Month: February 2012

Gospel Brunch – Altitude 360

I think church is just about the last place you’ll find me on a Sunday, so imagine my surprise when a few weeks ago, instead of watching movies in bed, I was at the top of Millbank Tower joining in with the London Community Gospel Choir.

Yes, I have now been fully immersified into the wonder that is London’s only Gospel Brunch at Altitude 360. Hand to god, it’s probably the most fun I’ve had over prosecco in quite some time – and that’s saying a lot.

To give you an idea of the scale of awesome we were in for, here was the view from our table:

As you can imagine, a view like that needs to be matched by equally punchy food and entertainment in order not to be outshone (especially on one of London’s first sunny warm days). This bread plate was the first attempt:

Have I ever said how much I’ve missed cornbread? I mean, seriously… bouncy, rich, sweet, savoury cornbread is just amazing, and Altitude’s (thank god) didn’t disappoint. The brioche with caramelised onions deserves a hearty shout out as well.

Once the bread plate was demolished and  I stopped oggling out the window, I started oggling the menu. BBQ ribs, chorizo omelette, tuna steak, BBQ chicken. Lots of delicious choices, but in the end I decided to go to with a good old fashioned BBQ chicken.

The bird itself was fine and the BBQ actually a really good sticky effort. The rice and black beans (so difficult to find in the UK!) , however, were actually quite dry. The extra BBQ sauce helped and the Cajun potato wedges I ordered on the side were ace, but when 2/3 of your main is a no-go, you can’t help but feel a bit disappointed.

DQ went for a breakfast option: the chorizo and red pepper omelette served ‘on a roll’.

I have to admit, I was really confused about this one. It wasn’t so much served on a roll as it was ‘as a roll’, but lately I’ve found that restaurants try to be as cagey as possible with their menu descriptions. No longer are we allowed to visualise what will be on our plate when we order it. It always has to be a surprise now. (Like the time where I ordered a steak pie, and it came out looking like a tartare terrine)

Missing roll or not, the omelette was bursting full of red pepper goodness. It was slightly on the greasy side, but mostly because it was chock full of chorizo – and chorizo grease is probably the best grease of them all.

Desserts were absolutely heavenly. Mississippi Mud Pie was sinfully rich and Key Lime Pie – another American classic I’ve not seen over here – was as fresh and tart as if purchased from Florida earlier in the morning.

The only real downside at this point is that DQ and I were both physically hurting from having so much food. I blame the bread. The delicious, delicious bread.

As you can imagine though, the food is only a small reason you come to the gospel brunch. Our Southern feast would not have been complete with the soulful serenading from the sassy Gospel Choir. I could go on about their talent or the vibe in the restaurant, but it’s probably just easier if you watch the video.

Turns out, even though I’m not religious in the slightest, I actually know quite a few gospel songs. You probably do too. ‘Oh, Happy Day’, ‘I Go to the Rock’, ‘Your Love is My Love’ and a few others. No less than three songs were dedicated to Whitney too, rest her soul. This was the big finale. This lady had some pipes on her…

The whole thing is £49 per person (including juices and water, but not alcoholic drinks) and this time DQ and I were guests of Altitude. It might seem a little steep for brunch, but when you consider the entertainment value, the view and the fact that we were there for about 3 hours, it’s a steal.

Bam-bou – Fitzrovia

In our very busy city-dweller lives, it is rare that 6 people can come together to enjoy a nice meal and drinks without weeks of planning and diary-checking. Spontaneity almost always breeds a successful night out – and the surprise of being able to get three couples together for an out-of-the blue triple date still warms my heart even months later.

Because of the spontaneity of the evening, we didn’t do much planning on where to go to eat. Bam-bou is very central, just north of Oxford Street in Fitzrovia. Walking by it as often as I do (my office isn’t too far), I’ve always remarked at how busy it always seems to be. It’s not super-cheap and doesn’t have a lot of the buzz so many of the restaurants – whether deserving or undeserving – in London have these days, but with the crowds even on random weekdays were a good sign.

The food is Vietnamese-French, which I consider to be less Asian-fusion (such a dirty word!) in the restaurant sense and more of a nod to a not-so-pleasant piece of history, since France ruled Vietnam as a colony until 1954.

But that’s not so much to the point. On to the food.

By far the best starter we had was the duck roll. Coming out of the kitchen  like little mini-burgers, the duck patty was almost flakey in texture, complemented perfectly with a fragrant plummy hoisin. Unfortunately we weren’t particularly impressed with the bland veggie summer rolls or the slightly too greasy calamari (though the spicy aioli served with the latter had a lot of pluck. I like that in a dipping sauce).

Mains across the table were made up of a combination of curries, pork skewers over vermicelli mostly reminiscent of bun cha and a lovely spiced duck with a salted plum sauce, which – despite having a similar description to our duck starter – couldn’t have been more different in preparation.

All of them were quite lovely too. The duck, though somewhat of a small portion for £15.50 (not including any sides or rice) was a bit steep, but expertly cooked. Loved it. The curry sauce was almost  intoxicating, and the pork beautifully tender.

Most of the time, restaurants with a melting pot approach to Asian food are a dime a dozen and rarely anything to shout about, but Bam-bou breaks the mould.

Bam-Bou on Urbanspoon

A culinary photo tour of China and Tibet

Way back in September, I spent an incredible two weeks split between Beijing and Lhasa. We had a few days in the big city and then a two-day smelly  train ride across the country and into the heart of Tibet. We saw mountains (like, the mountain – Mt Everest), we ate yak, we ran out of breath walking up a flight of stairs thanks to the altitude, I tried lung for the first time (no, thank you) and generally had a wicked, crazy time.

Here’s the evidence…

Crunchy tofu

All this for just £10/person and soooo much better than Chinatown


Yak dumplings

Proper Peking duck

Sweet tofu with edamame

Hot pot beef with dumpling and chilli

A yak feast in Tibet (lots and lots of yak - which wasn't really all that nice)