Author: Melanie Seasons

Fifteen – Old Street

To say my experience at Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen was horrific wouldn’t be fair. However, to say the thought of returning turns my stomach wouldn’t be far off the truth. The thing is, it’s an ok restaurant based on a wonderful concept (the restaurant also runs as a charity that gives young, unemployed people the chance to be trained as chefs), but is so fantastically exorbitantly-priced for the food you’re served, you get the feeling the only person who’s really getting any benefit out of it is Jamie Oliver.

A starter of buffalo mozzarella and peaches was probably the highlight of the meal. Well-sourced cheese and nicely balanced against the sweetness of the peaches. Still, at over £11, I was surprised it didn’t come plated in gold.

The main, a Fisherman’s Stew containing about one or two pieces of mackerel, pollock, squid (respectively) and topped with 2 teeny tiny mussels, one clam and an angry-looking prawn staring at me with a face that said ‘No, I can’t believe it either’, cost a mind-boggling £28. Twenty-eight pounds. To add insult to injury, the seafood was completely overcooked and absolutely drowning in a tomato stew that I wouldn’t be surprised if had come out of a jar.

Dessert – a strawberry balsamic panna cotta – was ok, not particularly memorable other than the fact that it has a nice consistency, but was maybe too heavy on the balsamic flavouring.

A few positives though…

  1. It was cheerfully busy on a Tuesday night, but not so much so that you couldn’t hear your dining companions. I imagine it would be a good setting for a work dinner that you’re not paying for (which is actually what I was there for).
  2. Service was faultless. I really liked our server – he was calm, knowledgeable and just really nice.
  3. The decor was lovely. However, I suspect that’s another reason why it’s so expensive

Will I be going back? Not unless someone’s paying. And even then, I’d feel a bit guilty for not pointing them in a different direction.

Fifteen Trattoria on Urbanspoon

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Welcome to Nom Nom London

Well, it’s been nearly two months since my last review. Frustratingly, this isn’t because I’ve not been bothered to blog or go out to eat. It’s because I lost the Om Nom London domain name, and I’ve spent the last 8 weeks trying to get it back.

Long story short, unbeknownst to me, my OmNomLondon.com URL wasn’t under automatic renewal, and some EVIL companywith nothing better to do than rip off unsuspecting bloggers (owned by Go Daddy – the thieving bastards), purchased the domain from under my nose and tried to charge me over £200 for the pleasure of getting it back.

I blog for a hobby, and I certainly don’t make any money from it. Technically, it’s a*losing* game as I pay for my own meals!  Needless to say, paying to get my URL back was just not on, so I’ve registered NomNomLondon.com as the new name of my blog. It’s a subtle difference, and hopefully Google won’t completely kill my search rankings. Now I just have to get used to saying ‘Nom Nom’ instead of ‘Om Nom’.

Normal service to resume soon!

Delicious by DS5 – Shoreditch Pop-up restaurant

Often times, pop-ups are a little difficult (if not slightly pointless) to write about. By the time you get a chance to do so, they’re – poof! – gone. However, the one I was lucky enough to snag a table at a couple of weeks ago was a unique enough experience that it would be a disservice not to talk about. Oddly enough, it was for the launch of a car, the Citroen DS5.

The setting was typical of your Shoreditch pop up: big, white gallery space, hidden door, champers on arrival, lots of creative types waiting anxiously to be sat, but once led to our tables, it was quite unique. Three reasons why:

  1. Entry was a £5 donation to Fareshare
  2. For £5, you got a 5-course meal devised by Tim Anderson (of Master Chef and Brew Dog Camden fame)
  3. The menu was based loosely on the 5 senses, and incredibly posh at that

First course, Textures of Duck included a tissue-like dissolving in your mouth piece of crispy skin, a lovely liver parfait disguised as a quail’s egg and a deliciously leather-y jerky

Second course, Visions of Beetroot, was visually stunning, but not for me. I take beets in small doses, and this was way too much for me. Pretty though…

Hands down favourite was Flavours of Beef, a simple, but majestic fillet perfectly cooked and served with a delightful blue cheese potato puree and cashew butter.

And of course with any gastronomy-inspired tasting menu there has to be a bit of theatre.This in the form of Sounds of Bacon, made up of a pancetta lolly pop and pork rind popping candy (ie Pop Rocks). Good fun, both, although the popping candy made me want to reach for a nice cold Diet Coke rather than wine.

Also in the theatre department were the liquid nitrogen macaroon palette cleansers. I can’t say I enjoyed them any more than any other macaroon, but it was quite fun to blow ‘ smoke’ out of your mouth in between courses (as modeled by my friend George…)

Dessert – Aromas of Syrah – I was incredibly sceptical of. Peeling back the lid on the jar, you’re met with what can only be described as a cigarette barbecue. Not at all appetising. However, once the ridiculous odour dissipated, you were left with what actually was a quite nice chocolate ganache.

And in between all this, we got to play around with the car itself, and all its shiny buttons and features. It’s about nine million times out of my price range, but we had a lot of fun playing with the moon roof and driver’s seat massage function

By the end of the evening, suitably impressed with almost everything and having now been to two different Tim Anderson sort-of ventures, I’m wondering when is he going to get his own restaurant. I think it would have a lot of potential.  Surely something must be in the works…

Otto – Notting Hill

There are several reasons why I’m not a professional food blogger, or even one of those consistently ranked into arbitrary Top 10 lists (money, time, the inability to come up with 17 different ways to describe something as ‘salty’), but the main one, I think, is that I am often late to the scene on restaurants. While punters scramble to search for reviews of Pitt Cue, Dabbous and Burger & Lobster, I’m bringing up the rear chatting about last year’s news.

Like Otto.

I’ve been wanting to try it out ever since it opened and I spotted it looking down from the top of the 328 bus. It looks almost like a coffee shop from the outside, but then you see the chalkboard set up outside that says pizza (ooh!), cornmeal pizza (huh?). Intriguing to say the least. Nowhere in London does this. In fact, I’m sure it’s out there, but I hadn’t seen anyone do this. Must try.

Fast forward a year and a bit, and I don’t live in the area anymore – a recipe for disaster. But then, I get an email from Otto’s PR advertising beer (they have Blue Moon!) and a slice for a fiver. Reason enough for going back to the old ‘hood, I thought.

Turns out the press release was a teensy bit wrong, and the deal is only if you join a club. However, the owner (or manager on duty, I’m not sure which) decided to give us the deal anyway, which is a lovely gesture (and why I’m mentioning it).

Like any good independent/modern pizza place, Otto’s menu is full of quite a few decent flavour concoctions. Apart from a cheese and tomato for the less adventurous palette, you’ll find slices with toppings like grape and brie (a special they had on the blackboard), BBQ pork and red lentil kofte.

The cornmeal crust makes them much, much, much more filling than a regular pizza. For a shorty like me, one piece actually filled me up quite nicely. I’ll admit it’s a little weird at first (sort of like a cornbread biscuit), but I got used to it quickly. I won’t say that I’d go for it every time as my pizza base of choice, but it didn’t detract.

And while the crust is uber-important, it’s the quality of the toppings that really make it for me.  I had the aforementioned kofte, which was nothing short of amazing.Why anyone hasn’t put red curry sauce and lentil koftes on a cornmeal base before? The thing I remember most (in addition to the zesty spice and fresh coriander) was the fact that it was so heavy. This pizza has a little junk in the trunk.

The other two slices were of a slightly more normal variety (think we had the sausage and pepperoni), and were good, but not as good as my little Middle Eastern pizza treat. Even my lovely boyfriend who tends to stick to the boring stuff classics agreed.

I just wish I lived closer.

Otto Pizza on Urbanspoon

Om nom nom’ing abroad – A culinary tour through Nepal

I’ve just returned from another whirl-wind adventure abroad – this time to Nepal. Some may remember the Yak-filled two-weeks I had in China and Tibet.  Personally, I was a bit worried Nepal would end up being the same. However, I’m happy to report that the Himalayas appropriately divide Nepal and Tibet in both geography and food. The cuisine was very much more influenced by India, but with just a hint of Chinese. In other words, pretty damn good.

Here’s a bit of what I enjoyed…

A sort of Thali with crispy rice as a pre-dinner snack

Delicious steamed pork momos with a spicy carrot coriander dipping sauce - enjoyed at a random road-side diner in the middle of nowhere

Great little snack of a fried egg and two types of pancake (one very similiar to dosa)

More momos... This time half steamed, half fried, filled with buffalo. Delish!

And while not actually in Nepal, I couldn’t help but stop by the Dairy Queen during our connection in Oman for a Butterfinger Blizzard. It was just as delicious in Arabic as it is in English

The Hind’s Head – Bray

The Hind’s Head in Bray was an afternoon of seconds for me. The second time I’ve dined at a Blumenthal restaurant, the second time I’ve actually seen Heston in the flesh (the first being a sherry tasting at Shoreditch House many, many moons ago) and one of the few times I’ve ordered seconds of something at the table.

Walking in, I felt immediately in good hands. The place is warm, woody and welcoming – very much a mix of that old pub style with unencumbered luxury. Somehow the fine china, white linen and Tudor-style ceilings so low even a 5’3″ gal like myself had to duck for, work together.

The menu is your classic, poshed-up English dishes. Not tons to choose from, but something for every palette. For those who think British food is still all limp vegetables and boiled meats, I bring your attention to the below…

I decided to start with a couple nibbles in place of a full starter. The Scotch Egg (£3.50) in all its glory was marvellous. A very nice crispy exterior sprinkled with fresh sea salt flakes, opened up to a gooey (but not too gooey) quail’s egg hugged with minced pork so fresh and tender, you’d think it was picked off the farm that morning. Hell, it probably was.

After enquiring as to what the devil it was, I chose the Devils on Horseback (£1.80) as my second little nibble:

Bacon-wrapped, pitted dates. Nothing particularly earth-shattering, but I’ve always been partial to the bacon/fruit flavour combo.

Finally, on to mains. We must be really boring, because out of a table of 8 people, 7 of us ordered the Veal Chop, Cabbage, Onions, Sauce ‘Reform’ (£29.50). The odd duck out was a vegetarian. Poor girl – she missed out on this:

Considering it was taken on an iPhone 3GS, this is a photo I’m particularly proud of. It’s bright, colourful and almost looks like a transparent background. Luckily, the dish tasted as good as it looks.

But as good as the veal was, it was shadowed by something infinitely simpler: Chips. Delicious, delicious triple cooked chips. Piping hot, crispy on the outside, salty, not greasy Heston chips. I couldn’t get enough of them, so I ordered seconds for the table.

It may not be as flashy as its flashy molecular gastronomic neighbour, The Fat Duck, but it is good, proper British food with incredible service in an idyllic village setting. Anyone could complain a bit about value for money when talking about Heston Blumenthal, but you don’t book a table unless you’re planning on spending about £100 a head – simple as that. With those expectations, The Hind’s Head was a fantastic experience.

Now, I just to save up my pennies and complete the trifecta.

Hinds Head on Urbanspoon

The Blacksmith & Toffeemaker – Clerkenwell

I really wish I could tell you a lot about The Blacksmith & Toffeemaker, but unfortunately this post is probably more of an amuse-bouche than a full-fledged main. I got a little bit of a preview of it at an event I went to last week, but like so many media gatherings, there just wasn’t enough food to go around. Sad, because what I did try was actually very nice.

I know the pub itself is in a bit of a black hole. It’s one of those places that has probably changed ownership in names three times in the last couple years. I remember the space being a bit old man-looking from the outside. I can understand why – it’s stuck in front of a council estate and in between the void that is the journey between the winding streets of Farringdon to restaurant row on Upper Street. The new owners, however, have given it a breath of fresh air. I might even go so far as to say the pub is cute and quirky. Or at least as quriky as a pub can be. I mean, just look at this:

Stuck? Yeah, it’s soap. I probably spent a good minute searching for something with to cleanse my hands, staring at this weird wall fixture until I realised that it was ‘soap on the roap stick’. Probably not the most sanitary, but quite a cool idea.

But yes, the food. What little of it I had, I thought was fantastic. Even though the event was positioned as a re-launch of the pub/new menu/etc, it actually ended up being more of a tasting of English wines, paired with nibbles. I must admit I was sceptical of English wines, but for the most part, they were pretty good too. The Sharpham Estate, Dart Valley Reserve 2009 reminded me a fairly strong viogner, perfectly paird with ‘potted salmon’, which was actually quite a bit more like a parfait.

Maybe parfait is their thing though, the chicken liver variety was a fine little number. Served on homemade bread and whipped with enough consistency and texture to remind you it’s actually meat, this little dollop tickeld the tastebuds:

My favourite nibble of the night, though, was the Scotch Egg, paired Mumford’s English Rosé from Somerset.

I usually prefer my yolk to be slightly more runny, but the sausage casing and crumbly outside more than made up for it. I’ve been told they have a black pudding scotch egg on the menu as well, which I think I’m going to need at some point.

I guess it’s not a bad thing that the worst thing about this event was that there wasn’t enough food. Perhaps it was intentional – the ‘leave them wanting more’ mentality has sort of worked on me. So much so, that I am actually thinking of trekking all the way from Kilburn to Angel (possibly the most inconvenient journey in North London) to try it properly.