Month: January 2010

I <3 Tortelloni from Selfridges

My friend Sian (who just launched the brilliant new fashion blog, A Change of Dress) is obsessed with the tortelloni at Selfridges food hall. After the salad event at Chop’d she picked up a few and raved about them. So a few weeks ago, I decided to give them a go too.

The filling on the day I went was wild boar. To go along with it, I picked up a nice sharp pecorino. After dropping them in boiling water for about a minute, I sauteed some onion in butter, garlic, lemon and dried herbs, dropped in the tortelloni – a couple flips of the pan and they were done.

Gorgeous…

The Formosa Dining Room and Prince Alfred Pub – Maida Vale

Isn’t it amazing how you can live nearly next door to a place for a year and a half, and never quite get around to eating there?  That’s because, in London, I tend to stay Central for my food, if not just for the fact that I’m usually meeting people who are coming from all different directions. That’s how I’ve come never to actually eat at our local pub, The Prince Alfred. It’s a shame, really.

The pub itself is gorgeous: beautiful woodwork, etched glass and private stalls surrounding the bar that are separated by tiny door frames that you have to crouch down to get through. It’s pretty cool.  Their restaurant, The Formosa Dining Room, is set off to the back. It’s a completely different, more contemporary style. It’s pleasant. Nicer than run-of-the-mill pub, but not quite fine dining.

My flatmates and I decided to finally go for a Christmas dinner before we all went our separate ways (the States, Austria, Devon) to visit family.

I started out with a brie pot with bread:

Eh. It was ok. While the bread was supposed to be crisp, it just ended up tasting a bit dry. and even though I was necessarily a fan, there wasn’t enough of it. We finished the bread with half a pot of cheese left. I hate it when that happens.

For my main, I had the butterfish with sweet potato purée and a Champagne sauce:

This was delicious. A very delicate, crispy top was contrasted by a very moist and flavourful meat. I was quite pleasantly surprised by it. The sauce was simple, but it had a lot going on. But to be fair, anything where the main ingredients are butter and booze is bound to be damn tasty.

For dessert, the chocolate brownie with ice cream:

I’ll admit this a brownie ice cream sundae sounded a bit Applebee’s, but it was the only chocolate on the menu, and I had a craving. It was ok, because most chocolate is good, but not anything I would order again. Glad they warmed the brownie though. Otherwise it would have been very dry.

Overall, I enjoyed the experience. Service was prompt and courteous. Not sure it was the greatest value in the world with about £25-£30 a head (splitting a starter and dessert, including wine) though. In the future, I think I’ll stick to the pub side. There are still a few restaurants in Maida Vale I want to try before I go back here.

Formosa Dining Room, the Pre Alfred on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Bucegi – Sinaia, Romania

Another gem from my trip to Romania…

After train ride to Sinaia in Transylvania, a near-attack by stray dogs, and getting lost on the way to Peles Castle, I was STARVING. Like, raving lunatic ‘You-Wouldn’t-Like-Me-When-I’m-Angry’ hungry.

I stopped at one of the first places I saw, a half traditional Romanian restaurant, half pizzeria called Restaurant Bucegi.

I was going back and forth about what type of food I should order. I mentioned in my last post, the Italian influence on Romanian cuisine. The happy result of this is the amazing Italian food in the country.  Even though I’d already had pizza in Romania at least 3 times by this point, I opted for it again. I’m so glad I did.

Pizzeria Bucegi, Sinaia Romania

Gorgeous bubbly crust, melted cheese, fresh ingredients… Who’d of thought that a little hole in the wall would produce better pizza than I ever had in Italy?

And the thing is, Bucegi isn’t really unique. It’s about the same as every other Italian place I went to. Cheap, good food, and something for everyone.  And to top it all off, my bill came out to the equivalent of £6 with a main, a glass of wine, still water, coffee and service.

Restaurant Bucegi
Sinaia, Bd. Carol I, Nr. 22
Tel: +40 (0) 244 313 902

–Restaurant photo from Sabin.ro‘s Sinaia Gallery

Caru’ cu Bere – Bucharest, Romania

Back at the beginning of December, I went to Romania. It was sort of a spur of the moment trip. I never in my life planned to go to Romania, but I had an extra week of holiday time, SkyScanner told me the cheapest plane ticket was to Bucharest and I actually do know someone there who has always promised to show me around. Sorted.

The first night I was there, my friend Mihnea took me to Caru’ cu Bere, one of the more famous traditional Romanian restaurants in the country. The restaurant is gorgeous – half beer hall and half neo-Gothic cathedral, this place is always busy.

Not really having any concrete idea of what Romanian cuisine is made up of, I ask and am told it’s essentially soup, stews and polenta – Eastern European stereotypes with a twinge of Italian. Okey dokey. That’s what I do.

I start out with the ciorbă de burtă – tripe soup.

Caru cu Bere Romania

I’ve never had tripe before, and you know what? Not heinous.  I’m not sure I’d go for it every day, but it wasn’t bad. The difficulty I had was how the meat actually looked. It was a bit pale and looked a bit stringy, which creeped me out slightly. The taste was nice though. The soup broth itself was super buttery, so it was nice to have that huge-ass loaf of bread you see behind the bowl up above.

We also had a sharing platter of cured meats, olives and cheeses, where I quickly realised another characteristic of Romanian cuisine is size.

Caru cu Bere Romania

By the time the starters were half-way finished, I was full. Without any time for my stomach to settle, my main, the Tochitură Moldovenească Moldovian Stew – arrived.

Caru cu Bere Romania

The Moldovian Stew is a traditional dish of cubed meats in a heavy sauce served with polenta topped with a sharp cheese.  It is seriously heavy, and seriously good.I don’t even want to think of what the sodium count is on this, but it was so tasty, I went back for seconds a few days later.

I skipped dessert, and rolled home to my hotel – falling asleep in food coma glory.

Caru’ cu Bere is one of those places you just have to go to if you’re in Bucharest, and I’m fairly certain everyone does. It introduced me to Romanian cuisine, and set me up for the rest of the week, lending context to the cuisine – mainly the Italian influence.

Normally when thinking of Eastern European food, you think all goulash and cabbage rolls (and they have that too) but it’s the other ingredients – the parmesan, the polenta, the olives – that make this type of cuisine unique. Ultimately, it’s what makes it shine.