Month: April 2011

Om Nom Nom’ing in Austria

As you read this, I am currently en route from Malaga to Lagos in Portugal, having been lucky enough to secure the three days off between the Easter holidays and the Royal Wedding giving me a fantastic 11 days off in a row. But as I’m away now, I figured I may as well get this post up about my last trip: (very) late season skiing in Austria.

And while the snow was more of a slush, I still managed to get a bit of some downhill action. The rest of it was filled with meat. Quite a lot of it too. Schnitzels, sausages, you name it.

In fact, meat was pretty much the theme of the Austrian dining experience. For example the Bernerwürstel mit Pommes (Bacon-wrapped Sausages with Fries):

…and the good ol’ Würst mit Pommes, which oddly ended up resembling a half-peeled banana:

We also tried the local dessert – Germknö-del mit Vanillesauce und Mohn (Yeast dumpling with Custer and Poppy):


This was… interesting. I still don’t know if I’m a fan or not. The vanilla sauce was lovely, a custard with a velvety texture. The dumpling was fine, but the fig filling (that was a surprise) and crumbled poppy powder over top, made for an odd combination of flavours.

A favourite of mine was the Lungauer Kasnockn (Languor Cheese Dumplings):

Sampled at the top of Hochwurzen mountain on the only good day of snow we had, this was the only classic Austrian main course I had that didn’t didn’t have pork as the main ingredient. Somewhere between gnocchi and macaroni and cheese, it was dammed rich, but very very tasty.

But my favourite bit was just a little something we picked up at the market to go along with breakfast. Nutoka: the off-brand Nutella that made me giggle every time I screwed off the lid:

See you all when I’m back from the bank holiday extravaganza!

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#MEATEASY – New Cross Gate

For those not living in London, let me tell you a little story…

Once there was a man who had a van that he parked outside the pubs of South London to sell burgers. But these weren’t just any burgers, these were special – and it wasn’t just any van, it was ‘The Meatwagon’. People from far and wide, lauded the man and his van as producing the best burger in the city. And then, tragedy struck before Christmas – The Meatwagon was stolen.

But the man, Yianni Papoutsis, had an idea. Why not make the burgers a bit more stationary by setting up a temporary ‘Meatwagon’ in a pub to raise money for a new van? And that’s exactly what he did. He called it #MEATEASY, and the foodies rejoiced.

With all the fanfare surrounding the place, I’m surprised I didn’t make it down to #MEATEASY till a couple weeks ago. I’d wish that I’d have been able to go before, but New Cross Gate is about 40 minutes from my office and well over an hour from my flat. That’s a long way to go for a £6 burger – even if it is ‘the best’.

I love the idea of it all though. Up the back staircase of The Goldsmiths Tavern, #MEATEASY is a small, crowded and boho-chic room. It’s busy and it’s fun. When you arrive (we did, on recommendation just as they opened at 6), you’re given a ticket and asked to find a seat. Even by this point, the place was rammed:

The menu is chalked on the walls and is filled with mostly American diner treats like Chilli Dogs and Macaroni and Cheese (in addition to the famous burger). Although they looked tasty, it had to be the cheeseburger and onion rings for me:

While the onion rings were ab-so-lut-ley amazing (perfect batter, not too greasy, onion that stayed in place when you took a bite instead of slurping out of its husk and getting onion slime on your chin), the burger was ‘just ok’. I know that’s pretty much blasphemy, but hey, I’m going to play my ‘American burger-lover’ card. It was cooked fine, the toppings were fresh and it had a nice slab of cheese that reminded me of home, but it didn’t live up to expectations.

I still like my Five Guys burger better – pity it’s thousands of miles away.

Unfortunately, if you wanted to give this a go, you will have to wait until the new Meatwagon is back on the roads, as #MEATEASY closed its temporary doors on 16 April

#Meateasy on Urbanspoon

Hix – Soho

I hate it when you build up a place in your mind and it doesn’t deliver. I’ve already review after review of how amazingly wonderful Mark Hix‘s Soho establishment is. From the oysters to the drinks menu to well, everything. Sadly, it didn’t work so much for me.

I went for a client lunch (one of the benefits of agency life), giddy at the prospect of not having to pay for what I was sure would be quite an expensive meal. Always nice. Service from the beginning was top-notch. Though it certainly wasn’t busy on a Monday lunch, the professionalism of the staff shone through. Pleasant, courteous and attentive. The rest (apart from one bright spot), was lacklustre.

We started out with the Asparagus Fondue (£4-ish per dish) and Oysters with Mini Sausages (£15.50 for 6):

It’s still a bit early in the season for asparagus, but this was fine all the same. Not mind-blowing, but good. The cheese was whipped with an asparagus cream that complimented the (slightly overcooked) stems nicely.

Oysters were lovely (apologies for the missing photo – the picture did not come out as I surreptitiously tried to take a photo from across the table), but as I’ve said before, I’m no expert. I just know I liked them more than the ones at The Warrington.

For my main, I went with Brookfield Farm Veal Dumpling with Snails (priced somewhere around the £19 mark):

Talk about false advertising. Instead of Veal Dumpling, the menu should have read, ‘Huge, giant, ball of salty minced cow’. Even for me, it was too much. What is generally lovely and tender about veal was completely absent. It was so dense, I had a hard time cutting it, let alone eating it. The cream sauce was so heavy with oil and butter, I could nearly hear my arteries clogging with each bite. I tried to dillute the salt with a side of potatoes, but even those were so soaked in butter, it pretty much made things worse.

In fact, all around the table, the feedback was similar. Apart from the Fish Fingers, which were apparently ‘awesome’, we all found our mains to be overly saturated with fat, overly salty and overall mediocre.

Dessert was a different story – and thank goodness for that. I had the ‘Credit Crunch’ Ice Cream with Hot Chocolate Sauce:

Dear lord, it was fantastic. Rich vanilla ice cream with chocolate flakes and crunchy bits of honeycomb. The chocolate sauce was just as amazing. Warm and supple, it melted the ice cream just enough for a lovely little vanilla cream pool to be left at the bottom of the cup as I finished it. Ben & Jerry’s should seriously consider doing something like this. They could call it ‘Honey(comb), I’m home!’

Although the experience ended on a sweet note, I just couldn’t help feeling completely disappointed. I didn’t get a chance to see the final bill, but I can’t imagine it being a cheap affair. Perhaps I just had a bad experience, but I’m not willing to pay out-of-pocket just to find out.

Hix on Urbanspoon