Tuesday, 14 May 2013

13. Pitt Cue Loaded Skins

I am so late to the party on this one.  Nonetheless I have an excuse: every time I ever tried to eat at Pitt Cue  all I saw was a long line of twenty somethings in fake glasses, queueing, and I thought: it's bound to be another Meat Liquor, faux Brooklyn style over substance, and I don't need another one of those in my life.

How wrong I was.  How wrong.  I went last night close to 9pm and only had to queue for 20 minutes, which, with a seat and a super-charming front of house, felt like only 5 minutes.  The food was AWESOME: a phenomenal pulled pork burger, amazing slaw, brilliant beans, a light yet utterly intense bourbon sticky toffee pudding with vanilla ice-cream.  The drink was also awesome - an Old Fashioned made with Four Roses Bourbon (if you're a Bourbanite.)  But superstars of the show were the Loaded Skins - petite potatoes, deep fried, and crammed with pulled pork, home-made nduja, 24 month aged parmesan and chives. Served as a trio, be prepared to fight over the third if there's two of you at the table.

Seriously.  There is nothing not to love about this dish.  Crunchy, spicy, multi-textural high-fat bliss - the smoothness of the mashed potato gets along just swell with the crispy potato skins, the tender pork and the shavings of salty cheese.  This dish took me to a place of extreme joy.  (I was transported back to 1982, and to a restaurant called Coconut Grove in London's St Christopher's Place; to a more innocent time, when owning a pair of ET printed shoelaces seemed like the pinnacle of all human happiness.  My memory is a touch hazy - I remember the restaurant and my shoe laces and I can only assume that Coconut Grove served amazing potato skins.  Regardless, I'll take that up with my hypnotist.)

As ever, the photo does it no justice at all I'm afraid.

Anyway, the moral of the story is, being impatient and lazy is usually ok, except for when it comes between you and a plate of deep fried, double pork-stuffed potatoes covered in melted cheese.  

Thursday, 1 March 2012

12. Bacon and onion brioche at The Ledbury

Ok, so admittedly it is neither practical nor cost-effective to go to The Ledbury just for their bread basket.  You won't escape lunch with change from a £50.  However, having been profligate enough to eat here twice, my enduring happy memory is of this particular roll - a super light, buttery brioche, made with little bits of bacon and soft caramelised onion.

Other things I love about The Ledbury are the floor tiles in the women's loos - normally I hate gold and black in combo (super-80s and cheesy, but they really work here.)  And the smell of this Aesop  hand-soap. which is not at all sweet, even though it has geranium in the title.   Again, nice hand soap probably not justification for a £50 lunch.  Oh.  And the food's pretty amazing too, particularly this brown sugar tart which is a staple on the menu. The texture of the tart is extraordinary - dense, thick and creamy.

And also the delicate, crispy sable biscuit they give you pre-starter (sorry, I know it's called an amuse bouche but I hate that phrase) - well anyway, it's amaze-balls.*  Amuse-balls...

The Ledbury, 127 Ledbury Road, W11 2AQ, 0207 792 9090

* I told you, resistance is futile...it's in me like a sting :-(

Sunday, 22 January 2012

11. Orecchiette with 'nduja, red onion, tomato and rocket, Bocca Di Lupo, Soho

I cook and eat so much pasta at home that I almost never order it out, on the basis that it is one thing I can actually execute ok.  However I make an exception for this particular dish - my favourite thing on the menu at Bocca Di Lupo.
Super spicy from the 'nduja sausage, but also has the sweetness of red onions and tomato, salty cheese and a touch of green to make you feel virtuous (sort of.)

Other things I love at this restaurant are the beautiful light
and the charming staff.  However I let my idiot friends talk me into ordering Sanguinaccio for dessert, when what I should have had was this custard donut.
But no, idiot me has to rise to the bait.  And just to be clear, even though Sanguinaccio might sound tasty and Italian, and might even look tasty and Italian
it is merely Italian.  Italian for pig's blood and chocolate pate.  Yes.  Tastes as good as it sounds in English...  Next time I'll stick to the custard donut.

Bocca di Lupo, 12 Archer Street, Soho W1 - 0207 734 2223.  Book for a table well in advance, or don't book but expect to wait for a seat at the bar.

10. Home-made Nutella, Ottolenghi

I mean seriously.  Who else would have thought 'I can make Nutella even more ridiculous, indulgent and delicious than the folks that brought you Nutella.'

Again, not photogenic but trust me: whole hazelnuts trapped in a thick, rich, smooth dark chocolate paste.  Even if like me you prefer bacon in the mornings to sugar, you may still find yourself eating this out of its serving pot with a spoon. 

Ottolenghi in the morning, Ottolenghi generally, Ottolenghi always.

9. Noodles-coconut and chicken, Mandalay, Edgware Road

Mandalay is an institution, on the Edgware Road down the Maida Vale end, slightly away from the full-on throng of middle-eastern joints near Marble Arch. 

Mandalay won Time Out's Best Cheap Eats of All Time a couple of years ago and serves Burmese food - which they describe as somewhere between Chinese and Indian with a bit of Thai for good measure.  I've been thinking about this chicken noodle dish since the last time I ate it 7 years ago.  
Tender chicken in a rich, warm, thick coconut sauce, deep fried shallots, noodles, exemplary use of spring onions - ticks so many boxes: crunch, soft, tender, spice, coconut, fried....god, I don't know why I left it 7 years to come back here.  Best consumed with a cold Tiger beer. 

Other star dish of the meal was this very simple aubergine with potatoes.
Mandalay, 444, Edgware Road - 0207 258 3696.   You need to book for dinner, generally.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

8. Burrito, Chipotle

Look at this behemoth!

The inside of a burrito is never going to be the prettiest, but still...

Coriander-lime rice, extra guacamole, sour cream, hot salsa, pinto beans, chicken - seriously, what is not to love?

It's rare that I think a chain is as good as an independent, but Chipotle is up there with Benito's Hat.  Except that the colour scheme in Chipotle is horrifically burgundy and un-Mexican and soul-less.  But then they go and redeem themselves by having lovingly thought through wrapping:

and cutesy receipts:

Life is burritoful indeed.

Chipotle, 101 Baker Street & 116 Charing Cross Road

Thursday, 12 January 2012

7. Various, at Fitou, Thai

This is the line up from Fitou, the Thai restaurant at the back of Pear-Shaped - p.441.  It's cheap as chips, BYO, and in a residential street by the ever-glamorous Wormwood Scrubs - I guess not a selling point, unless you're visiting...

Fish cakes
Super hot papaya salad

Gaeng penang - hot red coconutty curry with lime leaves and chilli, served with coconut rice

and Pad See Ew - delicious stir fried broad rice noodles with eggs and firm broccoli in a thick soy sauce.
I was telling the guy who runs this place that I love this noodle dish so much, and he just laughed at me and said it was such a straightforward dish (I think implying I was boring, but anyway.)  It is straightforward, but I love the texture combo and the omelette bits immensely.  He said that the staff eat it a lot, but jazz it up with sugar, chilli and this other chilli powder concoction, so I asked him to bring me the sprinkles, and indeed they do jazz it up beautifully (though I'm equally happy with it in its unassuming everyday garb.)

Fitou 1 - 3 Dalgarno Gardens, London W10 5LL