Sunday 27 April 2008

The Scofflaw.

Pop Quiz!

A Scofflaw is

1. One who habitually violates the law or fails to answer court summonses. (Courtesy of the Free Dictionary).

2. The name of the 99th episode of Seinfeld.

3. Coined simultaneously by Mr Henry Irving Dale and Miss Kate L. Butler for a contest held in Boston in 1923 in which a word for "a lawless drinker of illegally made or illegally obtained liquor" was sought during the Prohibition era.
(Courtesy of Michale Quinion of World Wide Words)

4. A rather tasty cocktail that may well replace the Margharita as my favourite?

Consisting of
* 2 oz. rye
* 1 oz. dry vermouth
* 1/2 oz. lemon juice
* 1/4 oz. grenadine
* 1 dash orange bitters

Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

We went through 3 incarnations trying to re-create the taste of the ones we had at The Hawksmoor.


Evil Scofflaw

Son of Scofflaw

In case you are wondering the answer is - all of the above! and that son of Scofflaw was our friend.

The Big Blue.

Ah the Big Blue. Ah Jean-Marc Barr.. He was an adolescents dream. I remember intensely disliking Rosanna Arquette and thinking she was not good enough for him.

Anyway.. I don't know if the Big Blue in Glasgow is named after Besson's film but it is one of the few places that on a sunny day in Glasgow you can sit outside, have a drink and some passable food. It is also one of the few places that had managed to remain open since before I went Uni all those years ago (13years). It has a cocktail menu but they tend to be on the sweet side and I think are aimed at the younger audience.

The only reason I really go there is the Pizza. Glasgow is not renowned for its pizza. The only other place that does decent Pizza is Little Italy and even then there can be some variability. If you go to the Big Blue have the Parma Ruccola, it s one of their best pizzas - Parma ham, rocket and mozzarella.

But be sure to have the pizza oil they offer, I think this is the secret weapon. I have tried the pizza without, and sadly it is lacking. However, the base is thin (how I like it) and crispy, but not burnt, the tomato sauce tasty and usually adequate in quantity and the toppings also adequate in quantity.
It was washed down by a rather drinkable Pear cider that I know Ikea does a natty line in. A dangerous drink on a sunny day..

The booths are the best place to sit, either that or outside. I find the main restaurant a bit lacking in character. The staff are pretty friendly and efficient and the prices reasonable. The only other things on the menu that I remember to be worth eating are the bruschetta and the Cajun chicken (!) but that's just my opinion. Many people like the pasta, but why eat that when you can make it at home?

Having said that I make a mean Pizza base myself and my own pasta, so on that account, why would I ever eat either anywhere else?

Saturday 26 April 2008


What could have been a disastrous evening was saved at the last moment by some very tasty Thai food.

We originally were set to have an evening of Swank at Hotel Du Vin, to celebrate Vicky's 30th. Unfortunately she was unwell and the evening was cancelled. Four of us headed off to the old faithful, Stravaigin with the hope that there would be a Rabbit special on. But it was not to be, the worst thing imaginable had happened, and we were told by James that due to a problem with the kitchen there would be no food that evening.

I almost didn't know what to say.
The four of us sat and pondered what to do over a drink. Our options were Asia Style, MIC or Big Blue-we ended up going to Thai Siam. I am glad we did.

Rachel and I have a long history with Thai Siam. Ever since travelling round Far East Asia in 1997 we had a love of Thai food and used to go to Thai Siam every week. Back then it was run by a Scottish man, his Thai wife and staffed by some of their children. It had what was authentic Thai cooking at very reasonable prices, and as far as I was concerned was the best Thai in Glasgow. I don't know what happened, but the family sold up and it was taken over by a new owners and almost immediately the menu and cooking changed. There was evidence of Chinese cuisine on the menu and that's when the food started to go down hill. For that reason Rachel and I, with heavy hearts, stopped going.

However, it seems that the owners must have realised that it was better to concentrate on one cuisine, and to do it well, as over the last year the food has improved greatly. The only problem that remains is one that seems to affect all of the Thai restaurants in Glasgow. They all seem to go for that overly ornate and formal style that must be in keeping with Royal Thai cuisine, but also ends up giving the atmosphere a bit of an oppressive feel no matter how busy it is.
Oh for strip lighting, formica tables and beckoning cats.

Anyway enough moaning and onto the food. It was good. I left very full and happy.

We started off with the good Prawn crackers-the dark brown spicy ones, ideal with beer.

HI braved the headache inducing Chang, we stuck with the Singha.

Starters included

Prawn cakes, Chicken satay

spring rolls

and the amazing butterflied King prawns in sticky tamarind sauce. Finger-licking good.

Mains included Larb: very hot! Could have done with a touch more fish sauce, lime juice and shallots.

Som Tam very good almost like the stuff in Bangkok but without the green papaya.

More Prawns!!

Duck curry
- HI didn't really like this for some reason

Prawns in Red Curry very tasty- hence no photo!

Chicken stir fry with sweet basil, chili and green beans

We had shed loads of food and even though we stuffed ourselves till our food bellies were at 6 months, there was still food left over to take home. All this plus many beers worked out at £30 per person.

I am still thinking about those prawns.

Eusebi-deli (formerly known as Garlic): leave the gun, take the Cannoli

For reasons that will remain unknown I found myself at the Forge shopping centre on Saturday morning. Those of you who know the Forge will know what I mean, but I was kinda scared. I had not been there for over 15 years and wondered if it had changed. Maybe it was the fact that I was there as it opened but it was ok, bordering on the pleasant. They had even been successful in enforcing the smoking ban. Wonders will never cease.

To make my jaunt even more pleasurable I headed off to Eusebi deli (formerly known as Garlic) on Shettleston Road.

This is a little gem of a place, it's obviously a family run place and one that knows their regulars by their first names. First there was Arthur whom everyone hugged and kissed, and then Isabelle who had coffee in her Sambuca, (I made a note to start off my Saturday in that way) and for someone who has their free bus pass thats quite cool.
I ended up speaking to Giovanna whom I believe to be the owner. I told her it was my first time there and that I had heard they were opening branch in the West End. She said it was true and they were moving to Gibson St, home of my favourite places- Stravaigin.
I think it will be a good location for them and am looking forward to having them close by. The only competition nearby is Sonny and Vito's which is more of a baked goods/cafe kind of place. For what it's worth, I hope they stick to what they are good at and that is being specialists in Italian deli and importing speciality Italian produce that are hard to find. Their main competitors are Heart Buchanan and Delizique both of which tend to favour French and Scottish fancies and luxury foodie goods from around the world. As far as I know there are no speciality Italian deli's in the West End. I ended up having to go all the way to Valvona and Crolla in Edinburgh to get may hands on some Fontina to re-create the truffled egg toast from 'inoteca. Their other strength is that they make old-school Italian pastry on site and those are definitely hard to find.

Here are my spoils

Italian baked Ham, olives (of course) and Goats cheese with truffle in it. I usually don't like goats cheese but love truffle, so went for it. I am glad I did as this was lovely-especially a little bit rolled up in the ham chased down by an olive.

A Soprano moment. We all know that after The Wire, The Sopranos was the best TV series there was. But one thing that the Sopranos excelled in was how it managed to incorporate food into almost every scene. I had always wondered what Cannoli were like, and now I know.

They are yummy.
I also now know why Tony is so fat, and so does HI, he is off to order a shiny tracksuit so he too, can look like Big Pussy.

Thursday 24 April 2008

A maxi-adventure: Part VII: Maison Blanc.

As if what had gone before wasn't enough to send us into a food coma we finished off by wandering down Chiswich High Road onto the street that leads to Turnham Green underground. This street, the name of which escapes me, is a foodies paradise. A butchers with a queue outside it, two excellent fishmongers, Theobroma: a chocolatier, and Maison Blanc.

The home of heavenly pastries.

Wednesday 23 April 2008

A maxi-adventure: Part VII: The Devonshire

After our fine French feast the night before, we took it easy in the morning before heading the The Devonshire for Sunday lunch.

This is one of three gastro-pubs that form part of Gordon Ramsay's sprawling empire. I don't have much of a problem with Ramsay as I have had two rather good meals at RHR and Claridge's . What irks me is that I think he is rather over exposed these days, and seem more intent on developing his empire than being in the kitchen. He has defended himself by saying that his ultimate aim is to raise the standard of food being served in all restaurants, not just 3 star establishments and, I suppose, not even I can argue with that.

I liked the Devonshire. I thought it was well designed with a cross between chic and country. Major plus points are the rather natty striped armchairs (not that dis-similar to the ones in 10 Downing St) by the open fires. I could quite happily while-away a couple of hours here supping a pint whilst reading the Week.

The dining tables are dark wood and laid out in a pared down manner, with no table-cloths and no side plates - your bread is eaten off your napkin. How quaint.

The service was pretty attentive and efficient even though one of our servers thought the pork he was serving was lamb! I think that says more about him than the food.

The food. Yep I would eat here again.

We had amongst us

Potted shrimp, creamy with a hint of spice
Mackerel on toast with red onion marmalade. Now I love Mackerel, but I could make this at home

Lamb's kidneys on toast. Well you know what I think about this but it disappeared pretty quickly off of HI plate

Kirsty's Goats cheese tartlet


3 of us had the roast Pork special which seemed to hit the spot

HI had the beef cheeks which were tender and tasty

But I have to say my Rabbit with whole grain mustard special was my favourite out the lot. It was delish. I would eat this again. In fact I would eat it now if I could.

and of course, chips

These were ok, could have done with being a bit fluffier in the middle, but nice and crispy outside. I think I must have been expecting Blumenthal triple-cooked or something..

The servings were generous and for a 'pub lunch' it was pretty darn good. Hat's off to Mr Ramsay.

Tuesday 22 April 2008

A maxi-adventure: Part VI: La Trompette

This was the third time we had been to La Trompette, but only the first since it got it's Michelin star, and I wondered how, if at all , it had changed. The first time we had eaten there I remember thinking how good the food was, and really liking the set up.

I therefore felt reassured that Michelin thought so too.

The only thing that had perturbed me the first time round, and indeed all three times, was the service. Now, it is somewhat similar to Martin Wishart, another one star in Edinburgh, in that they have a different person for the bread, the water, the wine, the food etc. But where the two restaurants differ is that at La Trompette it takes them an inordinate time to get the food on the table.

Our reservation was at 9.30pm and while we were by no means ravenous it was quite late for us to be eating.
London it would seem, really is European in that respect. Us Northerners usually eat at the ungodly hour of 7pm 7.30 pm at the latest. So, we knew what we were in for, and whilst not hungry we did not expect to have to wait till 10pm to have our orders taken. Our starters arrived at 10.30, and granted once the first plate was on the table the rest of the meal was paced correctly.
We mulled over this alot the next day. Was it because it was a French restaurant and in keeping with the French way of having long drawn-out meals, it was part of the dining experience? Was it because we didn't have an aperitif (having had a bottle of champagne at home)?

I would have thought that there would be enough flexibility in a restaurant of this standard to move to the next phase accordingly.

The other thing that bugged me slightly was that during our half an hour wait we were given the bread basket only once. If we had been given it twice during this time, we would have felt less neglected. The second offer of bread came with the starters which seemed a bit redundant by that point if you ask me.

Anyway, I thought I would get my really rather small gripes out the way allowing me to heap praise on the food.

Cannelloni of rabbit and morels with broad bean puree and white asparagus

This was the starter I really wanted but there was none left! The greedy mothers..

Soft polenta, English asparagus, cured ham, poached egg, black truffle and olive dressing

Neill and I both had this and although the asparagus was sweet and fresh, the yolk intensely yellow and the combination perfect I wish I had gone with my original thought-the soup

Potato and leek broth with new season morels, wild garlic and croutons

This was amazing- I had order envy.

Boudin blanc with sauteed spinach, madeira sauce and pistachio nuts

HI loved this and declared it one on the best dishes of the weekend.


Duck magret, braised savoy cabbage, cassoulet of tarbais beans, bacon and duck confit

both the boys ordered this, and whilst they enjoyed it I think that the beef and lamb outshone the duck

Roast fillet of beef, shallot puree, oxtail ragout, persillade of snails, red wine sauce (+£5.00)

Excellent, beef was bloody, tender, tasty, well seasoned with good browning.

The snails were tender are garlicky, just as they should be and the shallot puree and oxtail ragout, so rich and tasty, they were heaven on my tongue.

Glazed shoulder of lamb, aubergine, chickpeas and cumin, herb yoghurt, pine nuts and panisses
This was excellent.Again I had order envy! My beef was excellent too, but a French classic, this was an example of a more exotic cuisine done to Michelin standard. Unfortunately, the photos we took were quite shaky due to the low light level, so you will just have to just ahve to use your imagination!


Tarte tatin with vanilla ice cream
My most disappointing dish. I make this at home and much prefer my version, better butter puff pastry and and thinner apple layer.

Creme brulee with rhubarb and ginger compote and warm spiced madeleines

I think Emma would agree with me , in that our puddings were the weakest of the three courses.

Iced yuzu parfait with mango sorbet and passion fruit

this was stunning, light and refreshing. The best out the puddings and not just because the others were lacking.
Cheese from the board (supp. £5.00)Comte, Vacherin, a Scottish blue I had not heard of, and two others,

All in all I think La Trompette gives amazing value for money. Michelin standard food in London and £37.50 for 3 courses with a bottle of water at £3.50.

You could spend a lot more and get a lot, lot worse.

A maxi-adventure: Part V: Ground, Chiswick.

We tried to take it easy food wise on Saturday morning after the excellent grazing we had accomplished the day before. It wasn't that easy as we were staying at my mum's and she insisted on making us fresh dosa with chutney. We did our family duty though, and managed to eat them as fast as she made them. Feeling very full, and somewhat hungover we made our way to Chiswick, where Neill and Emma stay.

It would seem that foodies are well provided for in Chiswick. On the High Road there at least two brasseries and a couple of fancy burger places not to mention some gastro-pubs. Just off the high road are La Trompette and the Devonshire, more of which later.

As we had a late dinner reservation at La Trompette, we decided to have a late lunch, and despite all that had gone before decided on a burger. Now, if you have read my Stravaigin post you will know where my loyalties lie, but Neill recommended Ground and we were far from home, so why not?

Ground is one of at least four fancy Burger places in London. It prides itself on 7oz Scottish grass fed Beef burgers that are chargrilled in their open kitchen and then topped with fresh ingredients
The atmosphere is pretty relaxed and efficient, and the fact it sold Modelo Especial beer as standard, and had Banana Bread beer on special, only made us which there were places like this in Glasgow.

I had the NY burger but substituted the BBQ sauce and relish for garlic mayo and chimichurri. This request was met without the bat of an eyelash. Points on.

new york deli scotch beef - mature cheddar - bacon - barbecue sauce - coleslaw - relish - onion - tomato - lettuce 7.40

HI had this
chilli scotch beef - jalapenos - guacamole - sweet chilli mayo - relish - onion - beef tomato - lettuce 6.75

I had to leave the table to take a call and by the time I got back it was gone! It was apparently very good.

Neill had this
classic cheese scotch beef - mature cheddar - relish - onion - beef tomato - mayo - lettuce 6.40

He too was finished by the time I got back which explains the lack of photos and also speaks for the burgers!

A maxi-adventure: Part IV: St John

Well, this was not really a place I wanted to go to but HI was quite keen, and since he doesn't get out much I though I would give in. The thought of a plate of oxen heart, or tripe, or squirrel on toast doesn't really do it for me, but HI seems to like the idea. I think he really is the curious eater.

St John has two locations, the original in the Smithfield's area and a smaller bread and wine concern in Spittalfield's. The Smithfield's one is huge, with a downstairs that was packed and had a good buzz about it, and an upstairs which was quieter but still busy.
Fortunately we know a lot of folk that like 'Nose to tail eating' so we had a table for 6 for dinner, maximising the number of dishes we could have.

Now, I know it's a bit gauche to get excited when you see a celebrity but, Jamie Oliver, my new favorite person was there too with Dexter Fletcher!, sitting at the table next to us!
We tried not to ogle Jamie, and instead concentrated on the offerings on hand.

We started off with some oysters and champagne, and so eager were we to get them down our throats that I forgot to take a photo. They were good.

Five out of the six of us ordered the bone marrow

and I was the only one to buck the trend by ordering the potted duck neck, which was very tasty if a bit salty.

The bone marrow went down a treat as you can see from the photos.

But I couldn't help thinking that without the salt and the parsley it would just have been jelly fat.

Tasty jelly fat. Which I suppose is what it is.

For mains HI had the chitterlings as did Phil, and all I can say is I am glad I didn't.

Instead John, Marcus and I set to about the veal shin, which was meant to feed four.

I was ridiculed for being surprised at how large it was. I guess I always imagined baby cows like the ones they have in Southpark, and expected them to be small.

My sis went for the oxtail and I guess it reflected how drunk we all were that I didn't snaffle a bit. I was too distracted by the large hunk of meat in front of me.

Our server was a very efficient and accommodating lady called Kirsty. She didn't bat an eyelid when I requested, somewhat tipsily, that I have clotted cream with my chocolate cake as well as ice-cream.

My sis went for the blood orange jelly which I remember being an altogether more adult version of the type I had at school, vibrant intense and refreshing.
She also brought us a taster of all the puddings wines which was a clever move on her part.

She must have realised that my friend John has expensive taste and even in a blind tasting would automatically pick the most expensive- Vitriol Rouge £11.75. I went with my tried and trusted friend Pedro-£5.10.
At the end of the night we were full and happy. Full of meat, booze and good cheer.

Which was just as well as the bill worked out around 70 quid each! But given how much we ate, drank and enjoyed ourselves justifiable.

Would I go back? I think I would.