Thursday, 8 November 2012

Awesome new burgers (and even awesome-r half price mega-burger)

So I had a bit of an average burger at my beloved Hawksmoor a while back, and figured 'they're expanding, their eye is slightly off the ball.  I love them so I will give them the benefit of the doubt, but in the meantime I'm going to have to get me some other burgers.'

Happy to report 3 terrific alternatives, and 1 disappointment - all within a round, burger shaped mile of each other in W1.

Let's start with the excitement.  Newest kid on the block is the burger at MASH, Copenhagen's hottest American Steak House, that opened last Saturday on the site of The Atlantic in Piccadilly.

If you eat there before the 12th November it's half price on food, which was a joyful surprise when the bill came. Though perhaps annoying, as I might have ordered a steak had I known I could afford it.  By all accounts their meat is phenomenal - they certainly take it very seriously:

Anyway, the burger: posh Big Mac, but contained and perfectly ratio-d, unlike the Dead Hippy that's just a bit of a student mess.  Served with chilli fries.  And at a half price of £7.50, an utter bargain.

The venue - vast, grand, a lot of covers - 300 I believe.  Good for a date with someone rich.  Or even better, someone rich who likes bourbon - the bar has an extensive (and I mean 3 page) list of bourbons: happy day.  I ate at 6pm, drank some drinks at the bar (bar staff supremely nice, knowledgeable and friendly)
and got home at 4.30am, and believe me there was some damage along the way.
Next up, Honest Burger.  Not new news, I know, and my friend at work has been trying to drag me to the original for-evah 'It's even better than the one in Soho,' - yes, well Alex, last time I went south of the river bad things happened, didn't they, so we don't do south at the moment.

Anyway, Honest Burger in Soho - in essence utterly delicious meat, perfect caramelised onion chutney, neat, contained, perfect bun.
Great staff, simple concept, terrific rosemary fries.
Love it, and it's the one I'd go back to the most - not just because it's cheapest, but because it's the one I've thought about the most since I ate it back in August.  Dream burger.

And my third awesome burger - Goodmans (no pics, but trust me.)  Plus, it comes with bacon / cheese/ fried onions/ fried mushrooms / a fried egg - any and all of the above AT NO EXTRA COST!  (I went bacon, cheese, onions.  You kind of have to.)

Finally - the disappointment.  To be fair, Burger and Lobster doesn't need my adoration - with a three hour wait on a Friday night, they'll have a non-stop queue of 20 somethings with pretend glasses till at least August 2013.  And I do like the concept - simplicity, do few things and do them well.  And I like the room.  And I liked the lobster roll.  But £20 is almost definitely too much for a burger, and probably too little for a lobster (am not the world's greatest lobster aficionado, but I went with a person who sort of is.)  If it was called Hot Dogs and Foie Gras, and they were at the same price point, you'd surely think twice.  Though I'm sure Hot Dogs and Foie Gras's about to open, now I come to think of it :-(

Don't get me wrong.  It wasn't a bad burger.  It looked like a great burger:

But when a burger looks this perfect:
and just doesn't really taste of much...well, all I'm saying is it's average.  And £20 for an average burger makes it 'not a good burger.'  Less than a two minute walk away you've got Honest burger - less than half the price, twice as tasty.  To be fair, you're paying for the scene and the room at Burger and Lobster.  And the cute bibs:
But how about I bring my own bib, and you re-invest that money into a bit more flavour?

Or better still, build a subterranean tunnel between Burger and Lobster and Honest, and just serve the Honest burgers in your groovy, well-designed, New York hipster-lit, fun-filled room.  I'm sure Ben Whishaw can bring up some underground tunnels on a flatscreen for you.

And if Javier Bardem or Daniel Craig can serve them to me?  Well that there's your £20 burger.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Duck and Waffle - hello.

Absolutely, utterly besotted with this place.

I thought it might be a bit wank because of its location - 40th floor of the Heron Tower in the City, above Sushi Samba.  (Sushi Samba = a New York 'hip' sushi fushion chain of restaurants, which is hip in a cougar / banker way (i.e. not at all), rather than a beardy / jumpers that don't fit way.)

We popped into Sushi Samba for a drink before our dinner and it was properly full of nob-heads.  Two South African big swinging city dicks next to me at the bar, moaning about their kids waking them up in the morning, and fantasising about a Russian hooker named Tatiana.  

The bar man was also a dick, and the wine by the glass was undrinkable.  The food smelled good, and the view is AMAZING, and the roof top bar, if it were not full of nob-heads, would be bloody brilliant.  You can see the whole of London twinkling (it's a bit like one of those cut-away scenes in The Apprentice that they film from Sir Alan's chopper.)  

I thought Duck and Waffle would be the same as Sushi Samba - they're owned by the same people: i.e. relying on the fact that it has one of the best views in London, and that it's on Broadgate, so everyone within a square mile is square mile.   

But no.  

I think it's the best new restaurant I've been to in London in, like, ever.  

The decor is properly jangly.

And they do silly, pretentious things like 'introduce you' to their cocktails.  I introduced myself to one of their Manhattans, which came with a cinammon smoke, which I inhaled from the decanter (I don't think you're meant to do this) and it was like smoking a clove cigarette when you're an early teen, i.e. not a good idea.

But then we came to the food, and it was kil-ler.  

My friend asked the waiter what the chef would recommend, and the waiter said we could go and ask him ourselves, so we went into the kitchen and chatted to the poor guy (two drunk women on a Friday night, just what he needed.)  He recommended the cod tongues, and the pigs ears.  I explained that I don't do tongues or ears - well not on a first date anyway.  Besides, do cods have tongues to write home about?  Regardless, he sent us out a bag of pigs ears anyway, gratis - and they were delish - a revelation.

We ate the flatbread with brandade and charred tomato jam - and as soon as I started eating it, I wanted to order another one.  Totally amazing - warm, fresh bread with a salty brandade and a sweet, sharp tomato jam cutting through - outstanding combo.

Then we had bacon wrapped dates.  I'd like to go on some bacon wrapped dates.  They were beyond.   And we had the scallops with apple and lime, which were good.  But they came on this weird bar of salt which reminded me of those mineral deoderant bars that were big 15 years ago when it was thought deoderant gave you cancer, so that was a bit strange.

Then on to meatballs and tomato sauce with ricotta, pine nuts and garlic bread - and while I don't do tongues or ears, I have no problem with balls. Utterly delicious - and again, tomato, cheese, and meat - plus garlic bread - not sure one can go wrong with that combo.  

The signature dish, duck and waffles was quacking (sorry) - fried duck egg, duck, a waffle, and mustard maple syrup.  I read one review somewhere that said duck doesn't go with waffles.  That's like saying bacon doesn't go with french toast, or crinkle cut crisps don't go with Dairy Milk: wrong.   A combo of tender meat, crunchy fat, soft sweet baked goods, and sharp sweet syrup - it works, it works.

Which brings me on to my favourite dish of the night, nay the year: Foie Gras All Day Breakfast.  We ate this dish and immediately ordered and ate it again.  

It was a work of genius, a total 'THIS S*** IS F***ED UP AND I LOVE IT' dish, of audacity and brilliance, and the chef deserves a gold medal for it. 

Beautiful brioche, with a tranche of fois gras, bacon, eggs, (two little balls of black pudding which I ignored because I try to ignore things that I don't like, with limited success usually) - and the absolutely mental part of it - a slathering of chocolate spread.  I know what you're thinking:  'THAT S*** IS F***ED UP / THAT SOUNDS GROSS / YOU ARE WEIRD AND WRONG.'   All of these things are true, except I am not wrong.  Honestly it was like an insane trip of flavour, texture, salt, fat, sweet, soft, crunch and happy.  

We left on a cloud of goodwill and meat-sweats.  Book now, before the South African bankers and Tatiana get in there first...  

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Did I mention I like food?

It's funny because some people who slag off my book on the internet complain that the main character  goes on and on about food.

Well, like yes.  It says it's a book about food on the cover.

And if you don't like food, maybe you could go read some light S&M porn instead?  Maybe I'll just write Fifty Shades of Gravy next time and kill two birds with one stone.

However if you are a person who does enjoy food, here are some pictures of things I have recently eaten, mostly in Italy - including some vegetables:

Perfect peas:

Bruschetta - so totally simple but perfect - fresh tomato, a tiny bit of basil, olive oil, warm bread...

An 8.5 out of 10 millefeuille - not quite enough layers for my liking but yummy nonetheless:
Ah.  This is where I started using an iPhone to take photos and the food looks quite anaemic.  Oh well.  Trust me, it ate in technicolour.

This, however, was probably the best thing I've eaten since the bacon pastry.  Gutted it looks so wishy-washy in this picture...

and also in this one:

Even en masse you can't really appreciate the awesome-ness..
Let's just say that after I ate one of these bad boys,  I ordered 12 on the spot.  Ok: it was small; a miniature profiterole stuffed with the most dense, lush, heavy, thick, creamy pistachio custard, and topped with pistachio cream and pistachios.  And believe me when I say that I can normally turn my back on a pistachio, if necessary.  It's not like they're cashews.  And profiteroles / pro-shmitteroles - you know I'm all about the brownies.

There was just something stupidly magical about the combination / size / texture / weight / density of the cream, that stopped me in my tracks.  I would even go so far as to say that I would plan an entire week's holiday around this one bakery in Locri, in Calabria.  Of course I have forgotten the name of it but if anyone is going anywhere near Calabria, twitter me or whatever, and I'll ask my friend to remember the name for you.

Finally I shall leave you with one very British treat that I didn't get round to posting last month - this blue Battenburg that I ate at the Chelsea Flower Show, la di da.
It didn't taste brilliant but I admired the concept nonetheless.  Right, off to write some soft porn and make my fortune...

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

My new favourite place

Cannot believe I'd never been to Sicily until last Tuesday.  Am sure my ancestors were Sicilian - how else to explain the fact that everything I love is Sicilian.

The evidence:

Cannoli.  Sicily = birthplace of cannoli.
Killer tuna sandwiches on perfect sesame seeded white bread, with fresh tomato and a touch of olive oil...
Spaghetti all day every day - this one with pistachio and prawns, at Da Vittorio, which is apparently Giorgio Locatelli's favourite restaurant.
Ridiculously stunning beaches:
Awesome ice cream, and even granita (which I normally can take or leave, but how can you leave something that looks this good?)
Little almond biscuits that look like the sun:
Salt!  And look how nicely they make it...
Plus they stuff ice cream in to a brioche!! Seriously, I am ALL OVER that.
Pears!  Pretty wrapped pears...
and pears covered in custard, lots of custard generally.  At my hotel they even served breakfast croissants with a jug of chocolate sauce and a jug of custard.  Happiness.

And finally, insanely good looking men.  (No photos sadly, but half of them made David Gandy look like David Mellor.)

If anyone out there has a villa / house / small flat, and would like me to house-sit for them for a year or so, just say the word...

Monday, 21 May 2012

Pret A Diner - 'Italians Do It Better', if by better you mean take the piss

My mate Dave was round yesterday for lunch, and I made spaghetti with semi dried tomatoes, basil, parmesan and a little bit of good olive oil.  Totally simple, delicious and cheap.  He wanted a suggestion of where to take his girlfriend for a special meal.  We discussed options and I came to the conclusion that the best posh meals I've had have been expensive but great value, i.e. set lunch at Le Gavroche, which is £45 but you get a bottle of wine, and it's amazing.  Also Mr. Underhills - which is maybe £65 but it's done with so much love and hard work.

Cut to yesterday evening, when another friend was taking me out for a special celebration to Pret A Diner, which is a collaboration of art, food and trendiness / pretension - which is temporarily in Mayfair for a month or so.  But you're not allowed to call it a pop up, because it's 'A Dining Experience'....La di da.

In essence, £75 for an Italian dinner.  But dinner doesn't include pudding.  (Well then it's not dinner I'm afraid.)  And also if you want beef instead of the choice of crayfish or lamb, that'll be a £13 supplement.  Oh.  And if you'd like fizzy water, that'll be £8.50 for a bottle, plus service, of course.  (Oh, and if there had been live performance, they'd have added an extra £8 cover charge, just because.  You know.  They can.)

By the time we'd had the cheapest bottle of wine on the menu, the whole thing was over £200 - with no pudding, because if you think I'm paying another £9 for a cannolo, when I am a cannoli affocionado with very high standards, then you are wrong.  I'm sorry but that's not 'A Dining Experience' - that's taking the piss.

What do you get for the money then? start with 2 little squares of focaccia with tomato on top (very nice),
a mini tuna burger (fine, though it's not the mid-90s)
or, on the alternative menu (created by a chef whose surname is Craparo, so I don't need to make a joke at this point but feel free to insert your own) - the choice of a different mini tuna burger.  This mini tuna burger was the size of 2 x 50p coins (ironic, when you think about it) and was served with some messed up lemonade with an oyster in it.
Now seriously, call me fussy, but since when is the choice between 2 tuna burgers an actual choice?  Like, er, what if you don't like tuna burgers?  And what if you particularly don't like tuna burgers with oyster-tonic?

Then there was a pasta with mullet and olives that wasn't anywhere near as delicious as the pasta I'd made for lunch, or a gnocchi that tasted of salt and nowt else (and I say that as a dear fan of salt, except in this instance.)

Then I had very good lamb, and my mate had very good beef (though not £60 good, which I guess is how the pricing would break down.)

And sure, there's a DJ and it all feels a little bit Zoolander meets a mid-90s-WAG-show-home
and you get to eat in a glitzy room
that's been styled as an indoor basketball court with a neon hoop:
So if a neon hoop is your thing darling, then you'll enjoy it immensely.  But for me that's not enough to justify these prices for this food.

I popped in to the Pret A Diner at The Minotaur last autumn, and while I didn't eat there, at least the venue leant it a massive sense of spectacle and originality.  But this? It's nothing special, in fact the food is pretty average, and the prices leave a very bad neon taste in one's mouth.

Monday, 14 May 2012

Wish I knew the names of more flowers

Er, like where is the spring?

What exactly is a person supposed to do in this weather, other than eat?  All I'm doing is trying to keep warm.

Had this super light, airy strawberry souffle at Galvin on Baker Street:

So light I needed another pudding to ground me, in the form of this 'chocolate pallet'.  Honestly, this resembles something I'd serve if it had fallen on the floor first - sort of smudged along the plate in a deliberate attempt to look artistic but fooling no-one.  Delicious nonetheless.

Have also been eating these tasty, crispy little balls - smoked bacon and pea arancini with a chilli sauce, at the ever-great Alford Arms.

Followed by a lush chocolate tart with amaretto crumb - perfect combo of dense mousse texture with crunchy crumb base and sides.

And then this, tonight - a killer home made sausage sandwich.

The perfect antidote to such a freezing cold Monday in May.  Fresh out of the oven ciabatta, smothered in butter, with a layer of caramelised onions, mustard, awesome quality sausages, ketchup and mayo - all of the condiments, all of the time.  I'd forgotten how perfect and beautiful a sausage sandwich could be.  Happy Monday.

Friday, 4 May 2012

MEATMarket. Nice pun, shame about the rest.

Ok. So my views on MEAT liquor are here.  Their new offshoot, MEATMarket opened in the Jubilee Hall market in Covent Garden this week. Take my views on MEATMarket and multiply them by 10.
If you're not a tourist, you've probably not been inside this market.  It sells, for want of a better phrase, a load of old tut.  I heart London t-shirts being the classiest example of the wares.  MEATMarket, a fast food version of MEATLiquor the restaurant, sits on a thin strip of a balcony, overlooking this market.
If this is your idea of a good idea, you're more open minded / younger than me.

MEATMarket loves a double entendre.
Call me prudish and old fashioned, but I don't really want a shaved Brazilian in my face when I'm thinking about a cheeseburger.

The thing is, I don't really care that much about what they do on their light box signs.  I wrote a book with quite a bit of shagging in it (some of it in public places.)  In fact, if you want to make a pun about shaved Brazilians, go ahead - but just make sure my burger is a great burger, because the effortful-ness is putting me off my food.

The burger here?  7 out of 10.  Hawksmoor's a 5 minute walk away. Their burger's twice the price and 7 times as good.  You do the maths.

Maybe I'm too old for this.  But the whole experience left me feeling grubby and dirty.  And not in a good sexy dirty way.  Just in a greasy burger way.