Category Archives: Food

Drrrumroll please….ta daaa! My new blog, Sosusie in the City, is up and running.

Hello all,

I’ve moved to http://www.sosusieinthecity.com

Thanks to all of you that have read this blog, it’s so very exciting when you realise that people are reading what you’re writing and whilst I’ve always written not for an audience but for myself, and will continue to do so, it’s really special to know that there are people that have taken the time to read my ramblings.

I love this blog – it’s going to stay right where it is but please, do come with me to my new home Sosusie in the City where I’ll be saying more of yes and a lot less of no. There’ll be recipes, places to go out, things to do, more ramblings, a bit of style and a bit more rambling.

Thanks so much for stopping by and I look forward to seeing you over at Sosusie in the City.

I’ll leave you with a reminder of two of my most popular posts from this blog:

A Christmas pudding recipe and, an afternoon out in Walthamstow

Advertisements

A Crouch End supper club with the fam.

I love eating out, but I also love gathering family and friends around me and eating in (neither of which have I done enough of in recent years). Last Saturday I managed to do both at the same time! How did I do that I hear you ask…by attending a supper club, the Crouch End Secret Supper Club, the perfect marriage of eating out whilst feeling as though you’re eating in. And, I had the loveliest evening.

I’d been to this particular supper club once before when S & S took me as a birthday treat and this time the tables were turned as I was taking them out to celebrate their birthdays.

As S & S live between us and the supper club we agreed that we’d just call for them on our way there which was really just an excuse to sneak a peek at their ridiculously cute new puppy, DJ, he’s so funny and really quite odd looking. He seemed to be interested in everything and everyone and looked more like a wind-up toy than a dog (especially when doing his backward walking – his favourite). DJ 1

DJ the pomeranian – he’s at least half fluff!

DJ 2

He’s nine weeks old here – so sweet.

Now, I have to say (yes J I know it’s pointless but, humans will be humans) that the Crouch End Secret Supper Club will, almost certainly, give you house envy and, if you’re female, it may also give you woman envy because Catherine, the co-host, comes across as a bit of a superwoman, to say the least…the very least (sorry, that’s a Grease reference). The last time I went, Catherine had just flown in the day before from a work trip to China and she still had the energy to join her twenty five guests at the end of the evening for a chat and a glass of wine – I’d have been tucked up, fast asleep, under a duvet (or curled up in a ball in the kitchen, pulling my hair out).

When S & S and I went last time, we didn’t talk to the other diners much and, though I’d really enjoyed myself, I didn’t feel as though I’d had a proper supper club experience. But, I knew that I wanted to go back again. So, it’d seem a little odd, to go again but in an even bigger group, right? Wrong. I think because there were so many of us (six), it meant that those of us that wanted to mingle could do so easily without feeling like we were ignoring the people that we’d come with and we’d chosen a good night to attend because everyone seemed in a talkative and friendly mood.

CESS fellow diners

Two of our fellow diners, they’d heard about the supper club because Catherine and Robert had opened their home up a few weeks back as part of the Crouch End Open Studios (they have lots of wonderful paintings on show in the ‘dining’ room).

We were met at the door by a smiling Catherine who ushered us through to the dining room which was configured in a different way to my last visit and somehow looked more restaurant like.

CESS tables

It was a lovely, warm evening and the dining room doors had been completely opened so that the room merged with the garden. Several diners had already arrived by the time we got there and most were taking advantage of the balmy weather, perching on the decked patio or venturing further afield into the stepped garden. We were brought our welcome cocktail, a golden mojito, and settled ourselves in to the outdoor kitchen area beyond the decking to await A’s arrival.

 

CESS Sunlight golden mojito

Mmm mmm mmm, enjoying my golden cocktail bathed in golden sunlight. Mwah ha.

CESS crab rangoons

Crab rangoons (not sure if these are rangoons as they’re shaped differently to those of the other guests) made especially for me. Thank you so much to the supper club for the enormous effort put in to accommodate my unfortunate (allium) allergy.

 

 

CESS chatting

 

CESS a table

A, D, S & S and J, all behaving beautifully, seated and ready to chow down.

The supper club provides still and sparkling water but if you’re wanting to drink anything else you best bring it with you. We took a very modest three bottles of wine and a classy carton of orange juice!

CESS risotto

First course ‘proper’ Broad bean and asparagus risotto which was beautifully cooked and flavoursome.

Unfortunately my phone camera can’t really cope with low lighting and, as the evening progressed and the light outside faded, candles were lit and the lighting inside was kept at ambient. My photo taking gave up the ghost and I just got on with enjoying the food, the lovely service, the atmosphere and the company.

CESS sorbet

This was meant to be a gooseberry palate cleanser but because of a dearth of gooseberries became a strawberry and basil sorbet instead.

The sorbet was one of the highlights of the meal for me, just because it was so intensely flavoured but still had such a freshness and lightness about it. The risotto was also high on my list of favourites and a special mention must also go to the chicken which was wonderfully tender and the chocolate fondant which was just oozing with gooey chocolatey richness.

One of the downsides of the crappy past few weeks that I’ve had, of which I’ve not talked much about, is that I’m finding that I get very very tired, very easily so, by the time we had eaten the main course I was flagging slightly. I don’t disagree with the decision they took to show England’s first World Cup game, but I do think that it changed the atmosphere -making it different, not worse – and I struggled to keep my head in the evening from then on.

CESS Catherine at work

Catherine at work in the kitchen which is at the front of the house and overlooks the dining room. Genuis.

Of course the food is good, but what really strikes me about this supper club is the scale of it, from the number of guests (it’s a pretty slick operation – there’s no way that I could serve perfectly cooked chicken to twenty plus people at the same time and, more to the point, on time!) to the number of courses. And the effort that Catherine and Robert go to to make the evening enjoyable and a success is incredible. I think that every savoury dish they served had garlic or onions in it and I was served the same menu as everybody else except that my courses had been cooked absolutely from scratch (meaning that where a bought (organic, of course) stock may have been used, a stock was made for me to ensure that there were no traces of anything at all that might react badly with me) now THAT is service. I felt a bit bad because I can actually eat cooked onions with no ill effect (I did say this in my email) and I can eat the things that I can’t eat (if you see what I mean), I just have to eat them in very small quantities and they will still make me feel ill. But, I suppose, it’s easier (on the mind) to err on the side of caution with these things.

There was a big group of people there, also celebrating a birthday, and Catherine had gone to the trouble of baking a cake for the birthday girl on top of everything else.

I’m absolutely sure that I’ll return to this supper club, as they concentrate on cooking seasonally maybe I’ll pay them a visit once per season. I’d highly recommend going, it’s a proper night out, don’t expect to be home before midnight because you’ll still be eating cheese (with home baked bread), sipping on coffee with a little homemade sweet or biscuit on the side, or slurping wine and chewing the cud with an interesting mix of people then. I, for one, am back to thinking about my (doubt it’ll ever happen) very own supper club.

Don’t eat much all day, don’t wear anything too fitted and book yourself a taxi – that’s my advice.

CESS Lollipop head golden mojito

Final bonus photo. This had me cracking up, I look like a ‘lollipop’ head (or as though my head has been stuck on) which is kind of funny when you consider the shape and size of my body.

Music to blog to….

 

 

 

Cooking with Jamie Oliver…mwah ha, not quite but the next best alternative – an evening out at Recipease..

A and her boyfriend, L, seemed for a while to be obsessed with Jamie Oliver – watching all his shows and cooking from his books (though neither of them is much of a recipe follower). They’re both great cooks and actually, I think L has influenced my cooking – I’m much more confident with using LOTS of aromatics now, so, where I may once have used a measly half bunch of coriander in something (for example), I’m not scared now to throw in a proper handful (and my hands are pretty big!). So, when thinking about what to give L for Christmas I thought why not take him to Recipease Notting Hill (which had reminded me, the first time I went there, of the Teaching Kitchen idea in Jamie’s American Food Revolution (which I absolutely loved) and where A, L and I had previously been for coffee) for a cookery class. In truth, I suspected that the classes might be a bit easy for L but, where food is concerned, he’s always up for trying things out so…why not.

I said that I’d go along too if L wanted (mwah ha ha – oh dear, my dastardly plot is out in the open) and between us we settled upon a class and a date. We picked Vietnamese street food because from the description it seemed as though we would cover a number of cooking methods and I certainly have never cooked Vietnamese food before.

Fast forward a few weeks to the night before the lesson and I thought I’d best text L to make sure he was remembering about the class – good job too as he was actually in Liverpool with A and had forgotten all about it! Tut.

I arrived first and was directed to my class which was at the back of the shop, on the ground floor, and once I’d collected my apron, deposited my personal effects in a locker and washed my hands, I sat down with my group stressing about whether L would arrive in time to join us (his train was delayed and he thought he would be a little late). We were all sat around a long high (breakfast bar height) table at the very back of the room, and most of the group were drinking beer or wine (I stuck to water – that is until the bad influence that is L arrived) a bottle or glass of which was included in the cost of the class.

L arrived just after our teacher, Chef (actually his name was Simon), had assembled us around one of the work stations to demonstrate the first dish, Scrumptious Vietnamese pork balls (the scrumptious is my addition to the recipe title as I think it gives it a real Jamie Oliver twang), that we would be cooking but before that, he went through a few housekeeping notes and, I must say, he was rather entertaining, not least because he bore more than a passing resemblance, voice and face, to Michael McIntyre.

Recipease pans at the ready

Ingredients and pans at the ready.

Chef sounded out our cooking levels and skills by asking lots of questions about ingredients and cooking methods and I think, pitched the class accordingly. I learnt something about chillies, namely, it is the white pith that the seeds are attached to and NOT the actual seeds that provides the majority of heat in a chilli. I was also surprised by the meat used, it was more of a very fine dice than a mince and I think that’s why, in part at least, the finished balls were spectacular – so moist, sweet and juicy.

Pork ball mixture

Pork ball mixture with beer in the background.

Once the dish had been demoed, we were assigned a cooking station and, in pairs, we all proceeded to get chopping, mixing and slow frying (to allow a rich and deep caramelisation to occur). L and I also proceeded to drink several more bottles of very tasty Camden Town Brewery, Camden Hells lager and Camden Pale Ale.

L crushing garlic

L smashing up some garlic (for his dipping sauce, though – I did get onioned and garlicked, was my fault), beer in the foreground.

While the pork balls were cooking, the other dishes, summer rolls and dipping sauce were demonstrated by Chef and recreated by us and the prep for the beef pho (the stock for which Chef had prepared earlier) was done.

Pork balls

Oh my, wish I were cooking some of those RIGHT NOW.

Roll roll roll

A pile of julienned veg and a wrapper, waiting to be turned into a summer roll, with my (sans garlic) dipping sauce in the background.

Once the pork balls were cooked, everything was plated up, Chef poured hot pho stock over our bowls of prepared veg and raw beef (the hot stock being enough to ‘cook’ the tender slices) and we all sat down with a drink to enjoy the meal we’d just prepared. There weren’t enough spaces for all of us around the long table so L and I sloped off to a counter in the window, by the entrance, which had been set up for us and chatted and watched the world go by as we ate.

L plating up

Not entirely sure what L is doing here, but I like an action shot.

I’m a Jamie Oliver fan and I’ll not hear a word said against him…mwah ha, having said that – I do think that there should be space for everyone to sit and eat together if that’s the general vibe, we felt a bit like scolded little school children, banished to the naughty step (which, in L’s case would have been appropriate – though I don’t think Chef noticed him throwing our lime repeatedly in the air, higher and higher each time, while waiting for the pork balls to cook, he did, however, notice L’s rather brilliant knife skills).

Recipease final dishes

The view from the naughty step ain’t too shabby.

All in all, I’d say if you’re already a pretty competent and confident cook these classes probably won’t teach you much, they are only two or three hours long afterall and I don’t think that’s their aim, (though there’s nothing to stop you asking lots of questions) but for a fun outing and an interesting way of cooking lunch/supper I would highly recommend them. And, if you’re not great at cooking, if you’re friendlier with a microwave than a sauce/griddle/frying pan etc…get thee down there! You will learn something, you’ll enjoy it and you’ll get a delicious meal to boot.

After the course you’re emailed the recipes for the dishes that were demoed on the night and, as I write this, I realise that I learnt something else – don’t be afraid (in other words stop being so lazy) of a long list of ingredients, what appears like an essay on the page is often little more than a bit of organisation and a lot of chop chop chopping. I mean, when I was doing the cooking, I didn’t think I was working with lots of ingredients, it all felt very simple but when I now look at the recipes I know that ingredient lists that long would make me turn the page, swiftly.

A Crouch End weekend for my dad and me.

Last weekend saw me heading into Crouch End on both Saturday and Sunday. Saturday’s visit was a last minute decision as, when checking out the Sunday timings for the NEW CINEMA IN CROUCH END, ArtHouse Crouch End (@arthousen8), I noticed that they had a matinée showing on the Saturday and I just love the idea of sloping off to the cinema of an afternoon (though I’ve not much done it). The film in question was ‘Lift to the scaffold‘, a beautiful and stylish French film noir-esque offering, directed by Louis Malle and starring (a stupidly stunningly sensuous and pouty) Jeanne Moureau. With an incredible soundtrack by Miles Davis, it was a perfect choice for an afternoon of self indulgence.

I can’t express how excited I am to have a cinema in Crouch End and it’s a delight, there’s a café area serving the best lattes I’ve had in an age as well as tasty looking (can hardly say tasty as I’ve not tasted them!) cakes with a licensed bar that doubles as the box office. Simply decorated and elegant, this is a place I can see myself returning to time and time again. There will be a live venue too (which may or may not double up as the second screen). Gosh I love this place.

ArtHouse N8 exterior

The view from the road.

ArtHouse bar and box office ArtHouse coffee and cake

Box office, coffee shop and bar, all rolled into one.

ArtHouse natas

The obligatory (for North London, at least) natas….and thank goodness for that. Actually, come to think of it I have tried one as I bought one from the ArtHouse deli across the road.

ArtHouse tulip floor and step

A single tulip on my table. Though it’s the flooring that I was attracted to.

ArtHouse cafe seating

A sneak little peak of things to come..

And the cinema itself?…. Love love LOVE it. It is pretty tiny and it feels as though you’re at a really cute private screening but…it’s definitely a cinema. Good sound, good picture. Some seats are better than others space wise (it’s allocated seating) and, if I were you I’d stay away from the outer/wall seats.

On Sunday I took my dad out for lunch and chose Earl Haig Hall, known as The Social, as I’ve been meaning to go for a while and, as my dad doesn’t get out and about that much, I think that it’s nice for us to go to new places when we go out for lunch (also, it’s so close to the ArtHouse).

Earl Haig Hall exterior

As the board says…ALL WELCOME

The Hall is part of the Antic group of pubs but it really does feel more like a social club, they’ve kept lots of the original fixtures and fittings –  and their website says they’re open to ideas for events/community projects. When we were there there was a great mix of people and ages, it felt really cool (as in, sweet and relaxed and friendly) and my dad felt completely comfortable. There was only one ale on but my dad said it was a good’un and, the lunch was absolutely GORGEOUS. I had the belly of pork and my dad had the beef. I must say, I’m loving the way all roasts come with a yorkshire pudding these days – so there’s no need for me to bother myself with roast beef (not my favourite).

Daddy pulling his surprised look

Daddy pulling his ‘quizzical’ face. Too cute.

Earl Haig roast belly pork

Yum yum yum for my tum. Lots of perfectly cooked vegetables and a good balance of sweet and salty. Will definitely be eating there again.

Earl Haig stage

Can totes see me enjoying an evening of ‘local’ (dunno what that is, just tripped off the tongue) theatre whilst supping a pint or two.

Earl Haig pinball

 

We rounded off our afternoon out with my second trip to the ArtHouse to FINALLY see 12 Years a Slave which was as harrowing, astonishing and brilliant as I was expecting it to be. Everything about this film is stunning and, if you haven’t seen it yet – yeh right!- I couldn’t recommend it more highly. Towards the end, I thought that someone was chuckling away but it transpired that they were howling and crying so much they were snorting. I don’t think that there was a dry eye there.

All things considered, Crouch End delivered.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

GrrrrOWLLL…..make mine a burger, a Burger Bear!

Oh. My. Days!

Nom nom nom nom nom nom nom (when did nom become the word, anyway!?). Or rather, mmmm mmmmmm mmmmmm mmmmmm mmm.

I think I’ve found my perfect burger and, I wasn’t even looking for it. Tucked away on Old Street, across the road from the Holiday Inn Hotel is the rather wonderful BURGER BEAR (the caps are me shouting, rather than their font preference). Now, I’ve been meaning to try out their burger for a while but for various reasons I’ve not managed to. I almost tried one a week ago last Friday but I was with H, and we were going to have to queue, and I still had memories of the last time I’d queued for food and, being as I was in a bit of a hurry too, I thought, nah…I’ll come back some other time, when I’m on my own. So instead I went and had my first Byron burger (and of course, perversely, the whole thing took WAY longer than if I’d just waited at Burger Bear).

Fast forward a week, to last Friday, and I found myself alone, wandering the streets of EC1 with the sweet smell of bacon jam atop plump, juicy patties of perfectly cooked beef luring me eastward across the Old Street roundabout (in other words I’d taken the opportunity to slope out of the office on my own with the idea of heading straight to Burger Bear).

Burger Bear front

So pissed I wasn’t feeling the photo taking because the print on that t-shirt (just shown, as they say) is of a mega burger and crispy salad leaves! Loved it.

N from work has had burgers from here before but he goes for their ultimate meat lover’s burger the ‘Greedy Bear’ and I knew there was no way I could tackle that double patty monster (odd really as I’m SO greedy). Instead I plumped for the ‘Grizzly Bear’ which was topped with oak smoked bacon, cheese and bacon jam. I’ve heard much about bacon jam and in fact, until I’d had a Burger Bear burger (at which point I had to run back to my office so that I could add my ten cents worth to their already funded project) my only experience of Kickstarter funding was Eat Like a Girl’s Project Bacon which surely includes bacon jam!

Update – 20.03.14 – In the interests of fairness and attributing recognition where it’s due….I ought to say that N from work did actually introduce me to Burger Bear, now I come to think of it. Oops.

Anyway, you place your order and then sit back, stand to the side, dance to the disco – whatever really, while you wait for your burger to be cooked. It’s quite theatrical really…

Burger Tom sprinkling herbs

Burger production line.

Above you see the secret (well, I didn’t actually ask what they were) herb mixture being sprinkled onto the burgers (ahem, actually, I think it’s salt and pepper) as well as three burgers with their cheese, probably bacon jam, and doughy bread tops, patiently waiting for their turn to be steamed (helped along by the odd squirt of water) under the cloche lid.

Burger Tom steaming the burgers

Tom about to lift the lid to check on progress.

Burger bun bottoms in waiting

A row of bun bottoms waiting for their toppings – think mine’s second from the end as I can’t spy any onions.

Burger Bear NO ONION

One of the things I’ve noticed about Street Food is that it’s much easier to find out what exactly is in the food and to ask for things to be left out, if necessary. I also asked for my burger to be medium as I like a pink not red burger.

And…here she is (she!?)….in a really doesn’t do the burger justice shot…

Burger Bear Grizzly Bear

Oozy, juicy, salty, sweet, smokey, cheesy, chunky, FRESH, plump(y), meaty goodness.

I loved this place, I’ll definitely be back for more…in fact, I may go back this Friday. And, I’m looking forward to seeing what they do with their two Kickstarter funded shipping containers.

These guys are serious about making good food and they’ve created some seriously good food, they’re friendly and engaging and full of fun. Follow them on Twitter, find out where they are and…go visit.

To Walthamstow…and beyond

Fair warning….this is a LONG post. I’m trying to write shorter posts, break things up into manageable (for the less than truly dedicated reader) chunks but, that’s not what I’ve done here!

Oh, what a good weekend that was (last weekend). The weekend started properly on Friday evening (which, I believe, is often the case) with H, D and I heading to the Southwark Playhouse to watch Superior Donuts. I’d not even heard of the theatre before H suggested that we go and it turns out to be a real gem of a place (though, I do prefer allocated seating) with a couple of performance spaces (The Large and The Little) and ample seating for early-comers to sit and enjoy a drink or a bite to eat. If Superior Donuts is anything to go by, and from a quick browse of their programme for the season, the Southwark Playhouse is somewhere that I’ll be returning to.

H being amazed by the doughnuts

Rather than ice-cream they were serving DOUGHNUTS!!! during the interval. These Glazed and Confused goodies were in gorgeous flavours, mine was sticky toffee and H’s was lemon meringue. Ahh…take a look at their Facebook page – YUM.

Saturday saw me heading to Walthamstow (which I can’t stop calling Awesomestow), stopping first to buy a bunch of flowers from Flowers and Gifts which is a relatively new shop on Stroud Green Road. The tied bouquets were just lovely and the bouquet that the shop keeper (who was an absolute sweetie) made up for me was just right (though my photo of it doesn’t do it justice – as per) and the flowers are absolutely not too costly. It was all that I could do not to buy a bunch for myself too!

Stroud Green flowers Stroud Green bouquets Mothers Hub bouquet

A delightful springtime bouquet for A.

I was heading east to check out  Mothers Hub, a brilliant new ‘concept’ shop (sorry, but it kind of is – it looks more like an art gallery than a shop selling clothes and toys for children, plus, the idea is that A is giving a platform to local makers – a place to sell their wares that works for them (aka, she isn’t greedy) and as a result the stock is a really interesting edit of beautiful little collections) on Wood Street, E17. Less than a year ago I met up with the gorgeous and supremely talented A for coffee and a picnic in the park and she told me about this idea that she’d had for a shop that would be more than a shop, it would be a space for parents and children to come and do activities (and she has more plans afoot) as well as a creative outlet for her (she is a photographer). Mothers Hub is already (and only) in its fourth month (A doesn’t hang about) and seems to be going strong, it’s a beautiful shop and it feels so welcoming (which is no less than I’d expect from an A project). It’ll be my go to shop for gifts for children from now own. And…there’s something for everyone with a brilliant collection of alphabet cards, designed by A’s husband S, that is totally cross-generational.

Wood Street map

Shame I didn’t notice this map before I went off in the wrong direction for a time!

Exterior of Mothers Hub

Ooooo…exciting, my first sighting of Mothers Hub.

Toys and books A playing shopkeeper

A playing shopkeeper. Actually, I think she was attending to my purchase.

Mothers Hub tote

As a little thanks for visiting, I got one of their lovely canvas totes thrown in – normal price £5 (bargainous).

Walthamstow is interesting, there’s such a mix of people there and it’s honestly bustling and vibrant and the council seems to be really encouraging start-ups that have some sort of community involvement/benefit. I love it. I didn’t manage to make it to the main market this time (which is no bad thing as I had on my mind to buy more fabric but I’ve got loads and loads in my stash with seemingly no time to make it into anything….although, I am determined to join in with Me-Made-May this year, if it’s running – that links to last year’s MMM, so…I’d best get on with it) but heading to Wood Street showed me a side of Walthamstow that I’ve not seen before.

Quaint Walthamstow village

How amazing is this? A gorgeous little village, slap bang in the middle of E17.

I didn’t get a chance to really explore Wood Street and the indoor market but I did stay long enough to….oh dear, buy a few things – a little taster (literally) of what’s on offer….mmm mmm mmm.

Scrumptious in a box A cutting the cakes Passion fruit meringue pieUp close with the stunningly gorgeous passion fruit curd meringue tart – Oh My. And that dark slice at the top? That’s a Guinness and pear cake which was out of this world delicious.

These Aura Rosa cakes were faultless, my only gripe was with myself – that I was silly enough to buy an Oreo cupcake (can never resist them though) when so many other cakes and patisserie were on offer.  I’m sure I saw somewhere that they offer cookery lessons!!…I’m after finding out how to make that devilishly good Guinness cake.

Mother's Ruin blackboard The Mother The ruins

Didn’t manage to walk away empty handed from this cute unit. Well, who could resist a tiny little bottle of Mother’s Bitter Helper, a bitters tincture made in tiny batches, to bring out the oomph in any cocktail – particularly good with citrus drinks I suspect.

I definitely need to go back to Wood Street and to the market, not least to buy more Mother’s Ruin concoctions, I’m after the sloe and damson gins, but also, to rifle through the vintage shops and to find out more about Significant Seams which is a really interesting community enterprise in the unit next to Mothers Hub.

Waving a sad goodbye to A and her beautiful family and armed my lovely new tote,  I started back home, via the rather excellent butcher by Crouch Hill station, for an evening of cooking and TV watching.

I began by making Mimi Thorisson from Manger’s milky chicken with butternut squash pancakes, I found that I needed to add a little more liquid than stated for the pancakes (as I did with her galette recipe) but apart from that….heaven! Mimi’s blog is SO beautiful so, check out the recipe in her own words and then…make it. Do save the poaching broth, then you too can make a disgusting looking but lovely tasting soup by caramelising sliced onion and leek to which you could add any mixture of ingredients, I put the leftover butternut squash, carrots, potatoes and a chicken stock cube and ended up with a souped up leek and potato soup..

Milk poached chicken stock soup

Simple, nutritious, filling and a hundred leagues more tasty than it is beautiful.

After our simple but splendid supper, D and I sat down to our Saturday night (for the past month or so) ritual of a double bill of the brilliant Salamander, a Belgian political thriller. The last two episodes aired last night but if you do come across it, it’s definitely worth a watch (as I write, all twelve episodes are available on the BBC iplayer but not for long). I got drawn in by the language, the show is set in and around Brussels and is spoken in a mixture of Dutch (technically Flemish, I think) and French and, by Jove, Dutch is such an odd language, there were often times when I’d realise (subtitles essential) that what had just been said was almost exactly the same as if it had been said in English or French and yet, without the subtitles, I’d have not understood anything.

Sunday morning began with a mid-morning brunch of butternut squash pancakes (waste not want not, and all that) with bacon and a fried egg – such a beautiful combination of sweet and salty topped off with the depth and richness of a half set yolk.

Butternut squash bacon brunch

In the evening D and I headed out, but not before I’d whipped up a batch of Mary Berry Lemon Drizzle slices, to watch Ángel Múñoz who was performing at Sadler’s Wells as part of their annual Flamenco Festival. D and I know nothing about flamenco but we’re both trying to get out and about, to see and do more things and, in previous years I’ve been interested in going but never got off my bum and gone. I chose Ángel because he is part of the new generation of flamenco dancers and I thought that it might be more powerful and edgy. I think I was hoping for a Strictly Ballroom moment but it was quite different to that. Ángel was the only dancer but he had on stage with him, at various times, a couple of singers and three musicians (one of whom played three or four wind instruments including my favourite – the oboe). Although there were costume changes, interesting use of shadows, arms that moved in ways it felt they oughtn’t to and an aural feast, by about half way through I was starting to feel that whilst the dancing had been impressive, I’d probably seen enough. But, by the end of the performance I realised that I’d really loved the show and, I wasn’t the only one as there was an incredibly long standing ovation. It did leave me wanting to check out other performers (online) as, with nothing to compare him to, I don’t think that I appreciated just how good Ángel Múñoz was.

Lemon drizzle squares

Beautifully tangy and moist little squares of goodness ready for a post performance snack.

Pitt Cue Co – that’s a place I’ll never go (again)

I thought I’d keep this blog positive, write about things that have interested and pleased me and leave out those things that have not. A dining experience earlier in the week has had me pondering how best to tackle writing about it without being too negative (and without making it seem as though I’m having a go at individual staff) and then, one last night was such a joke that I can’t not write about it. So, here goes, my first mainly negative post.

Restaurants: To book or not to book, that is the question. And, in my opinion, ideally a combination of both would be the answer. To say that you’re a tiny establishment and you’re not trying to be cool but can’t think of a better and fairer system than first come, first served is, frankly, nonsense:

Better would be to have some sort of marker outside to indicate what sort of wait you’re in for at a particular point (we later learned that from the point we joined the queue at, the average wait is one and a half hours).

ImageIf you’re standing by this blue door, your wait is likely to be in excess of one and a half hours.

Better would also be to indicate to people that when you do get seated after your one and a half hour wait (actually turned out that we waited for two and a half hours in total) there will be SEVERAL items on the menu that will be no longer available.

But of course, if you did that, people just wouldn’t wait, would they.

Fairer would be to take people’s orders once they are inside the bar area (where it turns out that you still have to wait – a further hour in our case) as if you’re in a group that’s larger than two you’ll find that people who arrived after you will get seated and served and in our case, seated, served, eaten their meal and left, before you’re seated. I’m not sure how it’s fair that a total of eight people, who had been behind us, were able to place their orders before us?

ImageLoved this way of running a tab, I wanted to keep it.

Better would be to not turn the lights up at 11pm, the time that the restaurant closes and no more than forty five minutes after we’d been seated, when there are only two tables left, indicating very clearly that it’s time to go. It would also be better not to start cleaning the few other tables when there are still customers left eating. We waited two and a half hours to be seated, Pitt Cue Co ran out of quite a few dishes including the only two carbs on offer (though they weren’t on top of supplies enough to know that they’d run out of bone marrow mash until after it had been ordered by two of my party), I honestly think that the better, no BEST, thing to do, as a matter of policy, would be to let people who have waited such a long time just finish their meal in peace, no?

Better would also be for the staff to hand coats back rather than for customers to work out where the coats are hung and fetch their own. It would also be good if one of the three out of four staff that had been involved with you took the time to acknowledge you upon leaving.

Having said all of that, I am pleased that I’ve been. Pitt Cue Co is somewhere that I’ve wanted to go for absolutely ages and actually, it was really cute and charming and it IS tiny so, we could see, once we were taken downstairs to the restaurant, why it had taken so long to get a table. The problem with having to wait so long is that really, nothing would feel worth it. Whilst we were upstairs in the bar, we ordered some loaded skins to keep us going and they were superb, absolutely bursting with flavour and texture. The mains were good enough but, they absolutely weren’t anything special. After a wait of thirty minutes, a perfectly nice main enjoyed in a sweet little restaurant would be great. If I’d gone up to the Pitt Cue Co food van, paid six quid and received the food that I ate last night, I’d have thought wow, that was really good, I’ll go back there. But unfortunately under the circumstances in which I did finally taste their wares I shan’t be returning (not that that matters a jot to them – or me really, as I’ve lots of other places on my list to work through).

Image

ImagePulled pork, which was good and a generous serving, pickles and some actually very delicious king cabbage with salad cream (and a hunk of bread).

Image

I had a good night out, the children both came back from uni to celebrate my birthday with me and we would have had a good time, no matter what. We chatted away in the queue, playing word games and righting the world, and in the bar, supping away on Whatever draught ale (which, I believe is their own brew and very good it was too), Pistonhead lager and a specially concocted (super sweet) bourbon cocktail (formulated for a non bourbon drinker, as cocktails were all bourbon or rye based) but not quite so much over dinner (as we were too busy filling our mouths, and the bitter taste of disappointment was rearing its ugly head).

ImageA and D, before the meal, drinking and being merry.

If there are only two of you, if none of you are averse to queuing, if it’s not a special occasion, if you’re not in a hurry, if you’re COOL enough to not care (but not cool enough to know it’s all a load of bollocks) then, I’d definitely say it’s worth queuing to check out Pitt Cue Co. It is a nice space, the atmosphere was good, the staff (besides what sounds like my moan against them – it’s more aimed at the policies) were pleasant and helpful and the food was tasty. It’s just a really really STUPID system, or…badly executed system, at best.

What do you think about walk up only restaurants?