Month: February 2010

Takeaway: Firezza – Notting Hill

It was one of those Fridays where you can’t bear to think about making food for yourself. I had had a horrible week, and by the end of it, I was emotionally and physically exhausted.  The only thing I could possibly do to get food in my belly was to pick up the phone and have someone bring it to me. Luckily, my flatmate was up for takeaway too. Having already tried Basili, we opted for the ‘pizza by the meter’ at Firezza in Notting Hill.

Turns out a meter of pizza is really really big. So much so, that they don’t really technically offer it – you order by the quarter meter. If you order two separate quarter meters, they’ll put it in one giant half meter box.

I went for the Mediterranea with buffalo mozzarella, sun-dried tomatoes, and prosciutto, and Neil went for the Mista with pepperoni, chorizo and prosciutto.

Firezza Pizza

The pizza was delivered within 40 minutes (5 minutes under their quote), and we got some free bread for ordering online. When it arrived, it was still hot and fresh. Love that.

Mine was gorgeous. Fresh basil, tart tomatoes, mild cheese. Just delicious!
Firezza Pizza

The only other pizza delivery place in the area we’ve been wanting to try is Mulberry Street. I’m very curious how it will stack up. They’ve got a lot to live up to.

Firezza on Urbanspoon

Ole – Putney

I’ve been making more of an effort to get outside of Zone 1 to eat. So far, it’s been great. Tagine was obviously a great success, I’m supposed to go back to The Exhibit in Balham this Friday and a couple weeks ago, I made it out to Putney to have dinner with my friend Gary Andrews at his favourite tapas place, Ole.

Putney is really inconvenient to get to, I should mention. From work on Tottenham Court Road, it took me a little over an hour. I was starved and late, and feeling generally awful, so when walking into Ole, and pretty much finding it empty – I was ecstatic. Food would be delivered quickly! And my god, was it. Probably less than 10 minutes after we ordered and less than 5 minutes from the point our wine arrived. I was almost suspicious.

Being tapas, we decided to just split everything. I chose two dishes, and Gary chose three.

My two were the gruyere with quince jelly and the croquetas:

ole putney

ole putney

I know it’s a bit boring to do so, but I honestly can’t go to a tapas place without ordering them. I find that it’s quite easy to judge a place based on their staples. Both were adequate, but nothing special (which sums up the restaurant, sure enough). Gruyere and quince jelly is pretty hard to mess up to be honest. I really should stop getting it in restaurants though. I could get it at Whole Foods with a better quality cheese for less money per portion.

The croquetas had different fillings, but I couldn’t for the life of me distinguish which ones were which. Nice breading and just out of the fryer though.

Gary chose the prawns and garlic, the calves liver and chorizo.

ole putney

ole putney

ole putney

Prawns were delicious, but maybe a bit too heavy on the garlic.

The calves liver was the hit of the night. Just a really robust dish served with potatoes and onions. At £6.95, it was by far the largest dish and a total steal.

The chorizo was ok, but I really wish it had come with something. It was a nice portion, but I really could have used some sort of accompaniment. We had bread from the beginning of the meal, which I used to make little chorizo sandwiches out of, but it wasn’t enough.

I’m really glad we went for five dishes. My eyes tend to be bigger than my stomach at places like this, but by the end of the night, I was perfectly satiated.

Ole was good, but I’m not sure I would travel to Putney to go again. Fino, although far far far more expensive, is around the corner from work, and ridiculously amazing.

Ole Restaurant & Bar on Urbanspoon

Tagine – Balham

I’ve never been to Balham before. It’s south and in Zone 3, so my only experience with it is either passing through on a train to the south coast from Victoria, or reading/crying about it in Atonement when Cecilia dies in the bombing and subsequent flooding of the station in WWII. But my friend Jordan and his lovely fiance, Emily, had their engagement party there since they live near-ish.

Their party was at The Exhibit, which is a very large bar/restaurant. Knowing, however, that I would probably be starving at some point, and the restaurant at Exhibit didn’t look terribly exciting, I checked out the other goods, and stumbled across Tagine, a Moroccan restaurant not far away.

Now, I’ve been on a bit of a Moroccan kick lately, namely in the form of Waitrose’s Moroccan chicken soup (it’s delicious, you really ought to try it), so it seemed only fitting that I should go and have the real thing.

Leif and I arrived for a late dinner after the engagement party, I think about 10:30 or 11. I wasn’t sure if they would be snooty about serving us that late or even let us in, but the place was hopping.

In Moroccan style, we were seated at a very low table in the middle of the floor. This was perfectly comfy for a shorty such as myself, but Leif being 6’5″ looked like a grown-up sitting at the kids’ table at a wedding. Poor guy. Our server immediately recognised this, and offered a taller table by the bar, as soon as it was available. In the meantime, we ordered and had our wine opened (Tagine is BYOB with no corkage fee, which is brilliant. I seriously love that)

We started with the Merguez Meshwi (spicy lamb sausages) and houmous with pita (their spelling, not mine)

Tangine

Tangine

Tangine

The sausages were absolutely delicious. Very nice and crispy, almost chorizo-like in terms of robust flavour and spiciness. Houmous was equally as flawless with a very mild olive oil and nice chunks of whole chickpeas still in the puree. Even if it’s not, that always gives the impression of homemade. Pita bread was warm and slightly crispy as well. Gorgeous.

For my main, I went with the Couscous Zizzou:

Tangine

Couscous, lamb shank that effortlessly fell off the bone, lamb kebab and more sausages, served with chickpeas, raisins and a bouillon sauce on the side.

I swear, I don’t think I even said anything for the first five minutes of eating this dish. It was truly the definition of om nom nom. It was huge though, so much so that I couldn’t finish it all. It didn’t go to waste though, I had a very hungry boy who happily snapped up the rest. I was gutted I couldn’t take another bite.

Our other main at the table was the Fish Tagine:

Tangine

This was a traditional whitefish served with a very mild sauce I can’t recall over Middle Eastern Couscous. I sort of have this obsession with Middle Eastern Couscous. I haven’t really been able to find it here in raw form in any shops. Sainsbury’s has this side dish of it with chili oil, chickpeas and feta, but if I want an uncooked version to do with as I please, I have to bring it from America. Right now in my pantry, I have a giant stash from my last trip to a Whole Foods in Michigan. However, even with the yummy couscous, this dish though seemed bland in comparison to what I had. It was nice, but not anything to write home about. I only had a bite, but I’m ok with that – I really needed to concentrate on mine.

So, basically we had one dish that wasn’t near perfection. Pretty good odds, if you ask me. The whole thing was pretty cheap too, considering – £38 for two, not including the wine we brought. Screw Zone 3, for this restaurant, I’d travel to Zone 6.

Tagine Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Aut Bar – Ann Arbor, Michigan

I never thought I’d say this, but there is such a thing as too much chorizo.

I had this breakfast burrito with chorizo, avocado and cheese at Aut Bar when I was home over Christmas. Normally I love Aut Bar – they have one of the best brunches in the history of boozey breakfasts. (I have very fond memories of an Eggs Benedict with crabcakes topped with a curry-infused hollandaise sauce.)

But this? It was honestly too much to take. Such a pity.

Aut Bar on Urbanspoon

Club Bart – Ferndale, Michigan

Brunch – proper brunch – is one of my favourite meals in the world. It’s something I haven’t really been able to find an American equivalent of in London. If I want Huevos Rancheros or a fatty Denny’s-style om nom skillet, I’m pretty much forced to either A) make it myself or B) go back to America. So when I was in Michigan for Christmas, I took advantage of everything breakfast with booze has to offer.

One of my first stops was Club Bart in Fashionable Ferndale.

As my friend and I sat down, I realised just how hungry I was. Only problem was I couldn’t decide to go for sweet or savoury. Normal people would just flip a coin or get over themselves and choose one. Me? I just ordered both.

My savoury was Stuffed Breakfast Biscuits:

(American biscuits, if it’s not clear)

Club Bart Brunch Ferndale

Light, fluffy and buttery biscuits – one stuffed with spinach and feta, and the other with bacon and brie. It also came with two poached eggs and hash browns. Besides being an absolute heartattack on a plate, this was great. It’s everything a fatty American breakfast should be. I think even Paula Deen would be shocked at how much delicious butter was used in this dish.

I also ordered a Blueberry Pancake:

Club Bart Brunch Ferndale

I love that you can get a single pancake add-on for $2 at almost any brunch place in the States. Even if you only take a couple bites, it’s worth it. The pancake wasn’t particularly memorable, but it definitely hit the spot.

Now… if anyone knows where I can get a good American style brunch in London complete with mimosas/Buck’s Fizz and a sizable Mexican section (I’m desperate for a decent breakfast burrito), I’m all ears.

Club Bart on Urbanspoon

Recipe: Bengali Squash Soup

A little background for this one…

There once was a girl named Melanie Seasons who procrastinated more than anyone in the world. Back in November, a nice man named Lewis asked if she would like to try out some Indian recipes in conjunction with National Curry Week and a promotion that Cobra beer had on. He even picked her up in a zany Karma Cab and brought her to work to explain all about it.

Fast forward two months, and she’s just now getting around to writing about it. She is a rubbish blogger friend, clearly.

That, I believe, brings us up to speed.

I decided, in accordance with January soup detox month, to try to make an Indian inspired soup.  There aren’t too many Indian soups, according to Anjum Anand who is the host of the BBC’s Indian Food Made Easy and author of my newest cookbook, so I had to improvise.

I took a recipe for a side dish of butternut squash and chickpeas. For the recipe, you’ll need:

Bengali Squash soup

  • 2 tbs vegetable oil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 red chillies
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 tbs turmeric
  • 3 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 rounded tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp crushed fennel seeds
  • 1/2 tsp of ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 2 tsp ginger paste
  • 2 litres of veg stock
  • 500 g butternut squash, peeled and deseeded
  • 175 g of canned chickpeas
  • 1 tbs garam masala

Heat the oil in a large pot, and add in the bay leaf, chillies and crushed fennel seeds, and cook over low heat for about a minute. Add in the onion and cook for about 3 minutes or until the onions are slightly translucent. Stir in the turmeric, cumin, coriander, salt, sugar, cinnamon and ginger paste. Simmer for an additional 5 minutes.

Add the veg stock and the squash and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the squash is fully cooked.

Stir in the chickpeas and garam masala. Simmer for another 5 minutes, and then blend until smooth.  Voila!

My only word of advice is that you might have to tweak the spices to taste. I ended up having to add in a lot more to really give it some pop. Once I got the right combination though, this soup really shined. It was easy to make, and I’ve since experimented with a couple of the other recipes in the book (mini corn cakes with coriander mint chutney and Punjabi chicken curry), and they really were a lot easier than I thought Indian food could ever be to cook.

Thumbs up.

Little Hanoi – Shoreditch

Yes, ok, I know January posting has been light. This is because, like everyone, I was on January detox. It has thus far included a lot of porridge, a lot of experimenting with making soups (ask me about my bitchin’ Tortilla) and a lot of not drinking. It has also included two trips to Pizza East, but let’s not talk about that.

So! Last night was the first night I’ve been to a new restaurant since Christmas. Oh, how I missed it.

I found myself wondering around Shoreditch after going to the absolutely amazing Fitzrovia Radio Hour. (By the way, if you want a fun night out, do go. I can’t recommend it enough.) Anyway, after the show, it was late-ish and Leif wanted Chinese. I couldn’t find anything on my UrbanSpoon iPhone app, but no matter –  we stumbled upon Little Hanoi instead.

Tucked down Curtain Street, Little Hanoi is a small Vietnamese understated hole-in-the-wall. They were open till 11pm and had a full bar, so that was good enough for us.

The menu at Little Hanoi is huge – at least 7 pages long – which makes it difficult to narrow down when you’re absolutely famished and everything looks good. I was pleased to see they had a fairly decent wine list considering what I was expecting, so we ordered a bottle of Viognier.

We had two starters, the Spring Rolls and Salted Squid:

Little Hanoi

Little Hanoi

The spring rolls were pretty good. I wouldn’t say they were bland per se, but they definitely needed a dipping sauce. They luckily came with the brothy kind of Vietnamese sweet and sour, which was very tasty. I thought the roll itself was a bit more egg roll than spring roll. The wrapping was quite thick.

The squid was lovely. It had a really nice mix of peppers, spring onions and onions. Not too oily and not overdone. Only minor complaint is that the breading was also a bit thick. It would have been nicer and it been a bit fluffier.

For my main I went with the Sliced Duck with Ginger and Spring Onion:

Little Hanoi

Not sure what the sauce was on here. I think maybe just a general brown garlic? It didn’t really scream Vietnamese to me, but it was definitely good. The duck may have been slightly chewy, but the ginger+onion combination of flavours made up for it. I slightly worried about my breath after.

Also should mention I got a side of steamed rice with it that I could tell had been sitting around a while. And it was £2. I still find it ridiculous that they can get away with charging that much for something that probably costs them 1p per portion.

Leif went with the Beef Noodles:

little hanoi

This also didn’t scream Vietnamese to me. The noodles were just ok. I thought they needed a load more salt. The beef was the only thing that really added anything to the dish. I did, however put a few noodles with my duck instead of the stale rice – that was brilliant.

Little Hanoi is perfect for what it is – cheap East Asian cuisine, open late and smack-dab in the middle of a neighbourhood full of bars and clubs. I also hear they have a great, extremely cheap lunch buffet. I would come back here again.

Little Hanoi on Urbanspoon