Wednesday, 31 July 2013

MEATLiquor London

Although I love a burger as much as the next person burger joints have never featured on my list of to go restaurants, but all that could change. Street food when done well can command as much attention as the high end dining scene. It's down to the quality of the ingredients and when cooked brilliantly there will be people queueing round the block. Remember my post on Bubbledogs? hot dogs and Champagne! ( read it here ) I rest my case. Every now and then is not too bad for you, right ? 
The burger scene is uber cool at the moment with the foodie elite in London, so on my last visit to the capital I decided to make a burger joint my to go destination and see for myself. 
Recently two American Giants Shake Shack and Five guy's have taken up residencies in Covent garden but reviews are more a miss than a hit. Two other names bandied about on Twitter, Patty and Bun and MEATLiquor. also get rave reviews so I felt in safe hands there. 

After much deliberation we decided to go with MEATLiquor, leaving Patty and Bun for our next visit. I liked the story of how MEATLiquor came to be, the story of Yianni Papoutsis whom after spending a few years driving his mobile grill "Meat wagon" around London and every major festival, feeding masses of meat loving punters he decided to take up a more permanent residence in Welbeck st, Marylebone. 
Jaime Oliver showcased MeatWagon on Jaime's great britian. You can see Jaime visiting the Meat Wagon HERE.

The talk of two hour queues snaking around the block can either be off putting or intriguingly enticing. But this is Monday afternoon 15 Min's after opening time and feeling smug we walk right in. It was quite empty but believe me half an our after we were seated it started to fill quite quickly. 

With it's unglamorous position under a multi story car park the interior is much the same. 
Dark and moody, lit only by blood red neon lighting. Walls and ceilings covered in sinister graffiti style illustrations. A mish mash of bench style tables and side diner style banquettes. I fear i've pulled up a chair in the middle of a slaughter house. It is quite simply the Devils crib!

Should you need to use the W.C doors are marked Chick or Dicks !
But it works, after all you are here for a dirty burger, pretty surroundings and tablecloths just wouldn't do here.

The burgers here are big and messy. Each table provided with a whole kitchen roll only confirms you need to roll up your sleeves and get stuck in for you'll be wiping half of it off your chin. 

Menu is fun, burgers listed as Bulls, chicken under Birds, anything made from vegetables listed under Rabbit food and deserts referred to as sweet stuff.

A very good and extensive cocktail list. So much choice I had to send our waiter away 3 times till I made my decision. 

We both chose the Cheese burger, the MeatWagon original, beef, cheese, red onions, pickles, lettuce, mustard , ketchup.
Side orders of ordinary fries, fries smothered in melted cheddar cheese and onion and a portion of Slaw Southern style. 
Portions were huge and we immediately knew we had over ordered. One portion of chips and slaw would go round a few people easily.

Food images not great due to low lighting, I never use flash photography in restaurants so you will have to take my word this food looked as good as it tasted. 

The MeatWagon original cheeseburger. 

Near to perfection as you can get, juicy beef patty still pink in the middle, nice caramalisation charring the outside. A final splash of water and a couple of seconds under a closh softens the bun giving it that shiny glaze and just the right amount of condiments to not overpower the taste of the burger itself. I loved it . 

Drinks were also very good, we ordered a Space Gin Smash
Plymouth navy Gin, lemon juice, sugar, apple juice, elderflower cordial, mint and grapes.

Henrietta fizz
Finlandia vodka, shaken with fresh pear, fresh lemon juice and strawberry topped with fizz.

Could have easilly stayed for a while longer going through the cocktail list but sadly we had a train to catch.

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Tom's Kitchen - Somerset house London

I love visiting London, I was born here but have lived in Liverpool my entire life so visiting London always feel special and for a foodie it's heaven on earth. My reason for visiting this weekend was to see Goldfrapp in concert, the destination Somerset house. But whilst we're here we got to eat and drink, right ? 

This trip we decided not to do our usual ritual of bagging every meal at Michelin starred restaurants and being restricted to dining at the only available times they had on offer, to the more casual approach of walking in off the street, places like Bone daddies, Ramen bar or to do the burger scene at much talked about places like Shake Shack, Five guys, patty and Bun or MEATLiquor. 

That said we did have to make two reservations. Readers of my blog will know I have a love of eating & drinking high in the sky. Duck and waffle (being the highest) was not a place we felt we could just turn up at and get lucky but more of that in another post.

Our only other reservation was made at Tom's Kitchen a chef (Tom Aikens ) who's style of cooking I love, British comfort food with French influences. Tom's first restaurant in Chelsea (Tom Aikens) achieved Michelin star status. He then opened the first of his brasserie style restaurants again based in Chelsea and more recently the second Tom's Kitchen at Somerset house, the very same place we were going to see Goldfrapp so I wasted no time securing a table.  

To find the restaurant you have to walk through the courtyard of Somerset house. We arrived straight into the bar area were we were promptly asked if we would like a drink. We declined at this point but thought it very attentive as it was a hot hot day . The Dining area is split into three rooms , we were walked through two of them to the final one nearest the kitchen and seated in the middle of the room which at first felt awkward as it's slightly raised up from the lower more comfortable looking banquets, these however were reserved for four diners. 

As we were eating early 3.30 we were given the Brunch menu. You can view this HERE.
Then promptly offered the cocktail list. Tom's Kitchen had cleverly put together a cocktail list named after all the bands playing the Somerset house summer series. I naturally chose Goldfrapp~ Black Cherry 
I would not normally chose a Bourbon based drink, but it was a fitting tribute to our visit. And ordering out of my comfort zone paid off. My partner however chose Band of Horse sticking with her beloved Gin ( Traitor ) 


For starter I went for Risotto of the day which was Lemon and herb. This was absolutely Divine, creamy, silky, lemony, with big shavings of Parmesan, wasn't to sure what herbs were used but I think I detected Tarragon as there seemed a hint of anise. 

My partner chose the Cesar salad and loved it. 

For mains we both chose pork belly with braised endive and pearl-barley risotto 
We both loved the pork belly, meltingly tender, the crispy crackling was so thin and crispy you could eat it like a big porky crisp. We both disliked the braised endive it was far to bitter but endives are bitter so that's not a criticism just personal taste. The only thing I would change about this dish was the sauce surrounding the risotto, it was too sweet for my taste I would have much preferred it to be rich and savoury.

I couldn't finish this dish, stupidly I thought the the pearl barley risotto accompanying this dish would be a small portion as the pork belly was the main ingredient. But there was a healthy portion of it.
I wrongly ordered.  Two Risottos, who does that ? That said this was my first taste of a risotto not made with rice and it was fantastic.

We were both too full for desert which was a shame as I would have liked to sample the full hit at Tom's Kitchen but we left very full and happy.
Good food, good drinks and Music a pretty perfect day in my book ;0) 

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Rhuby Spritz the perfct summer cocktail

One of the most memorable cocktails I've had was during a visit to the OXO Tower London last summer, it was called Rhuby Spritz.  A rhubarb vodka muddled with redcurrants and charged with soda it was the perfect British summer drink. 

I say British as not only are rhubarb and redcurrants quintessentially British, the vodka in this cocktail is made by British distiller William chase, a Hereford potato farmer who brought us Terrell's crisps.

In Williams story he describes whilst travelling in the USA looking for packaging equipment for his crisps he stumbled upon a small distillery making potato vodka and thought this could be a great new chapter in his life. He reportedly sold his crisp business for £30 million deciding it would be more fun to make vodka ( have to agree there ) Chase vodka has since gone from strength to strength. In 2010 Chase was crowned the worlds finest vodka by a panel of 30 judges at the San Fransisco world spirit competition, beating the likes of Poland and Russia.

Distilling in a bespoke copper batch pot and using potatoes gives Chase vodka a natural sweetness and a much better taste than traditional methods of using cheaper wheat or rye grains.

I'm a big fan of trying to reproduce cocktails at home that I have tried and loved. Especially the classics that have an interesting story attatched to them. Although Rhuby Spritzs not in that category I loved it enough to want to make at home.

So I wanted to find out how to make this drink using the exact ingredients. 
The Mixologist at OXO kindly gave me the recipe.

Chase vodka is not cheap at £35 a bottle but the quality is amazing, and the taste of rhubarb comes through superbly.

Ingredients to make a Rhuby spritz

6-8 Redcurrants
1/2 tsp Caster sugar
15ml of lemon juice
50ml Chase Rhubarb vodka
Soda water

Glass style - Tall fluted - Highball
Method - Muddle - Shaken - Charge with soda
Garnish - Slice of lemon - String of recurrants

Muddle 6-8 redcurrants with a 1/2 tsp caster sugar and 15ml lemon juice in a cocktail shaker
Add a double shot of Chase Rhubarb vodka, ice & shake
Strain into a glass filled with ice
Stir and top up with soda water
Garnish with a slice of lemon and some of the redcurrants.

Rhuby Spritz the perfect summer cocktail


Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Random recipe challenge

I currently have 128 Cook books at home plus several cocktail books and like a lot of people who love to cook I can't resist buying them but do I cook from them all, the answer is No. 

So when I spotted Dominic Franks of @belleaukitchen throwing out a challenge to his Twitter followers to cook a random recipe I decided to give it a go. 
The rules of this months challenge was to count your cook books from left to right, stopping at number 30 then choosing page 30. Cooking what ever recipe was on that page, no cheating! 

Admittedly I prefer to cook a recipe that has a photo to illustrate how the finished dish should look so when page 30 had not one but two recipes and both without pictures I was already out of my comfort zone.

The 30th book on my shelf was "The Great Garlic Cookbook". The first recipe on the page 30 was for real taramasalata. My partner and I are not great fish eaters so didn't see the point in making something that won't be eaten.

The other recipe was for "Sorbet (sherbet) Tomatoes", again not a recipe I would ever choose to make but this is a challenge after all.  




After my initial thought of yuk I thought about another sorbet I had eaten recently and liked very much, cucumber and mint at a restaurant called Fraiche ( you can read my review of Fraiche here ) which was lovely, so not all sorbets are of the desert kind, saying that a Tomato is officially a fruit ! 
This recipe did not require too many ingredients or expensive ones so what the hell, in for a penny in for a pound ! 
The only change I made to this recipe was instead of freezing the tomato juice in an ice cube tray which would take an age ( not a patient cook) I decided to use my Sorbet / ice cream machine. Ten minutes over a couple of hours, no contest ! 
This is how I made Sorbet ( sherbet ) Tomatoes
(Serves 4)
  • 2 large beefsteak tomatoes 
  • Salt
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed 
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • A generous handful of fresh mint leaves
  • Juice of 1 large lemon
  • 10g / 2tsp of sugar
  • 2 egg whites
To serve 
Sprigs of mint


Halve each tomato horizontally, scoop out and reserve seeds and cores.
Sprinkle the insides of the tomato shells with salt and turn upside down to drain.

Smear the inside of each tomato shell with the crushed garlic and sprinkle with pepper.

Press the tomato seeds and cores through a sieve to extract the juice . 

Make up to 2/3 cup 150 ml 1/4 pint with water.

Combine the mint leaves, tomato juice, lemon juice and sugar in a blender. The mixture should not be too smooth.

Pour mixture into an ice cream / sorbet maker and churn. This only took around 10 minutes due to the small amount of liquid. 

Whip egg whites with a couple of pinches of salt until it forms soft peaks. 

Fold egg whites into semi frozen mixture.

Freeze until firm, stirring occasionally.

Pile the sorbet (sherbet) into each tomato half and garnish with a sprig of mint.

Verdict : very pretty on the plate, the tomato sorbet was nice and subtle against the stronger taste of the tomato itself. Definitely a summer dish, but felt they were a little bit large.
Too much coldness for a starter. Would prefer these a bit smaller as a palate cleanser or refresher. Nice but if I am honest I wouldn't be in a hurry to make again. 

The point of this exercise was to challenge myself, I enjoyed the Idea of  making something I would never have attempted. Looking forward to taking part again next month.