Friday, 30 January 2015

Getting Our Sandwich On "WichThursdays

Some of my favourite people to follow on instagram are the chefs of the Duck and Waffle. Not only because it looks like one of the most fun kitchens to work in, but their food has me drooling every time. Only cementing my need to head up into the clouds for a no holds back feast. 

Maddie text me at the same time I saw Tom Cenci's (Head Chef) post of a pop-up he was doing along side Daniel Young, creator of Young and Foodish, so obviously we rounded up our troops and booked a slot asap. 

Daniel is a food critic who has worked all over the world. He has won awards for online writing and has written books, articles all to bring you guys the very latest on the best food. His pop-ups start with BurgerMondays, PizzaTuesday, SpagWednesday, WichThursday, FryFriday, and CoffeeSaturdays. As he informed up he now has Chefs asking to be apart of his pop-ups rather than the other day around. He brings all of this extraordinary food from various locations around London but with the concept being remarkable food in unremarkable places. 

This week, WichThursday was held in Andrews Cafe, Holborn, somewhere Daniel likes to use a lot as a venue. It is just a regular greasy spoon cafe on Grey's Inn Road, with huge chalk board menus covering the walls and simple wooden chairs, but this time with some pretty special chefs in the kitchen. 

Thats Chef Cenci in the middle there ^^

Maddie, Tilly, Cam and I rocked up not really knowing what to expect and where surprised when we reached the cafe. Well most of us where surprised, Cam had done his homework and knew what to expect. Nevertheless we slipped inside and into a table for 4. 

Daniel immediately appeared at our table with a welcoming smile and explained about the selection of drinks and how the evening would work. All round us people were at various stages of their 3 sandwich meal and we were eager to get stuck in. I had barely eaten all day in preparation and was subsequently starving. 

The first course arrived in front of us, an open flat bread sandwich or 'Aubergine Kebab' consisting of smokey, burnt aubergine, yoghurt, sumac, and sriracha. 

It was a seriously good opener. Heres a close up of the delicious square of goodness...

I honestly didn't want this to end. With the yoghurt mingling with the smokey aubergine and little hits of the spicy sriracha sauce to cut through it all with the delightfully warm chewy flat bread underneath. 

I can't say this even touched the sides and with the plates swiftly removed we waited in anticipation for sandwich number too and surveyed our surroundings. 

Then it arrived, meltingly soft, slow cooked spiced lamb, piled high with a truffled slaw sandwiched between 2 grilled slices of sourdough toast that had been smothered with a grape husk mustard. 

Each bite made you mmmmmmm through it. 

It didnt stop there. Lying by the side of the sandwiches were 'corn pops'. I took a bite before I was told what it was and the flavour surprise in my mouth was a delight. Corn in the cobs, rubbed in a jerk mayonnaise and then rolled in toasted coconut. Oh. My. God. 

Corn on the cob will never be the same again. And I don't even like coconut.

Daniel came over as we were silenced by the food in front of us and greedily licking our fingers to make sure we didn't miss anything. 

He chatted to us about putting the evening together and the different pop-ups he did. After that night and following him on Instagram.  I honestly want to go to them all. Especially the pizza ones, and the pasta ones, and the burgers.... 

If you want to drool over his evenings, or want to go to them, follow him @youngandfoodish on 
insta, or like his Facebook page or just head to the website

If you like food, its a must, and a very different evening too! 

Just as you thought it was all over, dessert rolled in. 

A chocolate mousse with drunken cherry's running through it, smooshed between a gloriously chewy yet crisp pistachio macaroon. 

Sadly this defeated me, but Tilly, knowing me oh so well, was waiting in the wings like a starved dessert vulture and swept in the moment my spoon paused. 

After all, we didn't want the chefs to think we didnt' like it, I mean really, she was taking one for the team. 

I can't say all of these photos are mine, there was a wonderful photographer lurking round taking pictures of it all. Chris Coulson has kindly allowed me to pinch some of his, as he's much better at this photography lark than I am with my smashed up, long suffering iPhone. 

Have a sneak peak at his flickr here:  
to see more of his photos of the evening and other foodie delights he's been around! 

This was such a good evening and so nice to even chat to the lovely Chef Tom at the end. Im hoping eventually I'll get my evening up in the sky to see them in their true habitat!! 

Thursday, 29 January 2015

The Pig, Brockenhurst

At the beginning of the week Maddie and I decided to put our time off work to some good use and scoot on down to Dorset.

It isn't like I ever need an excuse to head out for a meal, but as it was Charlie's birthday last week, well, we just had to head out for a bite to eat.

The Pig is a firm favourite at home. A country house hotel nestled down the back roads of Brockenhurst. What makes it so special is its attitude to food, they have a 25 mile radius menu created with local ingredients and based upon what is growing in their walled kitchen garden. A lot of the ingredients are hand picked on the day to ensure maximum freshness, which also adds to its uniqueness.

As you are welcomed into the house it is an immediately cosy environment with waiting staff in casual jeans and converse.

We were lead into the bar, as the fire lit drawing room was quite full, and settled down into the squishy sofas. 

I love the decor of these rooms and who wouldn't just love a fully stocked bar like that in their house!! 

We ordered our drinks from the menus, sneakily inside pig raising handbooks, and of course we couldn't not order some of the 'piggy bits' to munch on.

Warm crackling with apple sauce, mini salamis and chorizo, pork rillettes 

Bacon jam with cheese straws for dipping 

and lastly some piggy scotch quails eggs.

These barely touched the sides, the bacon jam was just beyond anything I've tasted recently, well all of it. I could have solely feasted on any of these items alone.

After taking forever to decide over the tasty menu we were lead into the conservatory for our meal. The garden room is to keep in with the whole foraging idea for the menu

My favourite part is the beautifully tiled floor. 

They have one in the bathroom too!! I would be really ok with this being my house.

We didnt have to wait long before the starters were on the table in front of us. 
Dad was overjoyed to be able to have lamb kidneys (at least they could stink out someone else kitchen...) I was assured they were delicious though I can't say I was tempted to try them. I know, I know, poor chef form!

Charlie and I plumped for the smoked lamb belly with beetroot. I enjoyed this but we both agreed it was a touch on the greasy side. If there had been more acidity on the plate, either pickling one of the beetroots or just a more acidic dressing, it would have balanced out better and been able cut through it. Not that there was much left on my plate...

Maddie and Mum went for the pheasant terrine. This was lovely and coarse, just how Maddie likes it and again there wasn't even a morsel left for me to try! I just wasn't fast enough.

Aren't the little piggies on the plate just adorable?

Now I'm sorry for the lack of variation on the meals, there were so many tasty things to try but 3 of us ended up with the same main! 

Mum had the lambs liver, topped with crispy onions, kale and mash. I did manage to get a bite of it and it was divine. Slightly pink in the middle with the most incredible flavour! All the old school cuts and bits of offal are really making a come back at the moment. The key to any of this is freshness. I think a lot of people would be scared to cook these at home, but I highly suggest being brave and ordering something different!

Maddie had the pork casserole with a suet crust.  A hearty mix of large chunks of pork and celeriac, though it did need a big dollop of the garlic mash to mop up all the juicy parts. 

Dad, Charlie and I had the veal cheek. This just, melted. I mean we didnt even need to knives on the tables. It broke and fell away under our forks.

It came accompanied with a little croquette that was filled with, what I can only think of as flavoured fat that once it was deep fried, melted away and then when you cut into it, it just added to the gravy on the plate. The crispy outside casing added another wonderful crunchy texture to the dish. 

Honestly I never wanted this to end. It was just bliss. 

Now, for lack of main courses, Ive done you guys a solid and went full throttle with desserts. I don't know why as I was so full even drinking down the last of my wine was a struggle. Well, almost a struggle...

Im glad I did as I came across a dessert that floated my boat so hard, it was unreal.

Meet my one and only, a baked Madeira and caramel tart with bay leaf ice cream....  a crispy top with the smoothest filling and the almost savoury ice cream cut through the sweet caramel. I was silenced.

Maddie had a seriously good apple tart tatin

Mum had some forced rhubarb, we weren't quite sure what the poor rhubarb had been forced to do, but whatever it was, it was a decidedly tasty outcome.  

Charlie had, what was essentially a massive quenelle of chocolate mousse, which I have to say sounded much better on the menu than what appeared.

Dad, well Dad was Dad and had a selection of New Forest cheeses, but I think at the end of the day our eyes were all bigger than our stomachs! 

We topped all of this off with the most delicious sweet sparkling Muscat wine and a tiny little happy birthday piggy for the birthday boy!

We had to roll ourselves our of the conservatory and back to the car. 

I think the beauty of the pig is the simplicity of it and the attention to detail. From the floors and the sitting rooms, to the decor of the rooms and the collection of glasses on the scrubbed wooden tables.

Apparently you can't book a room in the hotel on the weekend for about a year, and even during the week your looking at, at least a months wait!

They've recently expanded their collection to The Pig in the Wall at Southampton, The Pig near Bath, which I presume is near Bath and The Pig at the Beach, which is down in Studland, Dorset. 

With its ever changing menu I could never get bored of going back here, but I would never turn up without a reservation if any of you are planning a trip!!

Head to their website for info :  

Square Meal

Thursday, 22 January 2015

SMACK, Lobster Deli, Mayfair

When you think of lobster, certain words spring to mind like decadent, treat and mostly expensive. Recently there has been a surge in bringing types of produce that were usually reserved for high end restaurants, to the masses.

We now have places offering these fine ingredients for a fraction of the cost that one would perhaps expect them to be. They are also served with an entirely different attitude. Burger and Lobster appeared with their £20 offering back in 2011 and no booking policy. Bubbledogs burst onto the scene with their pairing of the humble hog dog in the midst of a champagne bar. It brings mighty ingredients down off the high shelf for all to access.

For someone such as myself who doesn't exactly have the worlds biggest budget (I know I could have fooled you and anyone who's knows my restaurant habits) I fully endorse these ideas and I don't feel like the noble lobster is treated with any less respect.

The guys behind Burger and Lobster are back with a bang. Smack is their latest tasty offering nestled down Binney Street, a small side street between Bond Street tube and Selfridges. Its a simple concept, lobster rolls take out or eat in.

The decor is also as simple, a room upstairs for those munching quickly on the run. 

Venture downstairs for an atmosphere that invites you to spend more time eating, though the bar stool and wooden counter furniture is still the same.

Murals of mermaids watch you eat and you can see a craft beer brewery stand in the corner. Again simple but fun and with a cave like atmosphere.

On to the most important part. The food. 

The menu is as simple as the concept which was wonderful for indecisive eaters such as Tilly and myself. We were confronted with the large menu board as we ducked in from the pouring rain on a grey January Tuesday. 

Nothing really says sunshine like lobster so it seemed the perfect escape. 
There are just 4 rolls on the menu: 

japanese mayo, fish sauce, coriander, shredded napa cabbage, bean sprouts 
lettuce, tomato, cucumber, avocado mayo with lime, chives 
smoked chipotle mayo, peppers, corn, JalapeƱos, White Cabbage
japanese mayo, japanese cabbage, cucumber, pickled ginger, spring onions, togarashi spice

As well as 2 sides of courgette fries and lobster chowder and you can either order a pot of whole lobster taken out of his shell or go nuts with the whole lobster, shell and all if you feel like working for your lunch.  

The Seven Samurai's reputation preceded itself so I opted for that one whilst Tilly plumped for the Mexican. We then split a portion of courgette fries and a pot of shelled lobster.  

We were given our plastic cups to fill up with water and our buzzer to let us know when the food was ready. 

We settled ourselves in a window seat upstairs and before Tilly even had time to go to the loo our buzzer was yelling at us our food was ready. 

Now that, was fast food. 

I brought back our tray and we surveyed our feast. 

Pretty as a picture. Tasted as good too. 

Super soft buttery brioche that was toasted to give a crisp outside, stuffed to the brim with its various fillings. 

The Seven Samurai lived up to all expectations with the crunch of the cucumber and spring onions against the lobster all smothered in delicious Japanese mayo. I really never wanted it to end. 

Tilly's Mexican also fit the bill, with a definite kick to it! Though once some finger stirring had occurred it was much more manageable. Those jalapeƱos needed to be mixed in! 

Intermixed our bites of roll with chunks of lobster dunked in lemon mayo there wasn't much talking as we just mmmmm at each other and looked out at the rain.

The courgette fries we a huge hit too

Another money shot for you

We went for an early lunch but the place soon started to fill up around us once the office lunch times kicked in, the food came so fast that I can't imagine there would ever be a long wait, though please don't take me for gospel on that. 
It all seems a bit decadent for a Tuesday afternoon lunch but it really wasn't. It had exactly the same feel as ducking in for super fast bite and at minimal cost, and we didn't feel weighed down with food either. Its the worst having to carry one with your day when all you need is a nap.... 

I would recommend anyone to head here for a bite, obviously not the place for a long dinner but sometimes you just need a little bit of sunshine on a rainy day to perk yourself up and its more than enough to appeal to anyones indulgent side!   

Square Meal