Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Silk Road

If you live in London and you like your food you've probably heard of Silk Road in Camberwell and how it's the best Chinese food in the city! You've heard correct, not only is it constantly voted one of London's best cheap eats but the fact that Camberwell is a pain to get to yet people are willing to trek acorss the city to eat here is a testament to the amazing quality of the food.

I went last week with a few friends for the first time in over a year and as I walked into the busy, canteen style restaurant I breathed in the sweet aromatic fumes and knew I would be in for a culinary treat that evening. Silk Road isn't your bog standard Chinese restaurant, it specialises in north-western Chinese fare therefore a lot of the flavours are quite middle eastern in taste.

This is definitely a place that works best if you share food. The portions are large and the menu is full of different meat, vegetable and noodle options therefore it's best to come with a larger group that way you can sample more food.

The home style aubergine is one of my favourite dishes on the menu, fried with peppers, garlic and chilli this dish is sweet, spicy and delicious.

There's not many places where a plate of 10 steamed pork dumplings would cost so little and taste so good, another staple choice for any visit.

Kelp is a funny one, I always think I don't like the stuff but once it arrived the cold slippery seaweed packs a great punch full of chilli and sesame oil.

 Lamb shish skewers (£1 each) aren't for the faint of heart as they're loaded up with chunks of fat as well as lamb meat but they sure do taste good. Incredibly moorish it's incredibly easy to scoff a few of these each.

Pork belly cooked with onions, garlic and chilli is definitely my favourite things on the menu. The pork belly is succulent and full of flavour that you want to savour every slice and lick the plate clean once it's all gone.

The special lamb noodles with cabbage, onion, garlic and chilli (do you sense a theme) is another delightful plate full of flavour. The noodles are homemade a cooked perfectly al dente and the dish is hot without the chilli being overpowering.

The middle plate chicken is a huge plate of chicken on the bone, potatoes and green chilli cooked in broth with a generous portion of thick homemade noodles. This is somewhat of a speciality dish here but it's probably my least favourite. The broth isn't as spicy thus appearing bland when compared to the other dishes, next time I visit I think I'll give it a miss.

The best thing about Silk Road is the price. On this visit there were 4 of us, we had a drink each and the bill was £12.50 each and as you can see we had quite the feast. I can't wait for my next visit.

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Tuesday, 3 March 2015

BREIZH Cafe, Paris

You cannot visit France without having a crepe or two. I did a little research before our trip to Paris and read about BREIZH Cafe in Le Marais who claim to do the the best crepes in the city. We headed along for lunch one day and found a little modern cafe packed full of people but with just enough space left for the two of us.

The menu is split into savoury galettes (traditional buckwheat pancakes) and sweet crepes with a typical chalkboard menu du jour.

We ordered an obligatory karafe of cider which was sweet and to be perfectly honest not to my liking but that's because I favour dry west country scrumpy.

I ordered a cheese, onion, chorizo and soft egg cooked in cider galette from the special menu which was delicious. I haven't had a buckwheat pancake before, they're a lot woodier in flavour but this really compliments the savoury ingredients.

Steve went for the tripe sausage and salad galette from the main menu, a little adventurous I'd say but the tripe was surprisingly nice and not as powerful tasting as I expected. I definitely preferred my pancake though!

Of course we had to have a sweet crepe to finish so we shared a chocolate pancake, not that horrible Nutella rubbish but proper melted rich chocolate, divine!

I enjoyed out lunch at BREIZH Cafe, I wouldn't say they were the best pancakes I've ever tasted but they were lovely and if I was in the area again and in need of a quick bite I'd be sure to pop in.

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Monday, 2 March 2015

Symmetry Breakfast

On Valentine's Day Steve and I headed to east London for a special brunch. I'm not going to lie, this sounds pretty hipster even by my accounts, but instagram sensation Symmetry Breakfast has become so popular they've opened their own pop up! The location was Mr Buckley's which I've been to before for dinner (it's very nice) and we had to order the same thing, obviously.

The tickets were £20 per person and included a soft drink, a alcoholic cocktail and a main. Because I don't drink tea or coffee we went for the pink lemonade which was nice combination of sweet and sour flavours. The French 75 was the most appealing cocktail consisting of gin, lemon and prosecco.

I'm not normally a fan of ordering the same thing, Steve and I always share food in order to try more things but this was a fun concept and provided a good photo opportunity. After checking out #symmetrybreakfast we decided that the baked eggs aka shakshuka looked like the best option, we were not disappointed. A piping hot bowl of vegetables and tomato sauce covered in two baked eggs with a side of spiced humus and bread arrived and within minutes we had devoured the lot, truly delicious and perfect for a bleak winters day. Something like this would be quite easy to replicate at home and I'm looking forward to giving it a go.

Mr Buckley's is a nice little spot and if you're in the area I recommend checking it for dinner and drinks, on both occasions of visiting it hasn't been overwhelmingly busy and the food has always been of great quality. Check out the symmetry breakfast instagram because it really is a visual delight and something that would be fun to recreate at home.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Le Chateaubriand, Paris

Another evening in Paris, another indulgent dinner! For our Saturday night meal we headed to Le Chateaubriand for an evening of French gastronomy. With promises of an unforgettable tasting menu using seasonal ingredients and traditional Parisian flavours with an inventive twist I was sure to secure a reservation two weeks in advance. We were a little early so popped next door into Le Dauphin (another IƱaki Aizpitarte institution but serving tapas) for a quick gin and tonic. I'd definitely like to eat here in the future if my experience of Le Chateaubriand is anything to go by.

I'm not a fussy eater by any stretch of the imagination so tasting menus don't faze me too much but there are a few foods I really dislike i.e. mushrooms. Fortunately a quick scan of the menu assured me that there were none present... When Steve and I were in Helsinki a few months ago we dined at Olo (another tasting menu only restaurant) and to my distaste one course consisted of mushroom soup! Anyway, back to Paris, we were presented with a 20 page wine list, I did my normal thing of asking for something dry around €30 and was presented with a lovely bottle. A shame I didn't catch the name as they whipped it away and poured the contents into a carafe before I could click my camera.

The restaurant itself is lovely, with a 1920s bistro vibe and a relaxed atmosphere which worked well for us as we didn't have time to change before dinner so arrived in our trainers and rucksacks... This theme was carried throughout all our Parisian dinners, despite expensive bills I never felt out of place which is something the high end restaurant scene in London doesn't quite master. With a €70 tasting menu the restaurant never felt stuffy and it's reasons like this why I enjoy eating out in Paris so much.

Lets talk food, the best thing about tasting menus is the fact you always end up with way more food than you imagined. With a series of amuse bouche, starters, fish courses, mains, pre desserts, desserts and petite fours we were spoilt rotten with options.

First up were the cheese puffs, 2 each. These were light with a distinct taste of cheddar but not overpoweringly cheesy. A simple dish but something to slowly awaken the taste buds.

Quickly following the cheese puffs was a one shot portion of ceviche, delightfully sour and tangy I could have drunk an awful lot more.

The veal tempura was an interesting dish, I'm not the hugest fan of veal as the texture is so tender it's almost like you're not even eating meat but despite the strange texture these were tasty and the peppery pink powder added a little heat.

A turnip cake covered in clams was an interesting concept on the Chinese dish. This tasted like the sea (in a good way) with the salty clams and finely ground breadcrumbs representing sand.

For our final amuse bouche this murky looking soup was in fact a heavenly bowl of steaming hot pomegranate soup, so incredibly moorish and sweet this was best drunk without a spoon.

On the way to the toilet I spied the kitchen so quickly took a photo of the first fish course being prepared, a salad of raw mackerel, sage and artichoke. Whilst I'm not a huge pan of mackerel under normal circumstances the raw fish was a delight.

The cod, grapefruit and spinach was heaven, the grapefruit was delicate yet juicy giving the dish a tangy sweetness. The cod was perfectly tender and the spinach was cooked to perfection which is a rare feat as it's often watery and bland. This was definitely one of my favourite plates of the evening.

The main course was veal in a creamy white sauce and despite my aversion to the meat this tasted sublime. The white wine and cream based froth was filled with delicate onions and I would have happily slurped this up without any meat present. Definitely my favourite course of the night!

The first dessert, Mont Blanc, was an interesting one to say the least. A thin layer of meringue on top of a light and airy foam with a very subtle flavour. I took a bite and thought 'this is nice but why can I taste mushroom'. I took a second bite and thought the mushroom taste must be in my head. I had a poke around and just before I took my third bite I realised there was a very thin slither of mushroom at the bottom of the plate. Of course it was meant to be there but I had to poke it out (see my earlier point about mushroom hatred). Once removed I couldn't taste the offending vegetable but this really was a strange dessert, not actually tasting of much, nevertheless after a lot of previously strong flavours the lightness was welcomed.

The tocino de cielo (bacon from heaven in Spanish...) is somewhat of a classic at Le Chateaubriand. An egg yolk on an 'egg shell' meringue base covered in ground almond, you take this in one bite and the sweet egg explodes in your mouth, quite the sensation!

Petite fours consisted of a slice of kiwi covered in sugar seeds, a refreshing end to a wonderfully inventive meal. I missed a little chocolate at the end and apart from the hidden mushroom I thoroughly enjoyed the Chateaubriand experience. Yes it was on the expensive side but if you consider yourself adventurous when it comes to food and enjoy an unusual dining experience then you really ought to seek out Le Chateaubriand next time you're in Paris.

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Thursday, 26 February 2015

Frenchie Wine Bar, Paris

Steve and I took a trip to Paris a few weekends ago with the sole intention of eating delicious food, drinking great wine and taking in some wonderful sights. After a lot of research I decided that Frenchie was a restaurant I had to try but with a near impossible chance of securing a reservation we opted for the no reservations wine bar across the road (there's also a take away next door). We arrived 15 minutes before opening to make sure we secured a table and as the door opened we (and the rest of the queue) were hustled into a bare-brick, low lit tavern with a table next to the open kitchen.

I'm not a huge fan of wine, in fact I don't really drink it at all when I'm home but when I'm in France I always make an effort to sample a local bottle or two because it's always wonderful and not at all similar to the rubbish I come across at home. Being the novice I am I usually ask the waiter to help me decide, on this occasion I asked for something dry, around €30 and was told Macon-Villages was a lovely bottle. The waiter was right, the wine was lovely and crisp and definitely one of my favourite bottles over the weekend.

When it comes to food I am a huge fan of sharing, I don't really understand why people wouldn't want to as it's a chance to sample a greater selection of the menu, especially in a place you may only get one chance to visit. Steve being the helpful chap he is left me in charge of ordering and with a selection of meaty tapas style dishes with an American-French edge I found myself torn between so many options.

Much to my disappointment the steak tartare was sold out, thus making my choice of scallop dish a little easier. The tartare was delicious with a mix of incredibly fresh scallops in a tangy ceviche style sauce. The dish was moorish and the pomegranate seeds added a delightful burst of sweetness.


I loved the fact we were sitting next to the kitchen and could see our food being prepared, it definitely makes you appreciate the skill that is put into making a dish look so perfect. The potato gnocchi was an interesting one, tasting more like mash potato than any gnocchi I've had before. The truffles added a welcomed earthy tone and overall the plate was refined comfort, very enjoyable on a cold Parisian evening.

I always feel a little guilty ordering rabbit as I have a pet one at home but as soon as I tasted the ragu with home made pappardelle any guilt went out the window. The meat was tender, the pasta almost tangy with fresh lemon and the sauce rich in flavour.

The lobster roll was the first thing I knew I would order and despite it being a steep €24 for the portion size, I do not regret my decision in the slightest. The brioche roll was rich and buttery, the lobster succulent and meaty with an overall taste of pure indulgence.

Being the greedy carnivores that we are we choose a final meat dish over any sort of salad or vegetable. I'm glad we did because the melt-in-the-mouth duck was one of the stand out plates, with deep earthy flavours and sweet overtones from a combination of beets and root veg. I loved how colourful it looked.

With just enough room for dessert Steve had a lovely panacotta whilst I had the richest and most chocolatey mouse ever,  indulgent and glorious this was a true chocolate lovers dessert!

After dinner we headed down the road for a few cocktails, stopping first at the Experimental Cocktail Club where they made me a delicious concoction of gin, lemon and whatever else I can't remember. It was a lovely sour and punchy drink.

Second stop was across the road at Jefrey's for a delightful apple pie cocktail. Despite the amalgamation of booze that evening I was hangover free the following day which is a testament to the quality of French alcohol.

Frenchie Wine Bar was an expensive meal, I think the bill came to €150 but I truly believe it was worth every cent. Of all the restaurants we visited that weekend this is the place I would come back to again. The atmosphere was busy yet casual, there was no pressure to order wine (gin and tonic was available) and the food spoke volumes, if you get the chance to visit I guarantee you will love it!

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