Month: November 2010

Bea’s of Bloomsbury – Bloomsbury

It’s very difficult to be a foodie and not gain weight, so for me something has to go, and that thing is superfluous cakes. But last week I made an exception for Bea’s of Bloomsbury.

Truth is, I’d been avoiding Bea’s ever since the Londonist Cupcake Throwdown. Their chocolate orange cake was just too good to pass up (it came in a very respectable second place) and I figured if I ever walked into the actual shop, I would have to admit immediate defeat. I was right.

I went there with Lizzie of Yelp fame for some naughty Thursday afternoon treats including the Rocky Road Shortbread:

And the Tiramisu Cupcake:

The Rocky Road Shortbread was heavenly. A buttery flaky crust that burst into a million pieces if you tried to cut it in half (a testament that it may deserve to be eaten greedily). The fudge was rich and the homemade marshmallow was  fluffy, delicate and sweet.

The Tiramisu Cupcake was also spectacular. The cake, perhaps a bit dense for my taste was spot on with hints of vanilla and marscapone and the buttercream frosting some of the best I’ve ever had. Bea’s knows frosting.

Everything was gorgeous, but I knew we had to stop there. The cakes and quiches and everything butter-laden on the counter started to call my name, as if to say, “Come on Melanie, you tried two of us – we’re not so bad. Come back every day. Perhaps an extra stone would suit you…”

That’s when I immediately trotted over to the Fitness First Holborn for a good long run.

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Plane Food – Heathrow Terminal 5

I go to Heathrow at least a couple times a year, and not once have I ever had the pleasure of flying out of Terminal 5. No, I’m always in the absolute craphole of Terminal 4 with it’s exposed electrical work and rubbish duty free. So it was with great pleasure that my India flight was on BA and that FINALLY after nearly three years of being open, I got to see what all the fuss is about.

I knew I had two stops: Mulberry (for a bit of tax-free naughty handbag shopping) and Plane Food, Gordon Ramsay’s cleverly-titled outpost smack-dab in the middle of the terminal.

Trying to get myself on Bangalore-time, I opted for lunch before noon. I wasn’t massively starving, so I went with the small portion of the Smoked Salmon and Haddock Fishcakes with Harissa Mayonnaise and a side of chips

The fish cake was fried to perfection.  Perfectly light and crispy and flaky in all the right places. The harissa mayo was rich and spicy. (Have I mentioned I’m now in love with harissa paste? I received a jar with my Welsh Lamb recipe book and it’s the best thing ever. It’s not replaced sriracha as my favourite spicy sauce, but it’s a close second.)

The chips, thick-cut and gorgeous, were the perfect side dish. I loved that they were served with individual jars of ketchup and mustard too. Though I forgot to take a picture, it was a nice touch!

With a sparkling water, pot of tea and service, the bill came to £21 – totally respectable for a nice place to eat in an airport. My only grip is that they charge £1.50 per person cover. Cover for what? Bread? Tap water? I really really hate that. Either roll it in to the menu prices or don’t do it at all. Adding a conspicuous £1.50 for seemingly no reason just pisses people off.

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India Roundup – Bangalore and Mumbai

I was told before I left for my big business trip to Bangalore and Mumbai, ‘don’t try the street food’.  I lasted three days. Don’t they know I’m a food blogger and that I have a stomach of iron?! Telling me not to eat street food in India is tantamount to ‘Don’t press the big red button’. It’s going to happen sooner or later.

Mooli’s, eat your heart out – this very excellent Chicken Roll I ate in the Bandra neighbourhood of Mumbai was stuffed with spicy sautéed onions, tandoori chicken, peppers and wrapped in crispy flatbread was less than a pound. It was brilliant, and I did not get sick.

Moving slightly up the scale, we went to Rajdhani Restaurant, just outside the UB City Mall in Bangalore.  We didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into.  Rajdhani serves Gujarati Thali, which means as soon as you sit down, they just start bringing you little cups of vegetarian Indian food until you ask them to stop. Poppadoms, naan, khichdi, three types of dal, spicy aubergine and so much more – all for less than £5 per person. This was one of the best meals I had all week.

On my first night in Bangalore, my host took me to the ITC Royal Gardenia where we had drinks and nibbles. There were the standard veggie crisps and popcorn (of all things), but I also order some Idli – fried pieces of what could be described as a pressed rice gnocchi-type dumpling. Served with a spicy tomato curry sauce, this was ok – but didn’t knock my socks off.  Our bill was one of the more expensive nights in Bangalore, pretty much on London prices – about £40 for two glasses of wine, two beers and the starters.

In Mumbai, I took out the team to Dome at the Intercontinental Hotel overlooking the Bay, by my colleague’s recommendation. At night, it is absolutely spectacular – one of the best views of Mumbai, I was assured. It was truly beautiful. Unfortunately, the food was fairly average.  Apart from a very nice chicken dish with fried sliced potatoes and a rich tarragon cream sauce, I wasn’t overly impressed. It was also very dark, so I didn’t get to take any pictures – a food blogger’s nightmare.

Still, nice view:

I should also give a bit of credit to Kingfisher Airlines who also provided actual real cutlery on my flight from Bangalore to Mumbai! Seriously impressed, guys. It was a breakfast of dosa, something couscous-like and I’m not entirely sure what else, but it was good.

My last night out in Bangalore was at Vembanad, an upscale restaurant in the specialising in Southern Indian cuisine. Southern Indian food still maintains the spiciness and the richness of what most people associate with Indian, but it is much more reliant on fish, dosa and rice, rather than a heavy naan.

I started with the Prawn Rassam, a delicious soup of savory spices and small prawns, paired with a slight sweetness from tamarind and a truckload of giant dried chilies.  It may have been the spiciest thing I had all week. My lips were burning.

My main was a Fish Curry. On first bite, it was much more mild than my soup, which I was disappointed with. Then, as if by magic, it became spicier over the course of the meal.  I had realized that my soup mouth was beginning to wear off, and I could actually taste again. I like it much better after. The fish was a bit overdone, but the curry-infused coconut milk with shallots and slices of mango was superb.

India’s a fascinating place. The common thread amongst everything I had was SPICY.  And in a very good way. It was the best kind of spice: so hot it makes your mouth tingle, but not so hot that you can’t taste the complex flavours underneath. I was a little worried that I might be sick of the food after 8 days straight of it, but I’m totally not. Bring on the curry – I’m hooked.

Nizuni – Fitzrovia (Charlotte Street)

I can’t actually remember what Nizuni on Charlotte Street used to be. I walk down Charlotte Street all the time, and for almost as long as I can remember, the space was in development. All of the sudden, Nizuni came out of nowhere.

Looking in, the place looks slick. Walking in, it’s a minimalist’s dream. Clean lines, beautiful neutral colour schemes, whoever did the interior decorating for Nizuni  is my hero.

We were a bit early for lunch (12:30), and thus were the nearly first to arrive in the restaurant.  We were greeted by, who I assume was, the manager. When we told him we’d never to the restaurant been before but were very excited to try, he had the kind of pride and excitement on his face that you only get if you put your heart and soul into a something. I liked that – it felt more personal.

We started with the Agadashi Tofu:

Some of the best I’ve ever had. Light, crisp and completely impenetrable to the gorgeous sweet soy sauce it was bathed in. Just as it should be.

For mains, I went down the maki route, while my colleague tried the Yaki Udon Noodles.

The Spicy Hamachi Roll was difficult to rate. The spicy sauce on top (most similar to Tabasco than anything) drowned out any taste of the fish. I got a slight amount of onion from the greenery inside, but that was it.

The Unagi and Avocado Roll was good quality, but as you can see, missing the sweet soy drizzle that – face it – makes and unagi avocado roll an unagi avocado roll.

Better luck was had with the noodles. Thick slippery udon with tender slices of beef and wok-tossed veggies. We both agreed it was a winner.

As an added treat, we split the Chestnut Cake with Green Tea Ice Cream:

Top marks for presentation, but I couldn’t help feeling the green tea/chestnut pairing was a bit off. Individually they were both fine, but together it was a bit mismatched.

Any restaurant less than a month in has growing pains, so I’m not really too fussed about the misses we had at lunch. With tea and service, it was £18 a head. Admittedly, it was a bit much for lunch, but completely reasonable for dinner.  With the uber-expensive Roka across the street being the only other Japanese sit-down restaurant option on Charlotte Street, Nizuni is a very welcome addition to the neighbourhood

Nimb – Copenhagen

My last night in Copenhagen, and I was looking forward to Nimb. Another recommendation from a London foodie, I booked a table for 8:30pm Sunday.

Nimb is located in the Nimb hotel, also home to Herman – one of Copenhagen’s best (and most expensive) restaurants.  It occurred to me as I sat down that the Nimb recommendation as a suitable replacement for the fully-booked Noma may have been for Herman, and not at the cheaper (though still dear for all intents and purposes), Brasserie.

I’m glad though, because after devouring nearly a whole pizza for lunch, I wasn’t very hungry. Spending Herman-type money would be a waste. Instead of even the reasonably-priced four-course tasting menu, I opted for a main with an option to get dessert.

To start though, I was given some well-presented bread, the spongy rye that I’d grown quite accustomed to.  It was a difficult bread served with a difficult butter, solid all the way through.  The wooden spoon/knife (spife?) it was served with, though classic Danish design, didn’t do very much in the way of cutting. No joke, I was forced to hold it a few second over the nearby candle in order to spread it on the bread.

My main was the Poached Western Sea Skate with Fresh Apples and Roasted Pure, Burnt Leeks and Spinach Vinaigrette of Chicken and Smoked Bacon.

Wow! What a mouthful – figuratively and literally.  I really liked this. The skate was flaky and light, and the apples (I think the Danes like apples) were lovely and sweet. Even better was the bacon, which couldn’t have been any more crisp and life-affirming, even if I’d been hungover.

I nearly opted for the Caramel Ice Cream, Butter Cream and Cookie Crumbs for dessert, but my stomach and wallet had other plans.

There are parts of me that wish I was able to try more. Though I really enjoyed my meal, I’m not sure it was an accurate representation of the restaurant. I always worry when the basics (bread and wine, for example) aren’t up to par and – because you’re a single diner – they seat you at the bar next to dirty kitchen utensils while the restaurant is pretty much empty. Yep:

Perhaps a better option would have been to come for the Sunday Brunch, an all-you-can-eat affair with lots of choices for 245 kr.  The place strikes me like it would be good for brunch. It’s bright, cheerful and overlooking Tivoli, which I’m sure is a charming view in daylight.