Friday 31 July 2009

A few updates: Stravaigin, Asia Style, Chow, Mother India Cafe

Rather than do individual posts about these old favourites I thought I would just report back on them and tell you all is well-they are still delivering the goods!


HI has a new favourite dish-a kidney and suet pudding that features on their downstairs menu. It doesn't appeal to me but it makes his little face light up.

My old staple the burger is still as glorious as ever, only now due to ever shrinking stomach size I can only eat half. To think of the days that I used to be able to eat a starter and a whole burger..

Asia Style

This was particularly good. We went on a hot saturday evening around six o'clock and the food came out really quick and was super fresh.
The usual order of malaysian pancake, choi sum with garlic, salt and pepper prawns, Sichuan chicken and noodles really hit the spot. The left overs of which there were many went down a treat the next day.


For more straight forward Chinese we go to Chow and this is where we indulge in our guilty secret pleasure which is chips and gravy, which to taste right has to be had in a Chinese restaurant.

It takes me back to my childhood when my best friend and I ate this in a place called Mauchline. The salt and pepper squid is very good.

and the Sichuan chicken although tasty is a very different beast to the one at Asia Style.

Mother India Cafe

What can I say? Still very tasty, still very reasonable. I have no photos as we always tuck in before I remember to take them! Rachel always orders the same-butter chicken, chicken on the bone, chilli prawns, garlic potatoes and a peshwari nan. Yep, that's all just for her. HI and I always order the same-butter chicken, lamb mince with peas, tomato and okra and lamb saag. And the magical £15 rule still works!

Tuesday 7 July 2009


After the wedding we planned on meeting up with our friends, Neil, Emma, Will and Nina for dinner at the Hawksmoor. Being pregnant the idea of eating an overcooked steak did not appeal so I had emailed them in advance to see if I could get special dispensation to get the burger instead.

But oh no, no special treatment for the pregnant lady.

It's the only time this ploy has failed. I was told via email that if they allowed me the burger they would have to allow other people the burger and then chaos would ensue, so they suggested that I have a rib-eye done medium well instead. To be dissed in such a way would normally result in me giving a place a body swerve, but, because it's HI's favourite place for cocktails and it was relatively convenient, I made the booking anyway.

So after a couple of very good handmade lemonades at Pinchito People we found ourselves at the bar at the Hawksmoor round about six. The nice barman noticing my prominent bump, straight away set-to whipping up a non-alcoholic cocktail for me, whilst HI plumped for a Millionaire.

My cocktail was lovely and refreshing-guava, lime and pineapple flavours came through.

It was followed by this strawberry delight

The others joined us at the bar and ordered some cocktails too, we were so busy catching up that we didn't actually take our table till seven-thirty. The place was not yet full but it is London, and it got busier round about nine. Our waitress was rather surly I have to say, I think she thought that her tip, which was added to our bill with out our asking, was going to be a paltry one when she heard that we were not having starters. She perked up a little when we order about 6 sides, puddings, coffee, and many more drinks. She had an annoying habit of asking my husband if he wanted another cocktail everytime she came to the table, which could be perceived as being attentive but if you know how potent these cocktails is a bit dangerous, and smacked of wanting to take advantage of a group of slightly tipsy people, of whom I was not one.

Anyway, griping aside, onto the food. I was disappointed by the chips, they are triple cooked but I found them to be a bit under done on the inside. Stravaigin and Crabshakk do better chips if you ask me. The others decided to try out the Porterhouses, one at 850g the other at 700g both done medium-rare. Much to my annoyance I did not take a photo of what looked to be a mighty fine piece of meat. The silence that ensued confirmed that it was as tasty as it looked. Will had order envy as he had gone for a rib-eye medium-rare which did not compete with the Porterhouse. I asked for my rib-eye medium-well as instructed only to be told that it would have to be done well-done, I think to avoid me having any chance of coming back and suing them for food poisoning, so I just ate what I was given like a good meek pregnant woman should.

It was ok, not too chewy but by then the fun had gone out of it a bit.
The puddings that followed were associated with happy noises but I did not part-take as I was suffering from protein overload. I do like the Hawksmoor primarily for the cocktails, but as I anticipated it's not really for pregnant people, but then again, not many places are.

Sunday 5 July 2009

Pinchito tapas

We headed here after the wedding, hoping that it would be open, and we were in luck, for there are not to be many places open in Shoreditch before five. I liked the vibe of the place, it was very Born- Barcelona. We shared some Padron with the obligatory hot few, I had two very tasty handmade lemonades.

and HI had a blood and sand,

a cocktail which is not often found in cocktail bars.

I would definitely come back to Pinchito Tapas to sample the food as it's a lot closer than Barcelona.

Saturday 4 July 2009

The Clerkenwell Green:restoring faith in gastropubs.

My sister choose to have her wedding reception at the Clerkenwell Green and it turned out to be a pretty good choice. Slightly wary from our bad experience at the Clissold Arms that night before we were pleasantly surprised. We started off with a variety of canapes including smoked salmon, mushroom rolls, foie gras, little lamb meatballs and some other bits and pieces.

For our starters the winner, once again, seemed to be the veggie option of goats cheese with aubergine and pesto. The look on my mum's face was priceless-a clear case of order envy if ever I saw one. My smoked mackerel pate was good as was the parma ham with figs, which for once were sweet.

The mains were very good, my chicken with chorizo was excellent and I ate it all.

The salmon was also declared a success

as was the blue cheese and onion tart.

If I was in the vicinity again I would definitely come back here for something to ate. Proof that not all gastro-pubs are created equal!

Friday 3 July 2009

The Glasshouse, Kew

Given that the curious-eater’s currently with child and not doing too much in the way of eating out, she approached me and asked if I wouldn’t mind doing a few guest blogs just to keep things ticking over.

So by way of introduction, my name is Will.

I’ve been mentioned in a few of the curious-eater’s posts as a partner in crime to many of the culinary experiences described in her fabulous blog. The curious-eater has been a very good friend for a number of years and that friendship has been fuelled in part, by a shared passion for food. We love talking about it, thinking about it, we love cooking it, and most importantly we love eating it. Anyway having done lots of the above this is my first go at blogging about it so please be gentle with me…

Last week was my birthday and as a birthday treat, some friends and I headed to La Trompette in Chiswick. However, this particular post is not about that meal but it’s relevance will be revealed. All I want to say is if you haven’t been, I would thoroughly advise that you go as soon as you can. Have a look back through the curious-eater’s previous posts, the food is absolutely amazing and a more splendid dining experience you’ll struggle to find.
Upon settling the bill we were presented with some vouchers to visit The Glasshouse Restaurant in Kew which is a sister restaurant of La Trompette, in Chiswick and Chez Bruce in Wandsworth. Given that it was a very reasonable £18.75 for three courses at dinner, myself and my delightful girlfriend Nina felt that it was too good an opportunity to miss. We booked to visit the following Monday evening and I have to say we were not in anyway disappointed.

To start Nina ordered the ‘smoked haddock fishcake with samphire, Provencal tomato and hollandaise sauce’

which I rather cheekily managed steal a mouthful or two of, obviously in the interests of research and not out of greed! Ahem! I have to say I actually preferred this to the starter I had which was the ‘thinly sliced veal with blushed tomatoes and watercress’.

Both were excellent but the smoked haddock fishcake for me won it. The fishcake was wonderfully flavoured: the smokiness of the fish complemented beautifully by the slight saltiness of the samphire and the delicious hollandaise. The veal was really good and was without question a beautifully prepared dish, but it just didn’t have anything which set the taste buds zinging…

For our mains Nina ordered the ‘Duck leg confit with spring savoy cabbage, beetroot, carrot puree and sauce poivrade’.

I ordered the ‘John Dory and crispy squid with fennel, aubergine, and tomato salad’.

Both dished were flawless. I wont even try to describe how good both dishes were. I think the photo’s speak for themselves.

For our pudding I had the cheese board and Nina ordered the ‘strawberry sorbet with strawberries and crushed meringue’ which when boiled down was essentially a lovely Eton mess.

Given that Eton mess is, in my opinion, just about as good as puddings get, and given that Nina thinks cheese is just about one of the best things ever there were envious looks a plenty back and forth…

For the wine we selected, with the help of the sommelier, a Chenin Blanc (Old vines, Stellenbosch) which was wonderfully dry with a real citrus aroma which was very reasonably priced at £25.

So, with coffee on top the bill came to a very reasonable £50 each. (Service inc.)

All in all, a meal of superb quality. If pushed though I’d probably have to choose La Trompette as being the better of the two restaurants. Although, I’m assured by Nina that Chez Bruce is the best of the three. I may need to start inventing special occasions just to have a reason for visit Chez Bruce!

Clissold Arms

I can't beat about the bush. This place was bad. Not only was it bad but it was expensive too, a combination of my two least favourite things. The reason we were there was a family gathering, we had originally planned to go to Cay Tre for some Vietnamese but my sister was getting married the next day and the opportunity arose to meet the groom's familly, so when duty calls..

The place is pretty generic looking: with long wooden tables, ornate lighting and muted colours. We were waiting for people to join us so we started off with some bread and olives both of which were unremarkable. What was noticeable is that we were not given any side plates and so had to drip olive oil everywhere whilst eating our bread. There other thing that should cause concern was that the menu was distinctly uninspiring. There was not really anything that any of us wanted to eat from either the starters and mains, which is unusual.

There were a variety of starters ordered. A smoked salmon starter ended up being a couple of piece of smoked salmon already dressed with a lot of salad leaves. Being Scottish I know that good smoked salmon needs nothing if a little lemon juice so the dressing was to my mind unnecessary and unadvertised. The tomato soup was declared good and seasoned perfectly. HI starter of potted shrimp whihc was passable in tjhat it was not a solid lump of butter but a bit underseasoned to my palate

The mains were again underwhelming, I had the pork loin with chorizo and spinach which turned out to be a huge chunk of tasteless meat, there had been little preparation put into the meat and the tomato confit was bland.

The steaks were also declared tasteless and chewy, even though asked for medium-rare.

the winner turned out to be the veggie tagliatelle with feta, tomatoes and walnuts.

For three people two starters, three mains, two beers, two ginger beers and a juice it came to £100 which to my mind was ridiculous. As you know, I don't mind spending money on food but it has to at least be tasty. There seems to be a huge variation in quality where gastropubs are concerned and in an area like East Finchley where there is not much competition, a place like the Clissold Arms will flourish, which is a shame as they could do with pulling their socks up. I don't think I am being harsh as we had a good example of what is possible from the Clerkenwell Green the very next day. I If anything they had the tougher deal, they were catering for 60 at a wedding, a 3 course sit down and the food was very good. Anyway I would not go back to the Clissold Arms and in fact would probably ask to go elsewhere..

Some London updates..

from a recent weekend in the big smoke, followed by the first of what I hope to be many, guest blogs..