doors down from Pietro Romanengo fu Stefano – this cafe was Fratelli Klainguti and it and the candied fruit shop were both greatly favoured by Italy’s most famous composer, Giuseppi Verdi, who spent over 30 winters in the city.

Fratelli Klainguti

I decided to try their Falstaff, Verdi’s most loved hazelnut paste filled brioche.

Verdi's Falstaff

With a cappuccino, that was my breakfast that morning. The Falstaff was very good (the hazelnut paste was incredible) but to me, didn’t need that extra sugar fondant on top. Verdi clearly liked his pastries very very sweet!

A Cappuccino and Falstaff

There’s even a signed picture from Verdi himself, proclaiming that the cafe’s Falstaff is better than his own!

Verdi

Right before I headed to the airport, I visited the Mercato Orientale in search of some fresh pasta and pesto to bring home. I did find some but I also discovered a busy, vibrant market with beautiful fish, meat and produce of the region. Oh, how I wished I could have brought it all home!

Untitled

If you’re looking for more Ligurian specialities, the ones I didn’t have time to seek out were: stoccafisso accomodato (a stew of dried unsalted cod), coniglio alla ligure (Ligurian-style rabbit), trippe (tripe). And you know what? The city is extremely pretty too – make sure you find time to visit the Cattedrale di San Lorenzo (avoiding lunchtime when it’s closed!) and the numerous palazzi.

Cattedrale di San Lorenzo

Untitled

Porto Antico

All my photos from my short trip can be found in this Flickr album.

There’s been quite a buzz about The Palomar, a relatively new Middle Eastern/Mediterranean restaurant in London on the quiet end of Rupert Street. I understand that this is the latest outpost of a restaurant group in Jerusalem, where I understand the cuisine is truly a melting pot of various cultures. I love this kind of food and booked in a Saturday lunch for me and my friend living in Switzerland. It was empty when we first arrived (we were seated at the back) but filled up later on.

On the recommendation of our waiter, we ordered a Polpo à la Papi (£9), a mixture of octopus, mulukhiyah leaves, chickpeas, spinach and yoghurt. It was fresh and delicious but the portion size was very, very, very small. Very small indeed. It’s difficult to share even between two; I found myself extracting a miniature tentacle and then hoping that there was another for my friend.

Polpo à la Papi

To sample a number of things, we ordered The Daily 6 (£12), a daily assortment of mezze served in cute little ramekins. These were great – I love variety and hence I love mezze. Of particular note were the lentils (under the dollop of yoghurt) and the slow cooked aubergine (middle).

The Daily 6

Unfortunately, no bread was served with the Daily 6 (!!!) which meant we had to order some extra. We plumped for the Kubaneh (£5), a Yemeni pot baked bread served with tahini and grated tomatoes – the other bread available on the menu (I think it was pita) didn’t sound as exciting. And yes, it was excellent, fluffy crumbed bread for mopping everything up. I enjouyed the grated tomatoes (a smooth tomato and olive oil puree) but found the tahini too cloying.

Kubaneh

Around this time, a mini portion of Spring salad was deposited on our table, compliments of the chef. According to the menu, it contained fennel, asparagus, kohlrabi, sunflower seeds and poppy seeds and a feta vinaigrette; unfortunately, I found it quite boring, especially when compared to the luscious aubergines and spreads already at our table. I appreciate the gesture though (I do realise that the kitchen had clearly made up too much for an order and our waiter was told to give away the extras!).

Spring Salad

Our single order of shakshukit (£9.50) took forever to arrive because apparently it’s a “main course” though its size would disagree. This was a “deconstructed kebab” with minced meat, yoghurt, tahini, “The 4 tops” and pita bread. I really had no idea how to eat this, especially with the 4 colourful toppings (I can’t remember what they all were but the red was harissa). We ended up stirring it all together and the prevailing flavour was that of the tahini.

Shakshukit

For some reason, none of the desserts on the menu spoke to us and we ended up going to The Pudding Bar pop up for that. Overall, it was a bit of a mixed bag. It’s a meh from me.

The Palomar
34 Rupert Street
London W1D 6DN

The Palomar on Urbanspoon

Ebi furai is the Japanese for fried prawns and I enjoyed many a deep fried prawn while in Nagoya last year. It’s one of the specialties of that city and it’s quite a simple one to recreate at home (if you don’t mind the deep frying!).

Ebi Furai

Somehow the idea of it entered my head and I got to cooking ebi furai at home. And yes, it’s quite simple and there must be a million recipes for it online. Here’s mine – making it a million and one. I served mine by themselves with a bit of cabbage salad and rice and tonkatsu sauce (Bulldog) on the side.

Ebi Furai Dinner

Ebi Furai
serves 2.

King prawns or tiger prawns – enough for two (I used 9-10)
plain flour
salt
2 eggs, beaten
panko
oil for frying (I used sunflower)

Prepare your prawns. Peel them if they still have their shells on, leaving just the tail bit. Remove the vein in the back and then just run the knife along the length of the belly side of the prawn – just cut a shallow slit – you don’t want to go all the way through. Then, again still shallowly, just slice gently crosswise down the length of the prawn, again on the belly side. These cuts will make the prawns stay nice and straight (pretty!).

Crumbing Prawns

Get 3 bowls ready and in the first put the flour (salted), in the second the beaten eggs and in the third the panko. With each prawn: roll in flour, then in the eggs, then in flour again, eggs again, and finally panko. Prep all the prawns like this.

Deep Frying

Heat enough oil in a saucepan for deep frying (not too hot). Deep fry – it should take just a few minutes until the panko coating is golden. Drain well. Serve with rice, thinly shredded cabbage (crisped in ice water and then drained well) and tonkatsu sauce (or tartar sauce). It’s quite nice paired with a bit of Japanese potato salad too!

Can I also suggest frying sliced courgettes in the same way? I single dipped in the flour and egg and they turned out fantastically! It’s a good way to use up a glut if you have one.

Courgette Furai

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