Month: August 2010

l’Anima – Shoreditch

l’Anima had been on my list for a while.If not just because every time I say they name, I feel compelled to sign it along to the Animaniacs theme tune, which is just so so so wrong.  (If they had a sense of humour, they would totally make that the name of their mailing list.)

Anyway, I was saving it for a special occasion and my dad’s last night in London seemed as good as any.  Walking in, we were greeted by two very pleasant, ridiculously gorgeous girls who really ought not to be allowed to walk in public for fear of making other women want to pull bags over their heads. It was a Wednesday night and the place was full of City Boys and the type of women who probably wear their 6-inch Loubs to clean their kitchens.  Still, somehow it wasn’t entirely unwelcoming.

After we were sat, we were immediately served some gorgeous olives and a breadbasket

I started out with the Norcia Hand Carved Ham with ‘Pane Cunzato’:

My dad went with the Charcoal Scallops with n’Duja:

While my starter was alright, my dad’s was like eating a teaspoon of oregano.  The scallops were cooked perfectly. Really, absolutely, beautiful – but any positives were completely outweighed by the overwhelming stench of herbs.

The mains were more where l’Anima shined.

My dad had the Sicilian Rabbit:

Dubbed several times ‘exquisite’ and ‘The best rabbit I’ve ever tasted’, this dish was a winner.  I was able to sneak a quick bite to find a very tender meat with a lovely delicate sauce. A beautiful dish through and through.

I went with the Pork Belly with N’Cantarata Sauce:

Best. Crackling. Ever. That’s nearly all I have to say. The pork belly, as they say, was da bomb – tender tender tender meat, crispy crackling. It was a harmony of textures.  The accompanying sauce – made predominantly of honey, paprika – was strong, but when used sparingly was gorgeous.

After all this, we skipped dessert.

The service was attentive, but bordering on the dreaded hover bees, ready to run to the table on the drop of a hat to pick up a fork, top up the water or dabble our brows.  I say bordering because while this isn’t something that particularly bothered me, it was seriously starting to get to my dad.  I kept watching him watch them watch him. It got a bit uncomfortable.

While I wasn’t much of a fan of our starters, I think this is one of the cases where we just happened to choose wrongly.  The kitchen clearly knows how to cook a good meal, and I’ll be back.

L'Anima on Urbanspoon

Recipe: Homemade Lemon and Goat’s Cheese Ravioli

A few months ago, I saw a recipe in Stylist I knew I just had to try out: Lemon and Goat’s Cheese Ravioli.  Having had an unused pasta machine in my flat for the past year, I had had enough – I was ready to try my hand at making pasta from scratch, and this was the recipe to do it with.

The recipe, as below, wasn’t particularly difficult. You only need a few ingredients – ones that you’re likely to have around the house anyway – and it’s all very straightforward.  I changed a few things from the original recipe – mainly the addition of chorizo (because it’s chorizo. It’s gorgeous). But you know what? I’m not sure it’s worth the effort.

Don’t get me wrong, it was fantastic – everyone should put lemon zest in their pasta. But holy moly, if it didn’t take bloody ages.  My PR/marketing side of me keeps wondering if the return (yumminess) was worth my investment (time). I’m not sure. Still, if you have time and want to put that unused pasta machine to good use, definitely try it out!

(Click to enlarge)

ravioli recipe

If anyone is wondering, I made the recipe graphic with Beeclip – a sort of canvas-maker.  Full disclosure: They let me know about their service, but had no other involvement in the post.

Soho House Restaurant – Soho

My boss is a member of the Soho House/Shoreditch House family, which means that if we’re at an awards ceremony, or entertaining a client, inevitably I’ll find myself there with a £11 martini in hand and one eye on the door just in case a celebrity I actually care about walks in.

It’s never happened, unfortunately. The closest I’ve come is hearing about the time one of my directors started going off about how shit Vanilla Sky was while she was standing next to Penelope Cruz on the roof garden at Soho House. I guess I’m not meant to roll with the big wigs (although apparently last time I was there, some 20-year-old hot shot told me that without a doubt his ‘client’ was the next Mark Ronson. Wanker). In any case, every time I’ve been to one of the ‘Houses’, I usually leave wondering why in the world anyone would pay £700 a year to be a member.

Same goes for last week at Soho House’s restaurant. I saw no celebrities and enjoyed an ‘alright’ lunch that didn’t warrant price of the meal. However, there were some definite high points. The service was excellent.

I was the first one to arrive out of my colleagues. Immediately, I was offered bread, water and a paper. A very nice touch. Tasty, too.

After everyone arrived, we were brought more bread and my boss ordered a round of cocktails. Our server spent a good deal of time with us, recommending his favourites, and being honest about it, i.e. telling my boss to go with the lamb over the steak. “The steak is good, of course. But it’s a steak – you can get a good steak anywhere. Go with the lamb,” he said. “It’s one of a kind.” I like that in a server. It takes guts to say that to a paying customer.

I started out with the Dorset Crab and Avocado (£12.50):

A nice little starter, but the crab lacked the sweetness I would have expected.  There was a nice aioli type sauce that made up for any lacking richness, and the half lemon (in lovely posh cheesecloth) was a welcome garnish.

For my main, the Lemon Sole with Shrimp and Samphire (£18.50):

This wasn’t what I was expecting. Usually I’m used to sole being much flatter, and a bit more like a scallopini than anything else.  This fish was thick – probably a good two inches tall, though you can’t tell int he picture.  The golden crust was perfect and the prawns and sauce and samphire gave the dish nice contrasting sweet savoury flavours. I wish the sole, itself had a bit more punch to it though. Sole is a mild fish, true, but I should have been tasting the quality of the meat rather than just the boldness of its toppings.

For dessert, the table shared some mediocre petit fours for £4, which I didn’t bother surreptitiously taking a photo of.

It wasn’t a bad lunch by any means, but until I find a members club that ticks all the boxes, I’ll be leaving it to my boss to ‘get me in’, as they say.

Soho House on Urbanspoon

Thai Girder – Southfields (Wimbledon)

Let’s just start off by saying I’m not a big fan of tennis. It’s not that I hate it, but it’s just not my thing. My dad, however, is, like, the biggest fan EVER. So much so, that he times his visit to London to coincide with the tournament. I promised to go with him if we got tickets, but I was mostly looking forward to the strawberries and cream and a place in London I hadn’t been before.

So we went to the first Saturday of the competition, saw a really long match between eventual winner Nadal and some German guy, and split some really good fish and chips and mediocre strawberries and cream. At the end of the day, exhausted from sitting quietly for 9 hours, and annoyed at the prospect of having to queue for the tube home, we decided to take a detour and eat dinner at a little Thai restaurant just down the street from Southfields tube.

Thai Girder is pretty busy, but not with Wimbledon folk, which is nice. We’re seated and greeted right away. The menu is typical Thai, nothing special.

My dad goes for the Thai Green Curry:

A decent recipe, but could have been a bit spicier. It was more creamy than anything. The portion was bordering on too small, but for my dad it was perfect. The courgettes and red peppers added a nice crunch.

I was feeling rather boring, so opted for good ol’ Pad Thai with Prawns:

Unfortunately, I wasn’t impressed. The whole point of Thai food is to be all flavours at once – a perfect harmony of sweet, spicy, bitter and sour. This was all sweetness. The noodles were soggy and really heavy. Missing, was any hint of citrus, which was made even more evident by the fact that it was served without a lime slice (I thought it was a Pad Thai garnish staple, no?).  If you can’t get Pad Thai right in a Thai restaurant, it doesn’t give you much hope for anything else.

Certainly not the place I’d travel back to, but as just a local Thai place for those in the area, it’ll do.

Thai Girder on Urbanspoon

Paris Roundup

Just a bit a foodie photo fun from my last trip to Paris.  Unlike last time I went, I didn’t go overboard with fancy expensive restaurants, instead just stumbling into places when hungry.

Unfortunately, I didn’t find any undiscovered gems that way, but I can’t say I had anything horrible, and we saved a lot of money!

Duck Magret from le Moulin de la Galette (18eme):

Escalopes de Veau from Bistrot Victoire – (2eme):

Also from Bistrot Victoire:

And how could you go to France without l’escargot?

I ate other places, but sadly none of them were fantastic enough to warrant proper posts. I also currently have about 9 drafts in my folder of London restaurants I’ve yet to write about. A girl can only do so much!

YuForia – Soho (take two)

Last fall after a trip to Asia de Cuba, an over-stuffed, slightly-buzzed me, happened upon the YuForia frozen yoghurt stand in Covent Garden. I didn’t have the greatest opinion of it. Since then I’ve had a few different frozen yoghurts in London, which have brought me to the conclusion that I’m not such a fan of English fro-yo. Why? Because I want it to taste like ice cream.

It’s not such a crime, really. The Americans can do some bloody marvelous things with lo-cal frozen desserts, and I don’t feel that just because I moved 4,000 miles away, I should have to suffer with a ‘treat’ that tastes like someone put my Activia in a freezer.

And that was that. Until YuForia started following me on Twitter, claiming that I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between their chocolate fro-yo and ice cream. A challenge if I’ve ever heard one….

A few weeks later, I was invited to the launch of their new Soho shop on Beak Street (across from Polpo, lucky devils) to sample this chocolate fro-yo and other yoghurt-based yummies.

I was almost immediately handed a yoghurt-based frozen chocolate/Mount Gay Rum drink and fro-yo cupcake from Sweet Things.

The cupcake was amazing. I remember them from the Best Cupcake Recipe judging I did last summer. Sweet Things came in a not-too-shabby-third (out of 15) behind Fair Cake and Bea’s of Bloomsbury (not Lola’s as I originally said in a first draft of this post). There wasn’t too much yoghurt on top, but what was there, I liked alright. I won’t say it tasted like ice cream, but it was close.

Next, I decided to try something that actually had this ice cream-like chocolate on it, so I went with the Eton Mess:

Chocolate and natural frozen yoghurt, mixed with blueberries, strawberries and granola. And you know what? They were right. The chocolate does taste like ice cream. Nice soft-serve-just-like-when-you-were-a-kid chocolate ice cream.

The natural, more yoghurty stuff, I’m still not fond of, but the chocolate was a definite thumbs up.  Well done, YuForia, you’ve changed my mind!

We were invited to try our own concoctions, but two desserts in and I was spent. Still, YuForia has enough toppings for you to go pretty wild if you wanted to.  If you’re watching your waistline though, make sure you stick to fruit only. I don’t care how low in calories frozen yoghurt is, once you stick fudge and honeycomb bits on top, it’s not healthy.

Yuforia on Urbanspoon

Disclosure: I was invited to sample YuForia for free along with a few other bloggers.  I’ve given an honest review of the product. If the chocolate froyo didn’t taste like ice cream, trust me – you’d know.

Sirous – West Hampstead

It was a Friday and I was working late. No fun at all. Plus, my dad was still visiting and I hadn’t found a place to eat. I suggested somewhere in West Hampstead as that’s where he was staying, and it’s not too far from my flat. Only issue was that I’m not that familiar with West Hampstead and I hadn’t made a booking anywhere. I was cranky and feeling picky. I didn’t really want a loud pub atmosphere (this is World Cup time, mind you), my dad still wasn’t used to London prices and I couldn’t pinpoint anything I was in the mood for food-wise.

We ended up at Sirous because – hey, tapas – you can get anything you want. We were seated in the middle of the restaurant next to a large party who were – honest to god – the loudest table I’ve ever heard in my life. The restaurant is confined too, so we couldn’t get away from it.

We weren’t too hungry, so opted to just share a few plates. First up, the Goat Cheese Ratatouille:

This was horrible. Honestly, a terrible dish. The tomato sauce tasted like something out of an out-of-date jar from Iceland, the vegetables were completely overcooked. The goat cheese was ok, but was completely over shadowed by everything else.  With it, my mood plunged deeper into the dumps.

Luckily, the Mushroom Tortilla began to redeem the evening:

A nice flour tortilla, stuffed with veg, chopped mushrooms and just the right amount of coriander. This could easily have been a heavy wrap, but instead it was the perfect size.

Next up, the Seafood Paella (for one):

I couldn’t believe this was supposed to be for one person! At about £12, it was an incredible deal and really really tasty. All the seafood was cooked well, not too rubbery. This dish alone completely made up for the atrocious ratatouille.

I wish the meal was more ‘even’. I hate having such conflicting feelings about a place. It usually then just has to average to ‘It was alright, I guess.’ Go for the paella if you live in the area, and it’s off-peak hours. (I forgot to mention the Spanish music that started around 9pm and made attempt at conversation even more impossible than the loud people next to us).  I’d skip it otherwise.

Sirous on Urbanspoon