Archive for the ‘~Eating out in London’ Category

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Thai & Co, North Finchley, London

August 7, 2007

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The best Thai in North London. What could be more pleasurable than chunks of aubergine, slices of bamboo shoots and succulent chicken, infused with the sweet, medium hot flavours of the perfect green curry, soaked up with fragant, sticky rice?

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Mixed hor d’oevres: a funny looking selection in the photo but absolultely divine to eat. Clockwise, left to right: Fish cake, spring roll, mee grob, chicken satay, dim sum, prawn tempura.

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The Pad Thai had just the right balance of the unique signature flavours, and was filled with egg, prawn and chicken, and a healthy topping of peanuts. But the crucial question is, does the Pad Thai past the next day test? Does it re-heat, retaining the same quality of flavour, without turning greasy or stodgy? It does. Perfect.

Whatever kind of Thai craving you have – takeaway at home or a relaxed meal in sweet surroundings, Thai & Co can be relied on every time.

© Katheryn Rice 2007

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The Ranelagh, Bounds Green Road, London

August 4, 2007

Recover the chairs in velvet, get a few old dining tables and a chaise longue from the auction house and throw in a couple of chandeliers and hey presto, you’ve got a trendy boutiquey pub everyone will love to be seen in of a weekend. Except you need something more than that – if you expect people to come in and spend a tenner on Sunday lunch, you should expect them to want their money’s worth.

Unfortunately the Ranelagh in Bounds Green is suffering from profit-hungry, bandwagonitis. Customers may fall for trendy decor and poncey soft drinks, but usually because they take this as an indication that the food will be pretty decent and they won’t be made to feel like mugs when the food is served. Despite appearances, the Ranelagh is not independently owned. It belongs – like many, many others to huge brewery Mitchells and Butlers.

Last time we spent sunday afternoon there, we enjoyed a hearty sunday lunch, lots of vegetables, a healthy helping of meat, rich gravy and yorkshire puddings. It couldn’t have been more different this time round. The poor blokes in our gang were horrified when their roast lamb arrived with two mean slices of lamb, three tiny potatoes and barely a handful of veg. The gravy was flavourless and watery, and the carrots were hard, raw, and tasteless. The ‘roast’ sweet potatoes were sliced, dry and tough. Cauliflower cheese was two pieces with a couple of gratings of cheddar on top. The only redeeming feature was a generous half roast chicken – which I had to share with my companions to stop them storming the kitchen to demand more.

It had been a toss-up between here and the Wrestlers in Highgate, and boy, did we wish we’d gone to Highgate.

© Katheryn Rice 2007

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Maison Touaregue, Soho, London

July 3, 2007

What a gem of a restaurant, surprisingly so given it’s central Soho, touristy location. Try to sit downstairs if you can, away from the hecticness of the street above. Decked out just as a Moroccan restaurant should be with soft, lanterned lighting, salubrious soft seating with lots of cushions and the familar low tables, it serves up delicious, authentic food.

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I wasn’t that enthusiastic about eating Pastilla in Morocco, as it was made from the traditional pigeon meat. But I do like the idea of the dish itself: minced meat in filo pastry with sweet north african sprices. So it was perfect to find a chicken pastilla on the menu here, flavoured with honey and cinnamon. And it was absolutely divine. Break through the crisp and delicate filo pastry to find chicken that’s light and fluffy and so sweet, I could have eaten another portion there and then. Like a sweet and savoury Samosa I suppose. And when they saw me taking picutres of the food, they took pity on the poor tourists and gaves us a Fez to wear, which provided us with all something to talk about for a few minutes! Cous cous with sweet chutney in the middle was the perfect accompaniment. Highly recommended.

© Katheryn Rice 2007

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Tastiest ice cream in London – Marine Ices, Chalk Farm

April 20, 2007

Marine Ices Tub

Naomi from Book Club suggested we meet here before going to see A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Roundhouse. I’ve been through Chalk Farm many times but, strangely, I have never noticed Marine Ices before. It sits opposite Chalk Farm tube station and next to The Enterprise pub, serving the most delicious frozen delights to ice cream lovers of impeccable taste. You can buy a cone or tub from the kiosk facing the road, or sit inside to experience the vast array of ice cream desserts.

Marine Ices

I decided to have a night off the diet and treated myself to a two-scoop tub of Italian Toffee and Pistachio. The flavours were distinct but subtle, and the ice cream itself was so creamy. Italian Toffee had a gentle flavour, sharpened up with sweet and crunchy toffee pieces. The fresh contrast of the Pistachio made it a perfect partner to the toffee. Tucking into this heavenly pudding gave Chalk Farm Road on a bright, sunny evening a sheen I had not experienced before.

©2007 Katheryn Rice

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L’Arco, Buckingham Palace Road, London

April 3, 2007

Our original plan was to treat ourselves to a meal at the Mango Tree, but that didn’t work out, so finding ourselves hungry in Victoria, we dropped into the first place we could find.

It felt as if we had travelled through time and space to an Italian restaurant in Doncaster some time in the late eighties. It is family-run, possibly popular with the tourists or families, but the food was basic, old-fashioned Italian resturant style. It was quite tasty, but certainly not inspiring in any way. My chicken topped with bacon and cheese was a puzzlingly regular, rectangular shaped, topped by a slab of ham, in an equally un-nerving rectangle. The vegetables were competently cooked, and the whole meal was harmless and almost pleasant. Having said that, my favourite part of the meal was the fresh bread and butter, which is not something I eat much these days.

The service was good, and the atmosphere was relaxed and friendly. My dessert seemed to get lost in translation or on the way from the kitchen, but in the end I was glad it never arrived. We filled ourselves up with the forgettable house wine and we left as uninspired as we arrived.

©2007 Katheryn Rice

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Cooking on the table – Abena Too, London

March 3, 2007

 

Steve the civil servant is an Asia-enthusiast with a specific penchant for most things Japanese. So he was keen to introduce us to a Japanese restaurant he’d been to with his American-Japanese girlfriend. Having thoroughly confused us with his description of the kind of food served at this place, all he had actually conveyed was that they cook the food on a hot plate on the table – Teppanyaki.

I love this interaction with your food. I was first introduced to Teppanyaki at Osaka restaurant in Amsterdam, and I still maintain that it was the best meal I have ever had. With a confident flourish throughout, our chef expertly prepared seven courses in front our party of five, plus others, on a huge hot plate, surrounded by a U-shaped table. They even authenticated us with kimonos to wear throughout and plied us with hardcore sake. It was delicate, delicious and unforgettable.

                              Okonomi-yaki ingredients on our table

The only thing Abena Too and Osaka really have in common is the hot plate and the Japanese food. This little food bar may not have had the sophisticated charm of Osaka but it was still highly entertaining and delicious. We chose Okonami-yaki, which is egg batter, rice and whatever filling you choose from the menu.  I didn’t notice the rice when he was mixing it for us at the table, but it was definitely there giving the finished meal its body. There was a small amount of grated cheese, and as he was cooking it there, I started to think he was making me a cheese and bacon omelette!


Preparing the Okonomi-yaki

There was a subtle combination of flavours in ‘London mix’, which comprised cheese, bacon and salmon. That sounds like a combination that just won’t work, but I was pleasantly surprised that it did.


London Mix Okonomi-yaki, ready to eat 

Topped with Japanese mayonnaise, brown sauce (!) and fish flakes that danced around on the top like they were still alive, does it look that appetising? I wasn’t sure, but don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. I finished every last bit, including the fish flakes, yum!

©2007 Katheryn Rice

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