Monday 2 April 2012

food blogging

gave my life meaning.

Before the blog my eating was a nebulous meaningless thing. Now it has form and purpose.

I am sad I came to it so late.

I envied those twenty settings whose blogs I would read daily as they devoured their cities ( New York and London respectively). If only I had had the vision at that age to do something that might make my gluttony have some purpose, some small use, my twenties would have had more direction.
There is a sense of kindred that would not stop me asking these strangers to join me for dinner if I scored a res for 4 and needed a dining companion. They are the browncoats of food to me.

Blythswood Hotel Bar

Blythswood Square used to be known as a place ladies of the night could be found, but this multi million pound hotel is going some way to sanitise the reputation of the area.

The bar seems to have the only decent serious cocktail list in Glasgow. Where Edinburgh had some serious contenders (Bramble, the Raconteur (now closed), Bon Vivant to name a few), the Glasgow cocktail scene was more of the neon cocktail umbrella school, than the old Skool. OK, ok the Fininieston and the bar at the Butchershop are decent too

Fortunately this has now changed and the well stocked liquor selection allows for some classics to be made and for the knowledgable bar tenders to create cocktails to taste. Unfortunately this can end up being pricey with each cocktail averaging £10 plus, which is more than specialist cocktail bars in London of a similar if not higher caliber, charge.

Speakeasy it is not, but it is still top of the list when a serious cocktail is order of the day.

Sunday 1 April 2012


Now, we had been to Brawn with John, and had been so excited by the menu that we ordered loads and promptly felt like we were developing gout due to the huge quantities of rich protein that we consumed. We fairly waddled home.

When making up this trip's list, the toss up was between Bar Boulud where the only thing we really were interested in were the burgers, and Soif. Again. we were a bit put off by the trek- Clapham Common and then a very long walk, but then weather was good and the menu looked interesting.

It was a Thursday evening and the place was packed with a real buzz to it. The interior is not as hip as Brawn, much more your local french bistro vibe. The wait staff did their best but still were run off their feet. It was very hot and loud by 9pm. I had thought it was small plates just like Brawn but the portions were larger as pointed out by our waiter who told us with a smile when to stop ordering.

I was a bit disappointed by the execution of the dishes, which sounded good on paper. We started with some padron peppers, which were a bit oily and none were hot.

HI ordered the chicken livers with sage and onion. I don't like livers so can't comment but HI said they were just ok. Next up was my hake with lentils, which was lovely, fresh and light- almost healthy. HI again went for the offal and had the pigs kidneys which looked like bulbous button mushrooms and almost made me gag at the sight of them. HI was not excited, he said he could do better himself. The last dish was a tart fine of artichoke and spinach. By this time we were pretty full and I left most of it.

The bill was roughly £88 for the food and two drinks. As you will see the same amount at the Hawksmoor provided us with much more taste satisfaction. I think if you lived in the area you would feel lucky but it's not somewhere I would travel for again.

the Wolseley

was a big disappointment.

This was our third time for breakfast, and in the intervening year it was quite evident that cost cutting measures are in place. This when your bill comes to £45 for some mediocre food takes the shine off the place.

You may say that I am being fussy, but when handing over that amount of money for breakfast I feel I ought to be.
For example, the salt beef hash has been taken off then menu. So, HI ordered the haggis and hash, which was exactly the same dish but with haggis. As they still serve the salt beef sandwich, a little customer service which would have gone a long way, would have been to offer to make the dish up, given they have all the composite parts.

Unlike on previous occasions there was no paper and colouring pencils for the little one, and when I asked to see what pastries were on offer, instead of them being paraded in front of me on their own magnificent trolley, I was handed the menu again. The chocolate milkshake the little one had was watery in comparison to the far superior Byron version, and I doubt there was any ice cream in it.

My kedgeree could only be described as gloop. I make a pretty decent version myself from the John Pawson book, and I believe the rice should be fluffy and the components recognisable. There was far too much curry powder used, which completely over powered the reasonable pieces of smoked haddock. I couldn't finish it.

Of course we will not be going back. Our love affair with the place is over. But no matter, we have a new favourite breakfast venue or two..


Clapham seems to be where its at these days.
Initially it seemed a bit of trek from Isilington where we were based, but the Northern line is a wonderful thing and we were there including walking time in 40 mins.
My good friend John who lives locally, has been there a few times and really enjoyed it. That, and the good looking menu made Trinity an easy choice for one of our evening meals.

We were joined by John and Will and Nina whose impending nuptials we were in the big smoke to celebrate later on that week.

My first impressions were that we were in the twin sister of La Trompette, which is not a bad thing. The decor, lay out, vibe and service were very similar. I had read about the cover charge for water and bread so was not taken unawares and given that the bread was very good and freely given, did not grudge it that much.

The whipped butter deserves a picture of it's own, the whipped nature making it very light, but way too easy to eat too much of.

The food reminded me of the Ledbury, again not a bad thing, and given the pedigree of Adam Byatt should not be that much of a surprise (both he and Brett Graham came form the mothership, the Square). Inventive and much more interesting than any of the fare you can get up in Scotland these days. There is a leaning towards asian flavours that makes a welcome change to the familiar French/Scottish interpretation of things that we are used to.

John had the charred mackerel which again was similar in concept to the one we had last year in the Ledbury:

Will the seared tuna, sashimi grade cut

HI the cauliflower soup, a choice no doubt influenced by the inclusion of truffle butter tortellini.

Nina had the terrine of chicken and foie which was gargantuan in size with discernible pieces of both.

I had the pepper crust beef fillet which actually turned out to be a very good carpaccio.

The menu had changed since they emailed it to me, and I was disappointed to find the veal had been taken off. That as well as the fact that by 8.30pm they were already sold out of the caremelised Halibut meant that I went for my 3rd choice of the Duck.
There were some things that seemed a bit superfluous such as the piece of pak choi on my plate of Aylesbury duck, and I really didn't like the Pastilla which I found to be oily. However, the quality and execution of the duck could not be faulted.

Ninas walnut gnocchi had us admitting that these days the vegetarian options are sometimes more enticing than the meat based ones:

We did of course order two portions of chips and bone marrow.

John's slow cooked belly pork had a good combination of textures provided by the pickled walnut to help cut through the richness of the belly fat and black pudding, but unfortunately no photo.
HI's bavette elicited sounds of happiness

We had eaten so much we passed on pudding which says more about our ages and the portion size, than the lack of anything appealing.

The bill was quite helpfully divided into food and booze and we spent almost as much on drink as we did food, which says something, what, I am not quite sure!
I would go back, as its not quite far as Chiswick and if we cut out the booze it could be quite a reasonably priced meal for the quality of produce and service.


We really like Byron.

The folks in London are spoiled for choice with high end offerings from Bar Boulud, Goodman, Hawksmoor to the too cool for Skool meatliqour, Spuntino and Miskins offerings to Hache, Gourmet burger Kitchen and Fine Burger Co. There are some blogs dedicated to the search for the ultimate burger, Burgerac being very cool and the debate rages long and hard on the UK Chowhound board. For a very good blow by blow comparison look here.

Having thrown over Bar Boulud for Soif this trip, I haven't yet tasted the Piggie or the Frenchie for myself. We could have had lunch at Spuntino for it was empty when we walked past, but it was distinctly toddler unfriendly with only high bar stools for seating. As for meatliqour the thought of standing in a queue for an hour plus, was not enough to make me want to go, no not even for deep fried pickles.

So, having eaten at the other places, we find that Byron for your everyday burger hits the spot, at least our spot. A big plus is that they are toddler friendly, an influencing factor when it comes to our London lunch choices now. I have the Byron burger medium rare with the Byron sauce on the side and a topping of jalapeƱos, HI has the cheeseburger with blue on top, which oddly they said could only be served a minimum of medium. We had the Courgette fries as well as the regular fries and they seem to be a sure fire way of getting HI and the little one to eat vegetables.

The chocolate malted milkshake remains one of my favourite. It is a meal in itself. I have to share it with everyone at the table to do it justice.The fact that it contains a huge amount of good chocolate ice cream puts it way above of other milkshakes I have had, and the malt gives it that little bit extra.