Monday, October 24, 2011

Caffe Paradiso, Store Street

After a lovely (yet just a little bit, on my part, illegal) swim with Mr I. We wandered down Store Street. A lovely little street just near SOAS and UCL (and Tottenham Court Road) that was most charming today for a late snack-cum-late-lunch. 

We first wandered into Treadwells, a quirky, esoteric bookshop. Naturally Mr I chose a book (or three, including Aristophanes' own The Birds) and we wandered in to browse (magic, mystery, broomsticks!). It was good fun and I got to nibble on a ginger snap while looking at some love potions. 

Although there was Store St Espresso nearby, it seemed to be lacking anything substantial at this time so we wandered over to Caffe Paradiso. I sampled their cannoli, which was divine. The candied fruit, ricotta filling and crunch pastry lined with chocolate was perfect. It was, of course, incredibly rich but I didn't seem to mind very much. We also ordered a hot white chocolate, which tasted warm and milky and sweet and just the sort of thing that is perfect for lovers of white chocolate, like Mr I. They had a few other lovely looking drinks on the menu (why have a espresso when I can have something more fun!) that I plan on trying when I go back. 

It did have your usual cafe fare of sandwiches and (re-heated) pizza but the desserts all looked quite scrumptious, with a pistachio tart that definitely drew my attention. The drinks, the desserts and the atmosphere (comfy couches, leather chairs, bookshelves and artsy catalogues) in a light and airy ground floor really made this place seem a cozy place to sit with a book (The Birds) and brood over a luscious, Sicilian dessert. Although a small chain, it left a good impression on me and did not feel replicated. 


A lovely cafe with delicious Sicilian desserts.

28 Store Street

(A) Food Blog

A few posts have gone passed by and I am yet to say what this food blog is about.

This food blog is about recipes and reviews. My goal is to have this blog to be roughly 60% recipes and 40% reviews of restaurants largely in London, unless, of course, this food blogger decides to have a (short) jaunt abroad. 

I love food and have roped my (sometimes) photographer and (sometimes) appreciative taster, Mr I, into this little venture with me. It is a way of chronicling what I do - which is, admittedly, quite often cook and eat (and read). 

I love unexpected food. Or intensely seasonal food. Or deliciously moreish food. And I hope to slowly start to share this love with not only Mr I but with you, through this food blog. 

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Serpentine Bar & Kitchen

Mr I and yours truly found ourselves in proximity to Hyde Park this morning. Being a beautiful today (and some coaxing from me) we decided to take a stroll through the park, along the Serprentine to eat lunch and laze about in the sun.

Serpentine Bar & Kitchen was incredibly full and runs on a cafe sort of basis, where you order at the bar and wait for your food outside at your table, so it was naturally a bit hectic. And there was a deluge of children. And tourists...

However it seems to market itself as having quite good food, seasonally-inspired, Modern British/Contemporary French. Which seemed to be quite unusual when in theory they could pass off stale burgers to tourists in Hyde Park. And plus it was, admittedly, a lovely day. 

I ordered a 'Risotto of roast pumpkin, sage, candied pumpkin seeds and parmesan' rather uneventfully - although deliciously. Perhaps a bit underseasoned - but that is a matter of taste - but lovely in its al dente glory, with (my favourite) pumpkin and sage. The pumpkin seeds added a lovely texture and the parmesan melted right in. And who cannot love melted cheese? It was simple, seasonal and rich. Exactly what a risotto should be. 

Mr I, feeling a bit more basic, had their classic pizza (tomato, mozzarella and oregano) and added chicken and mushrooms. The chicken, I was told, was perfectly lovely and the pizza base looked crispy and charred from their wood-fire oven. I remain dubious about the mushrooms which looks like not-yet-hydrated dehydrated mushrooms.

In terms of the service, The Serpentine Bar & Kitchen falls a bit short. The waitress seemed to be oblivious to the dirty tray left on our table and Mr I asked  demanded thrice that it would be removed. It seemed that either the waiters/waitresses were in hiding. Or there wasn't enough of them. I believe it was the first. Maybe it was a busy Saturday but I think they are simply lax on service (although the prices aren't exactly bargain) because of the location, which I cannot tolerate.

Nevertheless it was a lovely afternoon with a decidedly lovely (on my part) risotto...

Even Mr I admitted, in the end, that it wasn't a bad idea.


Not amazing service but more than decent food.

Serpentine Bar And Kitchen
Hyde Park
W2 2UH
Serpentine Bar & Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Friday, October 21, 2011

Memories of Autumn Sunlight: Chanterelles

Sunlight on my windowsill, drops of autumn orange that I chose from my favourite vegetable stand in Borough Market. Now, resting on my window. 

I chose them from this. For their memories of being in my summer house - dachya - in Russia. The joys of foraging for these creatures, these bright orange lisichki.  Roughly translated as little foxes. Chanterelles, as they are otherwise known. 

I do not know if this merits a recipe. But I do know that little foxes, chanterelles merit a post. For they sat on my windowsill, in the sunshine, proud in their orange-ness, evoking the little cries of joy at finding them underneath fallen logs - or if incredibly lucky - a whole 'field' of tender orange, glistening in sunshine, tucked away in falling leaves and mud. 

Chanterelles, (Sometimes) Done a Portable Gas Hob

Clean the chanterelles off, tenderly with a small brush. Aim to get the grime out. Do not put them under a stream of water: they are delicate. 

Maybe leave them to dry on a paper towel, if you are not very hungry.

Let a knob of butter, melt and spread on a pan. Do not let if get too hot! 

Add the mushrooms and toss, letting them absorb all the buttery goodness. Season.

Cook over your (maybe not very portable) hob for just a few minutes, until done and tender. 

Eat them as a side or as a snack - preferably in the autumn sunshine - with dark, dense rye bread. 

Thursday, October 13, 2011

One Aldwych

Centred around well-sourced produce.

The Modern Market Menu, created by Tony Fleming for London Restaurant Week, was, at best, alright.
There is so much more that is being done with contemporary British cooking. More that could be done with a menu that is meant to reflect the quality of the produce.

I was more than excited to learn that I had won the meal at the London Foodie blog. I'm a bit obsessed with the blog as I stroll through all the restaurants that I would eat at had I only the time and the resources. I study near One Aldwych and therefore it was a bit of a curiosity to try eating there as I have passed it countless times. 

Walking into One Aldwych Mr I and I were disappointed to note that the front-of-house staff did not seem to aware of this menu's existence. Fortunately, someone overheard me trying to explain that no, were not eating in Axis. No, not there either. No, there was a course at the bar, then Axis and, yes, indeed, then Indigo. Which was clever had the chap at front-of-house knew that that this menu existed.

Nevertheless, we were soon led to the bar area to have the first course.

It started with 'A glass of Ridgeview's Bloomsbury Cuvée Merret with a tasting of oysters:
Natural with shallot vinegar and Tabasco, Jellied with watercress, Deep fried with tartar sauce and chipsAngels on horseback'. 

I do think that the presence of an English sparkling wine was clever, given the menu. And it certainly was not unpleasant. But that is all that can be said for that. 

The oysters were brought after some time; after we indicated that neither of us eat pork they considerately switched the Angels on horseback to a lovely 'espresso shot' of oyster soup. I thought the soup was sweet yet full of saltiness of oysters and the sea; it had a certain depth to it. 

Although Mr I raved about the deep fried oysters, I do think it is simply a waste of a good oyster and then I find the crust simply overpowers the delicate flavour of the oyster itself. With the tartar sauce, the oyster was nowhere to be found. However, if fish and chips are your thing, I suppose it can be quite a nice, moreish bite. 

Eventually we were led to Axis. I thought the décor was on the garish side. However we were nestled in a perfectly cosy corner of the dining room which we enjoyed stupendously (with a bottle of wine by our side). 

The second course was 'Roast haunch of venison, shepherd's pie of braised shank, caramelised root vegetable purée, chestnut jus'. The chestnut complemented the venison nicely but I felt that as a jus it had to have more depth which was missing. The venison itself was lovely as well, cooked to a beautiful medium rare and tender. There was not a vegetable purée but rather some quite nice, if a tad over-salted, cabbage. It was meant to go with bacon bits which I can only imagine would add to the saltiness. 

The shepherd's pie addition simply made the dish too heavy. Mr I and I tend to believe that shepherd's pie is not a side dish as it simply detracts from the balance of a meal. After the pie, which I did not quite finish, we felt terribly full.

We were then led to Indigo. The ambience of Indigo was more to our liking as it over-looked the bar, created some lovely people-watching and did not feel as gaudy as Axis. 

The dessert was 'Blackberry, elderberry and sloe gin jelly, clotted cream ice cream, blackberry mousse' . It was quite nice but the overly heavy main course detracted from my appreciation of the dessert. It was not fantastic. My favourite bit were the blackberries dipped in caramel and then left to dry. The sweetness of the sugar, the satisfying crunch followed by the lovely little berry. Otherwise, although nice, the dessert was a tad on the anaemic side in terms of taste. 

Nevertheless we thoroughly enjoyed the meal and thought the idea of going around the venue was brilliant and quite fun. It lent a sense of adventure to the meal and made it an experience. I do feel the cooking was not brilliant so, I feel that there are other much better London Restaurant Week events in the price range that this menu was in. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

On Gems and Borough Market: Honeyed Carrots, With A Touch of Balsamic

I saw them, glittering beneath their dirt, layered and sweet.

Autumn carrots. Artisan carrots I could call them. 

Gems of colours, carrots that would turn sweet, yet savoury and every-so-slightly sticky, left to caramelise in the oven for a few hours. Carrots that would take on a different temperament, showing all the warmth and vitality of autumn. 

Carrots that I would serve, maybe ever so inappropriately, with some mackerel that looked so tempting on a stall and some (big, market, end-of-summer) tomatoes, sliced with buffalo mozzarella and basil. 

But, the carrots, the carrots I could have on their own, cold as a salad. Or paired with lamb cutlets. Or, as I did, paired inappropriately with anything you would like... 

Honeyed Carrots, With A Touch of Balsamic

Carrots, scrubbed, in cheerful colours (or just orange)
Balsamic Vinegar
Olive Oil

Take the carrots, slice them into manageable bits (or roast little ones whole).

Toss them with seasoning, olive oil, until they are shiny and flecked with pepper. 

Cover them up in foil and put them into an oven, for an hour or so, until they are pliant.

Uncover them, toss with honey, enough to coat them, and a dash of balsamic vinegar for depth. 

Cook them uncovered for a further half an hour, letting the edges caramelise and them to fall into a delicious savoury sweetness.