Month: July 2010

Vote Tarragons of Virtue in NomNomNom 2010!

A little public service plea here…

Remember how Billy from Cowfish and I entered Nom Nom Nom this year? Of course you do!  Well, bad news is we didn’t win – good news is we have another chance (by the dreaded public vote). So….That means we need your help! Please go to the Nom Nom Nom 2010 finalists voting page and vote for The Tarragons of Virtue.

The Tarragons of Virtue need your help!

While you’re there, please consider donating to the real cause of Nom Nom Nom, Action Against Hunger. For every £10 donation, you get a charity raffle ticket with the choice of some amazing foodie prizes. Definitely worth it.

Thanks! Normal service will resume later this week. In the meantime, I’m campaigning :)

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The Anchor & Hope – Waterloo

With my dad’s visit first visit to London in 33 years looming, I went on a quest to find the perfect jetag-reducing dad-friendly lunch in all of London. Enter: The Anchor & Hope. I’d been reading about this lovely little Waterloo-based gastropub for a while, and after a few suggestion in its favour on Twitter, my mind was made up.

So when my dad arrived at Paddington, we dropped off his bag at my flat and headed off.

I’d heard that the restaurant can get quite busy, and with a no bookings policy, it’s essential to get there early – especially on a Friday. We arrived about 12:45 to an empty restaurant which largely stayed that way for our entire meal. Success!

We were immediately presented with a giant jug of tap water and basket of lovely fresh-baked bread with fresh butter (like, the kind that makes your arteries harden when you smell it) by our slightly sarcastic waiter who somehow convinced me to get a carafe of wine all to myself. Good man.

The very simple menu featured about 6 things that I wanted to try. I finally decided on Skate with chickpeas in a lovely bouillon. It was served alongside with some crispy bread and a rich orange sauce I can’t for the life of me remember the name of. What I can tell you is that it was delicious.

I’m so glad my dad went with the Wood Pigeon. I very nearly got it myself just for the deep-fried risotto cake that came with, but it was hot outside, and I decided somehow fish was the better option. He very nicely gave me a generous chunk to try, purely in the name of research, of course.

Perfectly cooked throughout, and with a risotto cake from the Gods, I wanted to savour every last morsel.  If the skate hadn’t been such a large portion, I would have been tempted to order another pigeon for myself.  I was a bit confused by the radish salad accompaniment though. It felt slightly out of place on a plate full of roasted and fried things, and was left largely untouched by my father.

With wine, half a pint and two mains, the bill came to about £37 – not your every day lunch, but certainly not the most expensive. My father, who I could see mentally converting pounds into dollars, thought otherwise, which really when you think about it, is the perfect re-introduction to this lovely city.

Anchor & Hope on Urbanspoon

Red Pepper – Maida Vale

Red Pepper is a place I walk by pretty much every day. Situated approximately 5 minutes walk from my flat in Maida Vale, it’s astonishing that I hadn’t eaten there until a couple of weeks ago when my dad was visiting from the States. Astonishing and tragic, because Red Pepper is excellent.

The restaurant is tiny, situated nearly opposite of the very popular Prince Alfred pub, home of the Formosa Dining Room. There are – max – 8 tables, all but one empty – and with 2 servers and a bar tender on duty (during an England World Cup match, no less), it felt a little overkill. The menu is fairly standard Italian, pasta and pizza. Nothing looked too inspiring, so I’ll admit I didn’t have the highest of hopes.

My dad and I ordered two pastas that came ridiculously fast, even for an empty restaurant.

Mine, Linguine Vongole:

His, Spaghetti Marinara with Goats Cheese:

Both pastas were excellent. The noodles were perfectly cooked, not too much sauce and absolute bucketloads of flavour.

The clams in my linguine were abundant – I had nearly enough for one clam every bite. That, in London, is amazing enough. The butter, sage, oil and pepper were perfectly balanced. Usually with pastas, I end up feeling overly stuffed, but this was perfect.

We have quite a few little Italian places in Maida Vale, including the very disappointing Le Cochonnet (which I can’t even be bothered to review), but this is now my favourite. I’ll definitely be back.

Red Pepper on Urbanspoon

The Wolseley – Mayfair

Sometimes I love being in PR. In this job of pitching and schmoozing, you often find yourself having ‘casual’ lunches at places you’d never venture to on your own. Case in point: The Wolseley. I’d never been and hadn’t planned on going, but after setting up a lunch date with a journalist friend who works around the corner, it was an obvious choice.

At the height of lunchtime, The Wolseley can be a bit much to take in. Servers were scurrying around frantically busy, but trying desperately hard not to look so.  The maitre’d curtly acknowledged my waiting friend in the bar with an air that I couldn’t figure out was frustration or disdain at the fact that we didn’t look very posh.

When we sat down, a few people came by to ask if we were ready for drinks. We ordered water to start, with the intention to look at the wine list, but I’m not sure they realised it. The server looked a bit put off, like we weren’t going to order wine at all. I started to get a bit agitated at the pretension of the place at this point.  (We eventually ordered the Picpoul de Pinet 2009 Château de la Mirande, Languedoc, which was absolutely lovely).

Deciding to skip starters, and go straight for mains, I had the Toulouse Sausages with Puy Lentils ( £13.50):

The sausages were prepared expertly, with  nice crunchy crust and tender inside. Unfortunately the flavour of the sauce with the lentils was very one-dimensional. The only way to describe it would be ‘monotonously salty’.

My friend’s Wiener Schnitzel (£19.00) was more of a winner:

The veal was very tender, and the batter surprisingly light. The sauce it was served with was salty, but not overly so (like my sausages!).  Only downside was that it wasn’t served with any sides, so while £19 does get you a hell of a lot of meat, you definitely need to get a side of chips or veg to add a bit more dimension to dinner.

For dessert I had the server’s recommendation of Chocolate Liégeois (£7):

Gorgeously rich chocolate and vanilla ice cream served with an intensely rich whipped cream and chocolate sauce. In essence, a glorified chocolate sundae.  A brilliant one though, indeed. I really enjoyed this.

All in all – two lunch mains, a bottle of wine, side of chips, two desserts (we also had a creme brulee), water and service  came to £90. Definitely steep for lunch, and not really worth it in my opinion – especially considering the attitude. I’d like to try some other things at the Wolseley, but – not trying to sound too cheap here –  only if someone else pays. I’m just not sure I’m willing to take a chance on it again.

The Wolseley on Urbanspoon

NomNomNom 2010

Well, we all know I’m not much of a cook, but somehow I’ve signed myself up to take part in this year’s NomNomNom food blogger cooking competition this Sunday, 11 July.  I’ve teamed up with the Blaggers’ Banquet partner in crime, Billy from Cowfish. Together we will be ‘The Tarragons of Virtue’.

The dishes we’re cooking are top secret and still going under a very stringent testing period, but rest assured they will be tasty! All of the finalists are cooking a three-course meal for judges like Susan Low, deputy editor of delicious magazineNick Wyke a travel and food writer for The Times; Flori Johnson, Executive Head Chef at Melrose and Morgan; Ros Rathouse , the principal of Cookery School’s (main sponsor and location of the competition; and Claudine Watt, a teacher at Cookery School.

It looks to be a brilliant afternoon with a goodie bag I hear is to die for.  Will update you on progress throughout the day on Twitter. Fingers crossed we win!

Tibits and Freggo – Mayfair

A couple of weeks ago I was invited by the lovely Vikki Chowney to a Girl Geek Shopping event taking place all over Regent Street. There were cocktails, a QR code scavenger hunt and lunch at Tibits, a Mayfair-based organic veggie buffet-style restaurant off Heddon street.

As you walk into  Tibits, you’re warmly welcomed by the staff and shown how the whole system works.  It’s fairly self-explanatory: 1. Grab plate 2. Scoop food 3. Pay.  Sorted.

The buffet is clean and the food refreshed often. It’s the type of vegetarian restaurant where you never miss the meat.  Pastas, couscous, jalapeno poppers, olives, wedges, tofu, roasted veggies.  All very nice and very fresh. It reminded of the Planet Organic that’s next door to my office. That would be, if Planet Organic charged £15 for lunch.

This plate, along with a bit of dessert was an astonishing £15:

While everything was very tasty, I felt – remembering that there was no pricey protein on the plat – that it didn’t quite live up to the price. Rice, pasta salad, potatoes and vegetable should not equal £3 less than a 2-course Top Table deal at Maze.

After leaving and doing a bit more shopping around, I found myself down the street at Freggo, a small gelateria off Swallow street. Freggo opened last year to positive reviews from lots of skinny rich Mayfair girls who – in a moment of weakness – probably stopped there after hitting The Cuckoo Club (yes, this ice cream bar is open till 2am). In fairness though, it’s really good. Nice, rich gelato served in a setting of plush purple couches and padded purple walls. It’s very Mayfair. I went for a half and half of Dulce de Leche and White Chocolate:

The only thing I wasn’t impressed with was that they hide the ice cream tubs behind the counter, out of sight. I’m sure it helps with the aesthetics of the place, but choosing ice cream based on ‘what looks good’ is half the fun! I’ve been known to make many a rash decision as soon as I’ve spied a certain flavour. I’ve gone in for Cookies and Cream and come out with Superman solely on a visual whim.

But haven’t we all?

tibits on Urbanspoon

Freggo on Urbanspoon