Baba Ghanoush

5-photo_4Burn baby burn

Aubergines, they’re bloody hard to master cooking. At once both hard and slimy, I will happily admit I generally struggle cooking the purple tumescent fruit into anything delicious. Except, that is, baba ghanoush which has to be the best way to deal with this troublesome ingredient. And you get to burn the bastard thing to death first for any previous woes. You may think I have aubergine anger issues but ultimately this is for the good of your baba ghanoush as well. You see the blackened crispy skin, that’s what gives you the smokey note essential to this dish.

The finished, decorated baba ghanoush

Think of it as a hummus with aubergine instead of chickpeas. Juicy, tangy, smokey. Somewhere between a dip and a side dish, it adds bags of flavour and moisture to all sorts of dishes, particularly big cuts of lamb.

Recipe – feeds 6 as a side

  • 2 medium aubergines
  • 1 large garlic clove
  • Sea salt
  • 4 tablespoons of tahini
  • 4 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1/2 pomegranate (optional)
  • A handful of coriander / parsley (optional)
  • 1 lemon

Grilled to blackened perfection

Firstly grill your aubergines. If you happen to have a hot BBQ / wood-fire going then great, use that. Otherwise grill directly on your hob until properly blackened and softened, around 10 minutes turning periodically. You’ll think it’s burnt, it’s not and actually is easier to peel and much tastier with that smokey flavour. Make sure you have a window open and the extractor on! Leave to cool in a bowl. In the meantime finely chop the garlic clove and then crush with 1 tsp of sea salt to a paste, using the flat of the blade scraped along the board to squash it all together. Add to a bowl along with the juice of the lemon.

Crushing the salt

Once the aubergines have cooled, gently peel the blackened skin (or as much as you can) off and add the peeled aubergine to your bowl with the garlic and lemon, adding as much of the juices as you can. Roughly chop with a knife / fork in the bowl to a rough texture. Then add the olive oil and tahini and stir. Adjust for seasoning, both in terms of lemon and salt plus some pepper. To serve, mix through some pomegranate seeds and the herbs.

Topped with pomegranate and herbs

British Bacon and Pea Fettuccine Carbonara

Fried egg on egg yolk sauce

Carbonara, a classic light Italian pasta sauce, super quick and comforting after a tough day. Very popular yet often poorly done with mounds of cream to make a claggy, heavy, cloying sauce that sticks to the roof of your mouth and the inside of your arteries. However the real version is simpler and lighter.

Recipe – Serves 2

  • 200g of pasta (spaghetti / fettuccine)
  • 2 egg yolks
  • A handful of chives
  • 2 handfuls of (frozen) peas
  • 50g of parmesan or pecorino
  • 4 slices of quality bacon / pancetta cubes / lardons per person


Put your pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water and cook until to your preferred level of al-dente. In the meanwhile fry your variety of pig product in a pan with a dash of oil until crisp. Set aside your pork and fry 1 whole egg per person as a topping (optional). Mix the egg yolk, cheese and herbs in a bowl. 30s before draining the pasta add in the frozen peas to defrost. Drain and mix the hot pasta with the cheese / yolk mix and stir for one minute to cook evenly. Add in your bacon and top with the fried egg. Serve immediately.

Review: Patty & Bun Burgers

Logo, reverso

All the essential steps

Burgers, burgers, burgers. I’ve got nothing against a good burger and it’s great that London has some cracking joints to get them from. There’s been lots of excitement about the previously humble meat sandwich in the last couple of years elevating forming a piece of mince into an art-form. I wonder if perhaps it has gone a bit too far though, they are first and foremost supposed to be a quick feel-good hunk of greasy meat in a bun. And I’ve had my fair share of great burgers, everything from my local Dirty Burger for a quick cheap fix to Bar Boulud for an indulgent luxurious twist.


So forgive me if I’m a bit over the craze. That might explain why it’s taken me so long to actually visit P&B, the revered little eaterie just north of Bond Street. As heroic as the cooking might be (from Burgerman himself), I couldn’t bring myself to queue for a burger any more (not after the heady days of Meat Liquor anyway). But I found myself needing an early dinner at 4pm on a Saturday afternoon, surely a lull if ever there was one, and went for it. Still a bloody queue of course, probably 30 minutes or so. S’awright, we popped to the local offy (since they couldn’t serve us anything from P&B outside) and sat drinking cans of lager whilst trying to stare people inside into eating up and leaving.

Cracking beer

Then, all of a sudden, we were in! We ordered two burgers and an order of chips between two of us. The beer selection detailed on the website was poor (I was very concerned at being forced to consume Red Stripe) but they also had a list of specials. Which included my new favourite Five Points Pale , outstanding, along with a very good selection of British and American craft beers. The order arrived quickly, to the house recommended medium-rare.

Beautifully wrapped

Shiny happy bunsSkin on chips


And, in case you had any doubts, holy shit these are good burgers. Super beefy, rich, fatty but not too greasy and very juicy. The bun is amazing, a sweet firm brioche to hold up to the juice. And the topping are all good twists on the classic. I had the Smokey Robinson with bacon, cheese, tomato, lettuce, caramelised onions, ketchup and smokey mayo. First off I very rarely have bacon on a burger since I don’t want any detractions, but this added good seasoning and texture with a single thick slice of quality pig. It sounded like too many condiments but was very balanced and the sweetness of the onions cut through the richness. The other was the “Jose Jose”, swapping chorizo for the bacon and pickled onions for the caramelised onions. Similarly superlative, with big chunks of chorizo and the same balance.

Big bites required.

The money shot

The money shot, in all its goodness. I’ll admit it was a touch overdone for my tastes, and will ask for rarer next time, but it’s certainly acceptable. The chips are skin-on, certainly my preference since it adds texture and flavour. Super salty with a hit of rosemary, they packed flavour and crunch into every bite, I wish we’d got another side of them in fact which is unusual. So, in and out for £30 with 2 beers, this is possibly my top burger in London and certainly the best in the sub £12 mark. I can recommend it highly, just make sure you have time to queue!

Patty & Bun on Urbanspoon

Sweetbreads – the sweetest most offally nice morsel a gland ever produced

A bad shot of the finished article

Sweetbreads act like menu marmite, strongly repelling a lot of people and yet drawing in others with their magnetic appeal. I’ll often order a dish just because it has a side of sweetbreads for a small taste of that pillowy light meatiness. But first off, to dispel the myth once and for all, they are not (or certainly should not be) bollocks of any kind, nor brains. They have a very precise definition. OK, they actually confusingly have two precise definitions. They are either the thymus gland from the neck or the pancreas. Typically from lambs although apparently you can get them from calves as well, I haven’t seen that variety before. Some people with less than strong stomaches avoid them but I defy anyone who likes meat to try one and not instantly love them.

Clearly they are hard to sell since the butcher chucked in an extra pack when I bought some, so two big bags (easily 6 good side servings) for £2.50. Although they are money-cheap, they are not time-cheap, requiring some fiddly (although I stress, not particularly difficult) cooking and preparation to get the best of them. This was my first time cooking them and I was extremely pleased, I’d encourage anyone who loves meat to give it a go. I paired these with sumac, a middle Eastern bright red spice with a sharp lemony flavour to cut through the richness. As an alternative a squeeze of lemon works very well.

Sitting in all their glory


This first step isn’t the most appealing if you’re at all squeamish, it does certainly have a gelatinous feel of strange internal organs and slightly odd smell. I quite enjoyed it but Anna had to leave the room. Simply drain them and pop in a pan with a few bay leaves and crushed garlic cloves. Cover with water and bring to the boil, then simmer for 5-7 minutes depending on their size (I did these for 6). This will just cook them through and firm them up so you can handle them. Drain, remove the aromatics and leave to cool. Once cool you’ve got the fiddly bit ahead. That slimy texture was due to the surrounding membrane skin, something which has now cooked and become chewy and sinuous. So, with your sharpest knife and a bit of dexterity slice the membrane carefully off, aiming to keep the pieces as big as possible (grape size or bigger is good). I found cutting into the membrane and slowly peeling off worked well. Cut off any tubes / bloody bits as well, anything that doesn’t look like a miniature brain.

A hard day's peeling!


What you end up with should look like this. Free of the majority of the sinew; lovely clean lumps of tasty gland morsels. The final step is to fry them in a hot pan with butter / oil for 2-3 minutes until you get a nice crisp outer layer to contrast with the light meat. Season with salt / pepper and scatter with a teaspoon of sumac or a squeeze of lemon. Eat as soon as possible and don’t tell people what they are until after, they’ll find a love for something they thought they wouldn’t like (perhaps only try this with better friends though).

Beer Thoughts: Dominion Hop Mountain

Nice bottle capAnother night, another beer. Again bought from Kris Wines, this is an American pale ale at a punchy 6.3%. Originating from the Dominion Brewery in Deleware you might expect aggressive hops but in fact they are quite balanced. The pour is very flat and only slight fizz evident. Quite a dark brown, the sweet malty presence cuts though the hops and alcohol making it easy drinking.

Dominion Brewery, DE - Hop Mountain

I actually would prefer a touch less malt but I can see the balance they were aiming for. Very good and well brewed, just not a regular drinker for my tastes.

Beer thoughts: Five Points Pale

Five Points Cap

The London beer scene is not just thriving, it is absolutely exploding. It was very different a few years ago; a single digit contingency of large pubco breweries were left feeding the same beer to the usual pubs (although I have drunk my fair share of Pride, Special and Ordinary in my time). Now you can’t turn a corner in East London without tripping over a new mash tun being installed alongside a keen man in a beard and wellies explaining the IBU of his latest IPA. Which I’m all in favour of, the purists might say I lack tasting finesse but I love hops, almost the more the better.

Five Points Pale

There is however, a slight lack of good beer shops, although that is improving. No problem for me you understand, since I live within a quick cycle of Kris Wines , an amazing if dangerous place for an alephile. Which is the exact place I bought this rather delicious pale ale, Five Points Pale to be precise from the unsurprisingly named Five Points Brewing Co. This is my first beer from FPBC and it’s a winner. Despite its low 4.4% and slightly fizzy light start on the tongue, it packs some terrific bitterness from Amarillo, Centennial and Citra hops. Very balanced with dryness and a touch of citrus, I’ll be seeking out some more of their beers.

(Very!) Quick lunch, tomato and fennel salami open sandwich

Tomato, fennel salami, bread.

A good tomato is a joy forever. Excuse my misplaced Keats reference, but for me a tomato is indeed a thing of beauty and to be savoured. They play some part in a lot of my quick lunches since they are easy to prepare, full of flavour and can be happily served raw or cooked. BUT, they really do have to be ripe. Most supermarkets sell their tomatoes woefully under-ripe, and don’t get me started on hard avocados when I have a guacamole craving. Keep your tomatoes at room temperature, for the following reasons:

  • They are probably under-ripe and need maturing anyway.
  • In the fridge you’ll damage the cells and end up with a mushy, mealy tomato (yuck!).
  • They are absolutely most flavourful served at room temperature.

Roasted garlic ... and *bread*?

Naturally sweet, the only thing they need is a small sprinkle of crushed sea salt to enhance their juicy goodness. Basil is obviously a classic extra, along with cheese. Garlic too, which brings me nicely to this loaf I found (at Belsize Park Budgens of all places). A roasted garlic loaf to be precise, irresistible! Yes, those are whole chunks of sweet pungent roasted garlic you can see. What a bread, and what a lunch!

Review: Casamia, Bristol from the Iglesias brothers

The subtle High Street signage in Westbury-on-Trym

Having previously celebrated the start of my fourth decade with a full-on twenty person weekend bash, I wanted something a bit more understated to mark the progress of another year. A more refined, dare I say elegant, affair. So what better than a posh meal with a small group of good friends. But where to go? The Critical Couple’s review of Casamia was all the persuasion I needed to give this restaurant just North of Bristol the honour. I booked several months ago and began the long anticipatory wait, making the eventual arrival of the day even more exciting.

A welcoming entrance

We were staying an hour or so North, or at least thought we were until the coach fire on the M5 made a mockery of our sat-nav timings. But fortunately we navigated the back route and were barely half an hour late, with the restaurant being very accommodating. Given we were in for a 4hr+ lunch it wasn’t much of a worry. Casamia is located on the high street of Westbury-on-Trym, and has a classy understated grey gate hiding the unusual astro-turfed corridor entrance. The restaurant is family run, the nice twist being the Iglesias parents handed the kitchen over to their very talented sons who have elevated the food to a spectacular standard.

The menu in full

We were greeted very warmly and shown through to our table for six, complete with a birthday card which was a nice touch. It’s quite a small restaurant, maybe 40 covers, and has a relaxed feel. The design aesthetic is clean but with some interesting large photographs on the wall and stone crockery, fortunately not naff and apparently designed by the brothers and sourced locally. I particularly liked the cutlery stacks (held in place by a stoneware rack) as an interesting touch, and it gives much more room than layers of knives and forks for tasting menus. Smart casual in a good way. There is the option of a small 5 course or larger 10 course menu at lunch, priced at £38 and £68 respectively. Given the travelling to get there and very reasonable prices we opted for the 10 course menu, along with matching wines at £60. We were asked if we wanted the apple pie (at a rather steep additional £12!), apparently their signature dish from the Great British menu, and opted to decide later how many we wanted.

A quick note about the dining room and pass setup, cleverly the food is plated in the corner of the main dining room and then brought straight over, often by the brothers themselves who can explain the dish and answer any questions. This provided lots of interaction and made the meal seem even more special, particularly given the brothers and rest of the staff are so enthusiastic and passionate. It was also exceptionally calm, probably helped by the fact the menu is cleverly designed and doesn’t require a lot of frantic last minute cooking. They also aim to follow the seasons closely and hence have 4 main menu changes a year to reflect that.

Rosemary foccacia, olive oilPre-dinner drinks were offered (without menu or prices) but I wanted to see the options. The wine menu started at £15 a glass for champagne (admittedly from 2004), pretty steep so we made other choices. They did make a very well balanced Negroni for me at a more reasonable £8.50 and a Hendricks and tonic was served with cucumber for the wife. The order of the “cheap option” of an Estrella beer by Ollie was surprising, when a champagne size bottle designed by Ferran Adria arrived, along with a slightly odd tasting to check it wasn’t “corked”. Apparently designed for food and flavoured with coriander, orange peel and liquorice, I found it pretty bland. Not a big deal but perhaps a warning before ordering on the size and price would have been good, it was ironically £15. A generous helping of focaccia was presented along with bowls of a tangy, fruity olive oil. The bread was very very good, it had a springy, fluffy and light interior surrounded by a thin crisp salty crust and strong rosemary flavour throughout.

Quiche Lorraine

Chilled broad bean soupA first course, or amuse-bouche given the size, was a one bite quiche lorraine. A crisp thin-pastry shell contained a ridiculously light savoury egg custard filling flavoured with ham and chives. Almost ethereal at first, the addition of strong Keens cheddar grounded it and added some needed body and a touch of earthiness. Just as we were getting thirsty the first of the wine course arrived, an Austrian Gruner Veltliner very much to my taste and paired with the chilled broad bean soup. This recalled the chilled pea soup at Dabbous which was a revelatory course for me. The Casamia version is instead made with broad beans and a mint snow. Perhaps an unfair comparison since Dabbous has less courses, but I wish there had been more of this soup, particularly to balance the copious amount of mint snow. However the soup was very well balanced, completely smooth and paired perfectly with the mint and garnish. And I can certainly appreciate the work in preparing broad beans, being a favourite of mine but a pain to prepare in volume.

Tomatoes, countless waysTomatoes. Lots of them. Preened, pinched and prepared in many ways. Paired with mozzarella. I LOVE a good tomato so this course sounded great and was clearly a nod to the classic Insalata Caprese. Beautiful “heirloom” tomatoes of several varieties were sat on a tomato jam and dressed with black olive and a dehydrated(?) tomato crisp. The mozzarella had very interestingly been blended and re-set for a softer texture. It was also very salty, presumably from the brine that was mixed in with the blending. Salty soft cheese with ripe tomatoes went beautifully. And it was paired with a tomato liqueur, new to me, almost Marsala like and with notes of salty black olives and of course tomatoes. Some of the others felt it was overkill with this dish but I can’t get enough tomato-ey goodness and loved it. Clever stuff.

Summer saladBaby courgette and flower

The next course was a summer salad. Perfectly inoffensive sounding, dull even. But things got more interesting when we were presented with a pair of tweezers each. We were given a pretty assortment of carefully placed flowers, vegetables and herbs, and a hot very punchy cider vinaigrette was carefully pipetted (literally) on. Encouraged to try each element separately, this cleverly brought out the flavour of each morsel including a tiny courgette with flower, nasturtium leaves and flowers amongst others.

Wild salmon, cucumber and dillFish next. A delicate piece of wild salmon, poached in olive oil with cucumber, dill and sea herbs. The fish was very light pink for wild salmon which surprised me a bit, I’ll take their word for it though. It had been poached precisely in oil to just cooked and had an amazing soft texture somewhere between sashimi and cooked. The cucumber and dill sauce was well done, along with the sea herbs. Given this was the second to last savoury course I would have liked a significantly larger piece, but it was a solid if slightly ordinary dish.

Duck, carrot puree

Meat next, and I was ready for it. The protein was duck, cooked deliciously pink as you would hope (sous-vide?) and served with carrot puree, rainbow carrots (orange and purple at least) and a carrot puree. The meat was very tender although maybe a slighter crisper skin would have provided more texture. The carrot puree was perfectly smooth, but sweet and I think felt unbalanced with the sweet glazed duck. The carrots were cooked very well and the fennel was a solid addition. But again, I would have preferred a slice more of the duck since we were about to enter dessert territory. Excellent execution but one more element of texture or flavour wouldn’t be overkill here.

Next was possibly the favourite overall between our group, and I forgot to get a bloody picture. Nevertheless it was a pea, lemon and ricotta transition course, or as I hilariously called it, “The Intercourse”. Designed to take us between savoury and sweet with elements of both, it achieved this amazingly well. A small bowl topped with savoury pea shoots then went through layers of ricotta and lemon to take you from thoughts of salad through to cheesecake. Amazing, innovative and clever paired with downright delicious.

Peaches and cream

Now we were fully into dessert, peaches and cream. Peach granita topped light whipped cream which was atop stewed white Italian peaches. Or their nod tinned peaches as one of the brothers called it when he served us. The contrast of cold ice, soft light cream and beautiful peaches was delightful. Maybe an extra element would have elevated it though, I recall the marigold served with peaches at Dabbous worked fantastically for example.

Apple pie, custard and ice-cream Liquid nitrogen extinguished our candle Clove and cinnamon filled the air

Apple Pie. The signature dish of the restaurant although a steep addition at £12. We ordered 3 for the table. A crisp perfect thin pastry shell with an Apple-reminiscent logo stencilled in cinnamon. This was placed over apple puree, apple pieces and ice cream contained within, and a thin custard surrounded. As the brothers said, you always need custard AND ice-cream. Then bowls of clove and cinnamon were combined with liquid nitrogen to produce a heady homely aroma and great theatre. The pie was great and very reminiscent of the flavours of home-cooking but with skilful execution. Again very light though.

Chocolate, toast and lavenderTurkish delight White chocolate lollipop Mint teaChocolate, toast and lavender. 75% dark chocolate whipped into a light airy mousse. A surprise salted caramel centre was a welcome find, and the toast added crunch and texture. Strangely though it didn’t have the richness I was expecting, I think the process of whipping it left it somewhat lacking in depth. Our final course of strawberries and tarragon was beautifully presented in a large glass, combining strawberry jelly, fresh strawberries and cream. This was elevated with tiny crunchy tarragon meringues which were amazing. Over a nice mint tea and decent espresso we enjoyed some petit-fours of white chocolate lollipop (and popping candy, natch) and punchy bitter sweet grapefruit Turkish Delight, particularly good as I love grapefruit.

Wow, what a lunch. The execution of every dish was completely amazing, even more-so when you consider both brothers are around 30 years old. I loved it and would heartily recommend it as a destination restaurant, some of the dishes were mind blowing. It came in at £150 a head all-in, not cheap but for this standard well worth it and we didn’t scrimp on anything (bar the champagne). I didn’t make enough note of the wine but there were plenty of glasses throughout the meal, all paired well and were of a good standard. My few potential improvements? I realise it’s a summer menu but still think more bitter, earthy notes are needed to provide balance, and surprisingly given the number of courses I think there needs to be a bit more portion wise. Swapping a dessert for another meat course would help, and quite a few of the party agreed with this point.

But, despite any of that, this is an absolute top quality establishment and I certainly aim to go back and try some of the other seasons. The combination of incredible execution, clever dishes and a welcoming atmosphere makes this a superlative restaurant.

Review: The Gilbert Scott, King’s Cross (plus cocktails at Plum and Split Milk)

Funky wall stickers

King’s Cross. No longer just a destination for lonely gentlemen seeking late night company or youths seeking transcendent narcotics , you can now find a decent coffee, meal and cocktails to go with them. Before the main event we sauntered over to nearby Plum and Split Milk for a quick pre-meal cocktail. P&SM is situated in the recently refurbished Great Northern Hotel originally opened in 1854 by the same company who built King’s Cross, and now brought back to its grand origins as a boutique hotel.

The innovative cocktail menu

An excellent aperitif

We chose the quieter upstairs bar which has a timeless, grand feel to it along with a more contemporary mix of furnishings and artwork. Certainly a distinctive room, I settled in immediately and felt very comfortable. The name Plum and Spilt Milk comes from the old British Rail livery colours which is a nice touch, and the vintage rail theme extends to the cocktail list. I went for the 1854, a whiskey and vermouth concoction with smoked pineapple syrup and cardamon. The pineapple syrup was an excellent twist with the whiskey, adding sweet smokey notes. I didn’t detect the cardamon and an over zealous shaking left it slightly over-diluted, but for pre-dinner it worked very well.

Onwards to the Glibert Scott, a 5 minute stroll over to St Pancras and into the vast high ceilings of the main dining room. It is a spectacular room, marble and soft furnishing abound on a truly grand scale, which all adds to the atmosphere. It was buzzing and busy on a Tuesday night with a mix of smart clientele so it’s obviously a popular choice. The staff were well turned out with a mix of friendliness and professionalism, and we immediately ordered a bottle of Nyetimber, an English sparkling wine from West Sussex (thanks to Rob, our dining guest, who had a free bottle voucher).

Quail with snails and onion

The menu feels quite brasserie but with English twists and a few more unusual options. I opted for quail to start, with snails and onion. The quail itself was a decent portion, very succulent although also disturbingly pink in the middle. The snails were excellent, cut into small pieces with a big garlic hit. The onions were more like a strange bhajee, deep fried in a batter with seeds, I found them bland and soggy and didn’t understand the combination. But the meat, sauce and snails were a good starter. My two companions opted for a smoked duck dish and the crab salad. The smoked duck was tender and bright red, it came very thinly sliced with some earthy heritage beetroot. The crab salad was generous and well presented with a good amount of white meat.

Smoked duck Crab salad

For our main course I opted for Cornish plaice (only served on the bone) with mussels and tomatoes. It had a good size piece of plaice but unfortunately was overcooked and ended up mushy, not quite enough to send back though. The tomatoes and mussels helped save it, a rich sauce and juicy mussels. A side of brown butter mash was rich and decadent, but over-mashed so it had a bit too much stickiness. Peas with bacon and buttered greens were both cooked well, and had enough greenery to compensate for the doubtless copious butter in each.

Overcooked plaice made up for with a rich sauce Brown butter mash and greens


The other two mains at the table were the large rabbit, prawn and mushroom pie plus Cornish seabass with almonds. The pie looked good with a golden-hued crust and chunky succulent filling. The seabass was nicely cooked with an interesting accompaniment of crunchy blanched almonds and capers, texture wise it was odd having whole almonds though. Sliced would have worked better.

Rabbit and prawn (!) pie Seabass and almondsI was feeling fairly full by now with the large portions and sides, but we still opted to share a cheese platter between the 3 of us. The very nice waitress / sommelier took me round the selection, which unusually was only 3 cheeses. They were grandly kept in individual domes at the front of the restaurant, comprising a Cashel Blue, a Clonmore goat’s cheese and a washed-rind Irish Ardrahan. A plate arrived with 3 meagre slices for the price (north of £10, maybe £12? I recall), however they did each come with their own type of chutney and bread / cracker variety so that made the price slightly easier to swallow. Still, more cheese was needed.


The Cashel Blue came with a malt loaf (it could have been Soreen’s as my dining parter Rob said) but it cut through the rich blue well. The Clonmore was a mild hard goat’s cheese which was fine if a little dull, and went nicely with the fruit bread crisps / apple chutney. But the star was the Ardrahan, a pungent Irish washed rind which was combined with London honey / oat biscuits and worked brilliantly.

A trifle prettyChoc ice anyone?

Green chartreuse, the ultimate digestif after a heavy mealHaving indulged in the cheese I skipped dessert (well, sampled the others) and went straight to a delicious green Chartreuse served in this very pretty cut glass. The others went for a Lord Mayor’s trifle and kendal mint cake / peanut butter choc-ice. Yes, you did just read that right. I imagined a cloying sticky ugly lump on a plate but what actually came was light with the intriguing combination of mint, peanut butter and chocolate. Clever stuff. Similarly the Lord Mayor’s trifle was in fact cherries and a coconut sponge, another combination I wouldn’t have thought of and that was very well balanced.

Overall, it was an enjoyable night and the combination of great staff, a spectacular dining room and some interesting dishes (particularly the desserts) went down well. Still, my savoury choices in particular had some faults which given the price (this was close to £100 a head with 1 bottle of sparkling, 1 bottle of white and a glass of red between 3) shouldn’t really have happened. Still, the food was a mix of reasonable and interesting and I can recommend it for a special night out if you like the grand style dining room, but watch your savoury dish choices and the bill!

The Gilbert Scott on Urbanspoon

Review: Oliver’s Fish and Chips – Belsize Park

A nice traditional logoFish and chips, staple of the nation invoking dreams of trips to the seaside and pesky seagulls. Or more likely Friday nights avoiding confrontations with hooded youths. It doesn’t have the kudos of more modish cuisines; the trendy burgers and in-vogue pulled pork, but sometimes it’s the traditional you want. Which brings us handily to Oliver’s in Belsize Park, a “proper chippy” that doesn’t sell kebabs on the side, nor does it sell oysters and crab (Upper Street I’m looking at you). It sells, on the whole, fried fish and chips.

What remained by the time I remembered to take a photoShowing the (disputed) Jewish origins of the dish we went for the matzo breaded haddock and chips, a large was just under a tenner which is fairly steep but you get a lot for your money. So large in fact it came in 2 boxes, one for the fish and the other for the chips! The picture in fact shows the last third after we had already split out 2 portions! Plenty for dinner for 2 people in my opinion, unless you enjoy the food induced coma of overly large takeaway meals. It was certainly a big piece of haddock that flaked nicely, it was a tiny bit dry (should have got that tartare sauce and mushy peas) but the batter was crisp and thick enough to add bite but thin enough not to overwhelm. And the chips, oh the chips. They were great, no poncey fries or triple cooked chips. These were chippy chips, a super soft interior; angular shapes and a light crisp outer shell. With plenty of vinegar and salt. Job done, highly recommended.

Oliver's Fish and Chips on Urbanspoon