Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Royal Standard

1 Saint Peter's Road
TR11 5TP

 I've written about The Royal Standard before here and here, but this recent visit for Sunday lunch seemed different enough that I decided to post again. I'm noticing that I'm making more return visits to places - which is not surprising since you do tend to go back to places when you're living in the same place for seven years, but I think is also due to the fact that I'm no longer chasing after the next best thing to eat. The dining scene in the UK has drastically improved, even over the last few years, and I've discovered places that I'm happy to go back to again and again. I might even do a post on my favorite restaurants based on frequency of visits. Anyway - on another trip to Cornwall, we returned to The Royal Standard for a sunny outdoors roast luncheon, this time with A's Australian family members, and had a great time soaking up some rare rays of sunlight while gorging on platefuls of food. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the carrot mash - there was something else in there too, maybe swede, and a hell of a lot of butter, I think. Point is, get yourself to Flushing if you're in the area, it's worth the trip.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Dach & Sons

68 Heath Street
After a nice long stroll around Hampstead Heath (as usual made longer by our inability to navigate the park without getting tremendously disoriented), A and I headed for Dach & Sons, which Giles Coren had just written about in relatively glowing terms. On his recommendation, we had the bone marrow popcorn, which I loved but A thought was too salty. We also ordered a round of sliders, some mac & cheese, and the fried pickles. The sliders were the best by far - I loved the pulled pork chili slider while A was ecstatic about the bacon and peanut butter jam slider. However, we did think they were quite pricey, and the mac & cheese was incredibly disappointing (tasted like boxed stuff, to be honest) and the fried pickles were overwhelmingly greasy. So all in all, not one I'd return to.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


The Hop Exchange  
24 Southwark Street

For A's birthday, we usually go to a place near London Bridge at it seems to be the easiest place for everyone to get home from. I couldn't tell you exactly why Katzenjammers was chosen, and the fact that Oktoberfest was starting in a few days was coincidental timing - but I was happy to go somewhere to prepare for my Munich adventures. A similar group of us had come here before in its previous incarnation as a normal pub - I think I prefer its new German identity. One liter steins and a full selection of German beers were available, as well as my two favorite German dishes of all time - spaetzle and schnitzel. Both were executed somewhat well here - the spaetzle was suitably covered in cheese, bacon and onions, and the schnitzel was crisp and generous, but I think both dishes were a little on the salty side. Still, they paired well with generous quantities of beer so I find it hard to complain. I think A's birthday was suitably celebrated, and everyone wandered off into the night happy.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Orange Buffalo

The Old Truman Brewery
Brick Lane
E1 6QL

I am often grateful for the friends I have in London who are willing to go try out food with me, regardless of where it is located or whether there is any choice on the menu. I can basically say to P, hey, I heard of a place doing [fill-in-the-blank], and he'll say, when can we go? And this is how we found ourselves at a buffalo wing truck in East London for lunch. Those who know me (or have read previous entries like this, this and this) know that one of the things I crave is buffalo wings. While living in New York, I would have buffalo wings at least every couple of weeks, if not more frequently. The sudden absence of them when I moved to London was noticeable and I did make efforts to track them down, but they were pretty much always filthy (and not in a good way). All of this to say, I freaking love buffalo wings, and thank god The Orange Buffalo loves them as well. Not only do they do an original sauce, we also tried the Woof Woof which included scotch bonnet peppers and an array of spices that made for a slightly more complex and definitely more spicy experience. The wings were meaty and chickeny, and freshly fried before being tossed in the selected sauce. Fries and onion rings were also crisp and greaseless, and the blue cheese sauce, celery sticks and drink completed an admirable lunch deal for £6.50. If I could get them to park outside my house I would.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Pizza Brera

Upstairs at the Lyric Hammersmith
W6 0QL

More fun activities with A. This evening, he had suggested that we get tickets to see Morning by Simon Stephens at the Lyric Hammersmith (mixed reactions from the three of us - I thought it was ok, A & F were not impressed at all). F joined us there and we went with the easy option of pizzas at Pizza Brera, eaten out on the roof garden. While this bit of Hammersmith is not exactly lovely, the roof garden did a good job of hiding the less scenic views behind wooden structures and vines. Mine was a Parma pizza with tomato, mozzarella, porcini mushrooms, sun dried tomatoes, parma ham, rocket leaves, and parmesan shavings. I happen to love a forest of rocket leaves on top of my pizza, but A and F were a little less enamored with the greenery. I think A had a Piccante - tomato, mozzarella, fresh chilli, ventricina salami, roasted peppers, fresh thyme, and oregano, though my memory is not too sharp, and F went for my pizza without the heaps of rocket on top. A thin, crispy base complemented the pizzas well and it was certainly a massive step up from most chain pizzerias, so I was pleased. Even my giant appetite was unable to defeat an entire pizza though - I think two people could easily share one pizza with something on the side. I wouldn't head out to Hammersmith just to have this pizza, but it is a decent option if you're seeing a play.

Friday, November 09, 2012


Near Whitmore Bridge
Canal Towpath

So my friend A picked one of the most delightful weeks in London to come visit. It was sunny, it was September so most of the crazy tourists were all gone, and I managed to join him for some adventures around town. I've always meant to check out the Towpath Cafe, seeing as how it's less than 10 minutes walk from where I live and I regularly jog past it when I'm motivated enough to go for a run. Finally, A's visit gave me an excuse, and there was no way we could pass up basking in the sun alongside the canal. Since we mostly wanted a bit of a snack, we chose what we thought would be two relatively light plates of food, a grilled cheese sandwich and a cheese plate. What we got were total gut bombs (in a very very good way, of course). The grilled cheese was buttery, crisp, and packed full of sharp flavored cheese with a tangle of green onions mixed in. Like the grilled cheese you can get at Borough Market (but dare I say, perhaps even better?) The cheese plate was absolutely enormous for the £6.50 we paid. Three doorstopper sized wedges of cheese graced the plate, alongside grapes and a board full of fresh brown bread. As much as we tried, we couldn't quite get through all the cheese, and then we waddled off into the sunshine to walk it all off.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Roast Pork Belly and New Potatoes

I often get lovely big chunks of pork belly in Chinatown - it keeps well in the freezer and is always welcome when you're looking for something hearty, comforting and a bit greedy. This super simple method is one of my go-to techniques.

Roast Pork Belly and New Potatoes
Very loosely based on this recipe


1.5kg pork belly
3-4 tablespoons of Chinese five spice powder
1kg small new potatoes
salt and pepper


1. If the fat is to crackle, you will need to score and season it. This is how. With an ultra-sharp blade, score through the skin at finger-thick widths (to give long, pickupable strips of crackling). Go down through the fat under the skin, but don't cut into the meat. Or you can do it in a diamond pattern as in the picture above.

2. Generously salt and pepper the pork belly. Rub the Chinese five-spice powder into the pork belly, pushing it into any available crevice or slit. You need to give the seasoning time to do its stuff, so leave the meat in a cool place for an hour or so. 

3. Wash the potatoes and tip them into a roasting pan.

4. Set the oven at 200°C/gas 6. You are going to cook the pork directly on the oven shelf above the spuds, so place one oven shelf near the bottom and another two thirds of the way up. When the oven has come up to temperature, pour a little oil over the potatoes, just enough to stop them from sticking, add a wineglass of water, and shake them about a bit, then put the roasting pan on the lower shelf.

5. Pull the top shelf out and place the pork on it, skin side up, then slide it back. Leave the pork and potatoes for an hour, tossing the potatoes once during cooking, so that they turn over. Presumably you want your pork juicy and barely pink. Cut into it with a sharp knife to check its progress. Any pink in there? Then cook it for a little longer. You should find it will be just right in about an hour and half.

6. To crisp the skin, the heat will need to be higher, so turn the oven up to 250°C/ gas 8, or its highest setting, and continue cooking until the skin is puffed and crisp. Remove the meat and leave it to rest--it will be juicier that way--then remove the potatoes, which should be sticky and deep brown.

7. Cut the meat into thick chunks rather than slices and serve with the potatoes.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Mamounia Lounge

136 Brompton Road 

I'll be honest and say that Knightsbridge is not one of my usual haunts, but when I was invited to come to Mamounia Lounge to check out their Moroccan and Lebanese menu, it seemed like a good reason to expand the horizons a bit. A short walk from Knightsbridge station, Mamounia Lounge is decked out more like a bar/club than restaurant, and I probably wouldn't have thought about it as a place for dinner if I was just walking past. Inside, it's all dim lighting and dark, intense colors. We started with the long cocktail list, and I tried a Gold Digger cocktail (passion fruit, vanilla, vodka, champagne) and A had the Mamounia Old Fashioned with Flor de Cana 21 rum. They were both well balanced, though A did realize he'd chosen an after-dinner drink for his pre-dinner drink. 

To start we had the incredibly creamy Hommus Shawarma (topped with grilled lamb), and deep fried squid which managed to be both crispy and tender. The mixed grill and lamb shank tagine mains also showed off the skills of the kitchen - I'm not sure I've ever had a chicken kebab that was so juicy and full of chickeny flavor, and the lamb shank was braised to a fall-apart consistency that just needed gentle prodding with a fork. 

Desserts were not as stellar as the savory dishes though - the Mahalabia, an Arabic pudding garnished with pistachios, tasted mostly of roses to me, which was unexpected as I'd never had the dish before and there was no mention of that flavor on the menu. The fig tart had a rather thick, stodgy pastry, but it was saved by the fabulous cinnamon ice cream. This is going to sound disgustingly greedy, but our waiter was insistent that we try the chocolate fondant and brought it out for our third dessert, and to be fair it was the best of the three. 

For something sweet after a meal that won't stuff you even further, I'd suggest going outside for a shisha - we had the mixed fruit tobacco pumped through mango juice, and it was a more unique, fun experience than the dessert menu. That's a popular option though and there isn't much space outside, so you do need to book in advance.

Since we were there on a Friday night, a stunning belly dancer performed after dinner - a bit of extra entertainment if you're looking for it! It seems to fit the neighborhood well - I would hesitate a bit at the prices, especially as I live close to Dalston where meals like this would be half the cost, but you do get a more glamorous presentation in return, and there are certainly many comparably priced places in Knightsbridge without the quality cooking seen here.

Goodfoodetc was invited to review Mamounia Lounge.

Thursday, November 01, 2012


Second floor of Boxpark
2-4 Bethnal Green Rd
E1 6GY

There is a glut of Vietnamese restaurants in the Shoreditch area, and this newcomer has set up in the "pop-up" shopping area of Boxpark. A bunch of shipping containers have been stacked to make tiny individual stores and food outlets. Being the trendsters that we are, P and I arranged a meetup to look at the stores and see what kind of dinner we could get. After giggling at hipsters in onesies, we decided to pit Hop-Namo against the rest of the places in the area. I ordered a regular beef pho, and it was definitely not the dish I usually think of - the flavor of the broth was quite different and it was missing a depth to it - when I think of good pho, I can feel my bones getting stronger from the richness of the stock that the noodles are in, and this was certainly lacking that feeling. No plate of cilantro, beansprouts, basil, chillies, and lime was served alongside it either - so I just ate what was in my bowl with no adjustments for personal preference. Not to say it was bad - I finished it - it just isn't what I want when I want a good bowl of pho, so I doubt I'll be returning.