Monday, 19 November 2012

Birthday Binges

It's a family tradition to go for lunch or dinner on your birthday. We've been doing it for far too long, and now me and the bro are older, we seem to have far more expensive tastes in food. I blame my parents for introducing us to all kinds of food at a young age. But it's so rare we see each other now (even though I live 5 minutes away!) that we continue this tradition with a die-hard commitment.

I was a little late to the Brasserie Zedel party so for my 21-again birthday this year this place was my choice. It's a innocuous place, just off Piccadilly Circus, where TGIs and Angus Steak House make their money so not the first choice for the owners of The Ivy and The Wolseley to set up shop.

The entrance area is not exciting, but I thought it had an authentic Frenchy feel. We went downstairs and I loved the decor. Similar to the Wolseley, but more ostentatious, very art deco.

The waiters were suitably rude - I actually felt bad for being indecisive over my choice, and according to my lovely family, our server actually rolled his eyes at me. If you convince yourself this is the authentic French way, it makes you feel better. 

Unfortunately this is where my poor photography efforts fail. I had some amazingly garlicky snails and a large seabass. I won't rave over this place as I didn't think the food was rave-worthy, but I did really enjoy it for more than the food. The atmosphere is great, the menu is really reasonably priced and the people watching is fantastic. You really should share both the chocolate mousse and creme brulee for dessert, both are enormous and wonderful. I will go back soon.

Next up was the bro's birthday and if that was my 21-again birthday, his would be 18-again birthday. Although I know he wouldn't have chosen 'nose-to-tail' eating at 18. St John has been around for a while and serves up all the parts of animals that you wouldn't necessarily want to eat - until they slap a Michelin star onto it. So this was the destination of choice for Sunday and it did not disappoint. It's a very simple place, it used to be a smokehouse and the owners haven't messed with it much apart from installing a bar and a bakery (which provides such an amazing smell). 

After downing a glass of St John's lovely white wine, we sat down and struggled over our orders. I had to go for bone marrow - I've never had it and I was being adventurous. It's very fatty but I convinced myself it must be good for me in some weird way. Unfortunately it doesn't look the most appetising dish but it was very tasty, the salad was the perfect match - reminds me to make parsley, capers and onions more. (And yes I took the bones home for lunatic dog)

After some seriously tasty starters, I was so excited for my main course. A bit controversial, I'd ordered kid goat. I'm as far from a vegetarian you'll ever get and I don't feel guilty - all thoughts of bouncy goats were pushed from my mind. I wasn't disappointed, I absolutely loved it. The aioli it came with was perfect too.

Every single mouthful was so tasty, better than lamb and not chewy as I had feared after a bad goat curry at Carnival. The presentation is not the selling point here, the plates are plain, as is the whole dining room. Don't go expecting flouncy towers of precariously balanced food. I love it.

Special mention has to go to my dad, the tripe-loving fiend he is for ordering this. I don't know how he eats this, let alone loves it.
what absolute tripe
For dessert, we were all so full but had loved the food so much we couldn't deny the salted caramel tart.

look, it's oozing caramel
This was without doubt the best dessert I've ever had. It was so rich I could never have one alone (well, maybe) but honestly I could not believe how good it was. The bro ordered 12 Madeleines to take home - the smell of these is something I will never be able to describe but if you go, you have to bring some home.

I loved St John, it was the best meal out I've had in some time (excluding Roscioli from the previous post). It probably helped that I hadn't seen my beloved family in a while and we were all so happy to be in each other's company for once, but the food and the service were fantastic. Best of all, you can buy the wine I loved to take home so I will enjoy that over Christmas. If it lasts that long at the Barchester.

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Friday, 16 November 2012

Bad Blogger - Still Eating

I may have been missing in action (work had taken over my whole life) but fortunately I still managed to eat. Instead of blogging about every single thing I've scoffed separately, I thought I'd do a run down of my last few months in food.

Firstly, what seems like an age ago, I went to Exmouth Market and sampled the delights of Medcalf. This is a simple restaurant, in a beautiful street tucked away somewhere not-so-near Kings Cross. Think wooden floors, big tables and craft beers. Despite this being some months back, I can still remember how great this beef was...

The pies didn't look too bad either and the fish was gloriously crunchy. I would really recommend this place for a leisurely weekend feast. The service was a little odd, the waiter didn't seem to speak English but this didn't detract from the amazing food. 

Onto the next highlight - my best friend's delivery of red velvet cake. Just what I needed after a long and particularly tricky day at work. Waiting on my doorstep for me when I got home.

Annie's Red Velvet Gift
Next up, me and two of my lovely chums headed east as we were lucky enough to snap up a ticket to Ginstock - an amazing event organised with the British Street Food awards, by Tweat Up (if you don't know about them you should -

I managed to snag a stalker photo with Gennaro who I adore. He was hilarious and even more excited than me to be there.
Gennaro Contaldo
We didn't manage to eat as much as I would have liked, as the gin took over (and didn't I feel it the next day) but we managed some oysters from Mussel Men and a cheeky Mackerel burger - the bun was way too big but the contents were amazing. All in all a fabulous and very messy day in the sun.

Not your average day in London
During this time, I have managed to cook myself some food, although mostly it's been 'oven on, shovel it in' - I got this joint of lamb from my favourite butchers in Ross on Wye and it was so tasty. Not cheap, but worth it. I rubbed it with a herby butter and it exploded a bit in the oven - but we like a mess at the Barchester. I am totally crap at making gravy, so this jar of gelatinous stuff has been sent from the gods to satisfy The Scouser's gravy addiction.

Because I'm lucky enough to travel with my job, I jetted off to San Francisco for a week or so of hard work - and a night out thrown in. Below is my hangover feast from 'Super Duper Burger'. If you've read this blog before, you'll know I'm a fan of burgers - this is no Meat Liquor but I tell you what, it was pretty dam close. The garlic fries were out of this world, and despite then being unable to go within three metres of anyone, I had no regrets! If you're in San Fran (and why wouldn't you be, it's an amazing city), you have to try it - the details are here
Super Duper Burger
After my work was finished, I went for dinner with some of my new US friends at Hope & Anchor. I found some fellow oyster-lovers and we went 'around the world'. My friend Doug introduced me to this - ordering 3 of every oyster they have, each trying one, then we each choose our favourites and have the final one. The best way I've ever eaten oysters!
Around The World
What a truly unforgettable work trip
My most recent trip has been to Rome, for pleasure not business. Italians treat eating like a sport and I love Italy and everything Italian, especially the food and wine. One night, The Scouser and I went to Roscioli, on recommendation from Katie Parla - if you are going to Rome, download her app and read her blog as it's so helpful in cutting through the tonnes of advice, recommendations and 'oh you HAVE to go here' you'll get.

Roscioli is south of Piazza Navona and it's a small delicatessen with a restaurant placed around the large fridges. I was a little reluctant to sit in the deli but as the evening went on, I realised it was the best spot. You can see everything the chefs prepare, and admire the amazing cheese selection (which I then heartily indulged in).

I had six of the best oysters I have ever had, and then the tagliata - The Scouser had the most amazing carpaccio I've ever seen and in fact tasted. For 'dessert', I had a plate of the stinkiest cheese that has ever existed. Definitely up there with the best birthday meals of all time!

And so here ends the foodie run down of the last few months. I've eaten some amazing food and so had to make a heroic but painful return to boot camp last night, ready to eat my body weight in cheese and other such delights this Christmas. This weekend I am hibernating - roasting some kind of pork joint (attempting amazing crackling with help from my new Ginger Pig Meat Book) and try to create some chocolate mousse from scratch.
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