Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Quality Chop House

92-94 Farringdon Rd

After seeing multiple Instagram posts about the food at The Quality Chop House, I finally decided to pay it a visit with A. It took us a while to find a suitable date but eventually we settled on mid-January and booked a table for two. They do notify you when they call to confirm the reservation that the seating in the restaurant is Victorian booths, so as a table of two you will likely be sharing with another couple of diners, but I figured we'd go find out whether or not sharing a table is uncomfortable. Thankfully the booths are quite long so you're not crammed up against each other - it's just a little annoying when you need to get out for any reason and you have to disturb the meal of the people next to you just to use the restroom.

The other different thing is that there is a different set menu every night for dinner, based on ingredients that the chefs feel like cooking that day. For £35, you get an amuse and bread, 4 different starters, a main, and a dessert. The cooking is excellent - no worries about eating too much that you think to yourself, I could make that at home. The first stunner we had was a Jerusalem artichoke dish where it had been prepared five different ways - pureed, roasted, pickled, crisped, and with the skin turned into crackling. I also loved the lamb's tongue with chorizo and chickweed, and cod with mushrooms (even A enjoyed the cod which he usually finds quite bland). For mains we shared a platter of venison, both as a sliced steak and as a braised pile of tender shredded meat, on top of cauliflower puree with beetroots and parsnips and kale on the side. And finally, dessert was rhubarb with hazelnut ice cream and meringues. We were absolutely stuffed by the end and ambled out into the drizzly night two hours later, satisfied and ready to go home.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Bacchus Pub & Kitchen

177 Hoxton St
N1 6PJ  

I should start this by saying I believe Bacchus is closed now. But I’ll forge ahead anyway. E, S and I were looking for a place to go for a Saturday lunch with our boys right before Christmas. When the first few pubs we tried wouldn’t take reservations, I remembered Bacchus – I’ve been here both in its previous incarnation as a fine dining restaurant but also in its current pub form and enjoyed both. At 2.30pm this day, it was essentially empty and we noticed loving goodbyes scrawled on some walls and pillars – indications that we were there for the last throes. But nevermind, my sea bass was still great, with crisp skin and fluffy roast potatoes underneath. A’s fish pie was good as well, and our two bottles of red helped us all celebrate merrily. And our final chocolate mousse with some tart Morello cherries was much darker and richer than expected, making the portion size perfect. So farewell, Bacchus – I hope something great comes back in your place.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Five Year Stats

So I suddenly realised I started this blog in 2009 and it’s now 2014 – in August I’ll have been blogging for five whole years. So this is jumping the gun a little, but who cares, if I don’t do this now I’ll probably forget when it actually rolls around.

Blogger is handy and tracks loads of fun data for you, so here are the top 5 posts of all time:

Also, while most of my readers are in the US and UK, which is no surprise, the next three countries are Russia, Poland and Germany. I have no explanation for this.

Finally, my page views peaked in January 2012 and have steadily declined since. Maybe I am getting more boring in my old age. Sorry.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Torchy's Tacos

4211 Spicewood Springs Road
Austin, TX

M informed me there was a decent taco place in between our parents’ houses so when my mom and I were a little hungry after a day of shopping, we dropped in to grab a snack. The menu is full of tacos with humorous names – for example, I ordered a Trailer Park and was asked if I’d like it “trashy” (with queso). I declined. We also had the green chile pork taco, as I love green sauce. I asked for both on corn tortillas, which are something that I miss quite a bit in London. My mom and I attempted to share these (I wouldn’t advise it though unless you really don’t mind making a complete mess). And while they were good, I’m not sure about the $4 price tags – next time I’m in Austin my friend E has promised me a taco hunt where we go to all his favourite (and minimally priced) taco stands in the city.

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Bomb Tacos @ White Horse

500 Comal St Austin, TX 78702

I managed to eat at two different taco places while I was back in Austin (hard to find time for other things when your parents are constantly making your favourite Chinese food). This one was purely accidental – I’d agreed to meet up with friends on my last night in Austin to see some bands at White Horse (both were excellent, actually – Wood & Wire, and Jenny and theCornponies). Reminded me of all the reasons why Austin is amazing – free music, cheap drinks, and a taco truck in the backyard! And warm enough in January to stand outside without a coat! Anyway, enough gushing about Austin – the tacos were fantastic too. I had one chorizo taco and one fish taco, both of which I devoured in record time. Beware of the lava-hotness of the chorizo taco, I burned my mouth a little on the first bite, but at least it was for a good cause.

Monday, February 03, 2014

Fish Pie

Back in Texas, I thought it would be nice to make dinner for my parents one night, seeing as how the rest of the time they were feeding me five times a day with an abundance of home cooked Chinese food. My mom had plenty of salmon, cod and shrimp in the freezer, so I quickly looked up some recipes for fish pie, picked one that didn’t involve cream or butter (there’s only so far you can push my parents’ adventurousness and I was already mixing cheese with seafood) and also took advantage of their food processor to make prep work a breeze. The result was fabulous and a little lighter than the usual gutbusting pies served in pubs – perfect for a Chinese-American family and some other Chinese-American friends.

Fish Pie
Adapted from
Serves 4-6


sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 kg potatoes
1 carrot
2 sticks celery
150 g good-quality Cheddar cheese
1 lemon
4 sprigs fresh flat-leaf parsley
300 g salmon fillets, skin off and bones removed
300 g cod fillets, skin off and bones removed
125 g raw peeled king prawns
olive oil
1 good handful kale or spinach, chopped, optional
Splash of milk, or unsalter butter, optional


Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/gas 6 and bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Peel the potatoes and cut into 2cm chunks. Once the water is boiling, add your potatoes and cook for around 12 minutes, until soft (you can stick your knife into them to check).

Meanwhile, get yourself a deep baking tray or earthenware dish and stand a box grater in it. Peel the carrot. Grate the celery, carrot and Cheddar on the coarse side of the grater. Use the fine side of the grater to grate the zest from the lemon. Finely chop the parsley leaves and stalks and add these to the tray.

Cut the salmon and cod into bite-size chunks and add to the tray with the shrimp. Squeeze over the juice from the zested lemon (no pips please!), drizzle with olive oil and add a good pinch of salt and pepper. If you want to add any spinach or kale, do it now. Mix everything together really well.

By now your potatoes should be cooked, so drain them in a colander and return them to the pan. Drizzle with a couple of good lugs of olive oil and add a pinch of salt and pepper. If using, add the butter and milk as well. Mash until nice and smooth, then spread evenly over the top of the fish and grated veg. Use a fork to rough up the top of the pie so you get plenty of crisp golden bits when it’s done. Place in the preheated oven for around 40 minutes, or until cooked through, crunchy and brown on top. Serve piping hot.