Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Maddy's Fish Bar, New Cross

Ling and chips
Nine months after the part kickstarter funded chippy opened, I finally made it to Maddy's Fish Bar in New Cross on Saturday night. After a hard run session in Greenwich park that morning I was up for some guilt free indulgence and keen to sample as much of the menu as I could fit in.

I've heard good things about the chicken nuggets, but we both went for the classic fish and chips. Their suppliers catch dictates the menu and on Saturday night there was ling and whiting on the menu both came in a fresh dill and gluten free batter, served with chips and slaw (£9 each).
Whiting and chips
We both agreed that the whiting was the catch of the day having a thinner skin and a slightly firmer flesh. The homemade tartare sauce was great, although the chips could have been crispier.
I couldn't resist the large jar of gherkins (£1) sitting on the bar and had to order one. While Becks selected the minted mushy peas (£2.50). I'm not usually a fan of mushy peas, but really enjoyed this version with a mixture of crushed and whole peas with plenty of mint.
Minted mushy peas
Totally unnecessary, but we also ordered the pumpkin tempura (£3.50) from the specials board. Despite us not getting to the tempura until we had finished our fish, the batter had remained impressively crispy. Although professing to be stuffed, I nearly polished off the whole pate of tempura single handedly.

We had our eyes on the sourdough donuts, also on the specials board, but the food coma had descended and there is no way we could fit in anything else.
Pumpkin tempura
With the London Particular next door this corner of New Cross feels in safe hands with two young female entrepreneurs leading the revival. The drinks were a little on the expensive side at £3 for a half, but the rest of the food was great value and a cut above your regular fish and chips.

Maddy's Fish Bar
397 New Cross Road
SE14 6LA
Maddy's Fish Bar on Urbanspoon

Monday, 8 December 2014

Capernaum, Brampton, Cumbria

Bacon, chorizo and black pudding salad with a poached egg 
While we were up in Brampton a couple of weeks ago a new restaurant, Capernaum, opened in the market place and we went to check it out on their opening night. Run by a Yorkshireman who has moved into the area, it is located in what was Huntingtons a couple of incarnations ago.

While we were waiting for our starters to arrive we were sent an appetiser of mini fish and chips to share. The fish and chips were a welcome little treat as we had to wait around forty minutes for our starters to arrive.

I kicked things off with the bacon, chorizo and black pudding salad with a poached egg (£5.50). The chorizo was the dominant flavour and rather over shadowed the black pudding. It felt like less could have been more with the salad and it didn't need quite so much going on. Becks' grilled haloumi (£5.50) was the favourite starter at our table.
Boeuf bourguinon
In between courses we were brought a shot of apple sorbet which was a nice touch and not something you usually get in a neighbourhood restaurant.

I chose the boeuf bourguignon (£12) and Becks the lamb tagine (£11.50) as our main courses. Both of our dishes were generous in size and I had three large pieces of tender and tasty beef. Personally I think they could get away with smaller portions of protein and include some vegetables or reduce their prices a little.
Lamb tagine
As we were finishing our dessert the chef / owner came round to chat with the opening night customers. It sounds like he and his family have jumped into Cumbrian life since moving up from Yorkshire. Competition has probably never been higher in Brampton with Brambles and Mr Elephant also recently opened. The owner was receptive to feedback and hopefully they will find the formula which works for them.

Chocolate and pecan pie


Monday, 1 December 2014

The Smoking Goat, Thai food in Soho

Fish sauce chicken wings
The Friday before last Becks, Ed and I headed over to the The Smoking Goat in Soho, a Thai BBQ restaurant I'd discovered via Instagram. I was hoping for the authentic Thai flavours I crave and haven't had since Chat Thai which was four years ago now!

I wasn't sure what sort of setup to expect from The Smoking Goat. It turned out to be a lively and crowded small bar, with people packed in tightly, either at small tables or on stools at the bar. It's the type of place that could have been chaos, but the on the ball waiters had everything under control.

The three of us were able to give the compact menu a good working over, ordering everything except the crab. First up were the fish sauce chicken wings (£6) which were crispy from being deep fried and the fish sauce glaze had a finish that was punchy enough without being overpoweringly fishy.

The most popular starter at the table were the scallops (£6 each). The scallops came served in their shells and had a lovely nam jim sauce that I couldn't help slurping out of the shells. We were grateful that a fourth scallop arrived by mistake at our table and the waiter allowed us to keep it on the house.

We ordered both of the BBQ plates on the menu, the smoked lamb ribs and slow roast duck legs (£15 each). The mains come served with som dtum and sticky rice. Som dtum is my favourite Thai dish and this was a pretty good version. I couldn't see the traditional pounded red scud chillies in the salad, but it definitely had some kick.

The BBQ meats weren't the stars I was hoping for. Our duck was dry and lamb ribs are a bit of a faff to share. However, I did appreciate the Thai flavours, liking the tamarind on the duck and the accompanying nam prik chilli sauce.

I was pleasantly surprised when the bill only came in at £32 per head as we had a fair amount of booze and 'small plate sharing' as a habit of racking up the bill.

I enjoyed our night at The Smoking Goat. When I need a hit of authentic Thai flavours to remind myself of my time in Bangkok I'll know where to go.

The Smoking Goat
7 Denmark Street
Smoking Goat on Urbanspoon

Friday, 21 November 2014

Silk Road, Xinjiang Chinese in Camberwell

Mid plate chicken
In Sydney I could literally fall of bed an into the delights of China town, but authentic Asian cooking doesn't seem quite as easy to find in London. With its promise of authentic Sichuan food, Silk Road in Camberwell has been on my wish list for quite a while.

After a false start last year, when we got turned away, I planned this trip properly; assembling a group of friends and, crucially, making a booking. I had a strange nervousness that out booking would have been lost, but thankfully all was well and we got shown to a small table at the back of the restaurant.
Beef and onion dumplings 
I'd been teasing my companions that we were in for a night of offal, While there was generous sprinkling of tripe on the menu we were able to easily avoid, selecting a dish from most sections of the menu so we could taste as much as possible.

First to arrive at the table was a double serving of the beef and onion dumplings. We ordered two servings as at £2.50 each we thought we might only get three / four dumplings with each serving. We shouldn't have feared as we got a generous mound. The dumplings definitely benefited from a dunking in Chinese vinegar and I think if I was going to order two servings again I'd definitely mix up the flavours.
Hot and sour shredded potatoes
Next to arrive at the table was the hot and sour shredded potatoes. I'd expected / hoped for fried potatoes, but despite being cut like shoe string fries these potatoes had been nowhere near hot oil. They were hot, not particularly sour and just the right side of raw. It was an alien taste to my palate and not one I immediately warmed to if I'm honest.

Getting us right back on track were two large grilled swordfish shish kebabs. The fish was spicier than I expected with a ground chilli crust. After the hot potatoes the fish was the dish that tipped me over my pathetic chilli threshold and my brow began to glisten.
Fish shish
I was beginning to fill up, but the dishes kept arriving at our table with the home style aubergine and special cooked lamb with noodles. The aubergine, tomato and chilli was out attempt at a vegetable dish. It still counts of the aubergines were fried, right?

The lamb was our first taste of the homemade noodles and they were a delight, if incredibly long and a little messy to eat. As my shirt can attest and I'd like to make it clear for the record that it was two of my dining companions that splattered me! There wasn't too much lamb in the dish, but you can't complain at these prices.
Home style aubergine
Our final dish was also the best, the mid plate chicken (top photo). A large both of Shichuan pepper and chicken broth arrived at our, quickly followed by some more homemade noodles that were poured on top. The broth had the classic aromatic mouth-numbing quality that you get with heaps of Sichuan pepper. The small pieces of chicken were quite boney and a little awkward to eat, but you forgive a lot when the noodles and broth were that good.
Special cooked lamb with noodles
Silk Road is the type of place I love. Sure it's a little cramp, crowded and rough around the edges. But the food was fantastic and at £15 per head (including a generous tip and two beers each) it was amazing value too.

Silk Road has been added to my London eats map.

Silk Road
49 Camberwell Church St
Silk Road on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Le Querce Italian, Honor Oak

Last Saturday night we went for dinner at Le Querce in Honor Oak for Beck's birthday, just over the road from Babur where we went for her first birthday we were together. I don't like to travel too far.

Last Saturday was also the night of the Blackheath firework display so I'd arranged a late booking to allow us to watch some fireworks from nearby Blythe Hill before dinner. The Blackheath display started ten minutes late, and I had a few moments thinking I'd dragged us up a hill on a cold night for no reward. But it turned out to be a good vantage point with beautifully clear sweeping views of the city. We were able to see both the Blackheath and Alexandra Palace displays pretty well and had the Crystal Palace display booming behind has as well.

The restaurant was full when we arrived and we were seated on a small table between two other couples. Luckily one of them was just finishing up which allowed us a bit more room once they'd left.

We almost didn't order starters, but I'm pleased we selected the salame, carasau e formaggio to share from the special menu. The hard cheese had a lightly smoked flavour, while the small serving of soft cheese had a heavenly texture. It was much smoother and creamier than a mozzarella or burrata. Beck's likened the texture to Dairly Lee triangles. I'd said the cheese we had yielded a little more, but it was a pretty accurate description, although gives completely the wrong impression of the quality!

My main of hake was also from the specials menu. The large serving of hake flaked apart and was served with a fresh tomato sauce and cauliflower. The drizzle of salsa verde gave we welcome lift and freshness and I would have liked more of it.

The star reason for going to Le Querce in my view is for their extensive selection of homemade ice creams and sorbets which are frankly, fantastic. We both went for three scoops. My tactic was to go for something classic - chocolate - a little different - pineapple and mint - and them something a bit more out there - Banana, Cardamom and Ginger. (Ok, so it wasn't completely out there, but I wasn't up for the onion and garlic.)

The star of my plate was the pineapple and mint while the standout on Beck's plate was the strawberry and cassis.

The service was a little slow towards the end of the night, but you can forgive them a lot when the ice creams are that good. It was good value too.

Le Querce
66 Brockley Rise
SE23 1LN
Le Querce on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Bistro Brunot Loubet, Clarkenwell

The rabbit and pork rillettes
Flicking through the Eurostar magazine on the way back from our recent trip to the Dordogne I read a short interview with Raymond Blanc. He was tipping a new restaurant in Clarkenwell run by one of his protégés Bruno Loubet. It was clearly a plug for a friend, but it piqued my interest, and I added Bistro Bruno Loubet onto my wish list. A recent dinner with school friends Rob and Joel gave me the opportunity to check it out.

I decided to order from the prix fixe menu (£20 for two courses or £25 for three) which is available if you are seated and order before 19:30.

The set menu starter was the rabbit and pork rillettes, pickled prune, cornichon and toast, which is also available on the a la carte menu. The rillettes had a lovely soft texture, but I didn't think a lot of flavour. Punch could be added via some of the hearty pile of cornichons or a dab of the surprisingly fiery Dijon mustard. I love cornichons so was happy to see such a big pile.

My main course was squid marrow with polenta and fennel. I was surprised at how tender the squid was and it went well with the oven roasted tomatoes and the bed of polenta.

I wasn't particularly inspired by the dessert menu, neither the choices on the menu nor the dishes which arrived at our table. I decided against the cheescake from the prix fixe menu and instead selected the apple tarte Normande, Calvados & caramel sauce (£6.50) from the a la carte menu. French bistros usually do some awesome tarts and bowls filled with lashings of creme anglaise, but I found Brunot Loubet didn't hit the spot for me in this area.

Apple tarte Normande

Bistro Bruno Loubert
St John's Square
86-88 Clerkenwell Road,
London EC1M 5RJ
Bistrot Bruno Loubet on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Dordogne: Paunat & Restaurant Chez Julien

The limestone village of Paunat
Sadly our holiday in the Dordogne was coming to an end. Having ticked off most of the places that we wanted to visit we decided to spend the day hanging around the village of Paunat where we were staying.

A picturesque limestone village, Paunat is on the pilgrimage trail. In the twelfth centurya pilgrims staff took root in village and grew into a tree. A large abbey was built at the site of the miracle. Although the monastery is no longer present, the large church of St Martia still dominates the village both in terms of its size and the bells which chime rather irregularly at 7am and 7pm daily.

The village is postcard perfect and I was surprised that all of the houses seemed quite large / high status. I'm not sure where the farm labourers stayed in centuries gone by. The only downside to the village as far as I was concerned is that it didn't have a boulangerie. I love being able to walk to the bakers to buy fresh bread, and maybe a croissant, every morning.

With no road signs in the village I also found it quite infuriating to navigate and it took me most of the week before I'd worked out which road to take in order to arrive at neighbouring town I was aiming for.

Our gîtes for the week
We ate twice at the village restaurant, Chez Julien, during our stay. On the first night we hungrily scoffed down our food after a long day travelling, so we returned on our last night for a more relaxed meal.

Chez Julien is a friendly and welcoming restaurant which probably explains why even in late summer they were still busy and you needed to book a table if you wanted to get in. On both occasions we visited there were a fair few English voices at neighbouring tables with expats and holiday makers coming in from the surrounding countryside for dinner.

A local brew from Limeuil
On our second visit I started the evening with a beer from the local brewery in the next village. When it came to the menu I decided to order local specialities that I either hadn't tried during the week or wanted to try again.

Cèpes mushrooms were in season so I went for the tartallete de cepes a la creme d'ail so that I could get in my last fix. For the main course I went for the confit du canard as I hadn't yet had any duck during the week.

The food was good, but it didn't feel like they were pushing any boundaries and that they have found a formula that they are comfortable sticking with. Every main course (on both nights) came served with the same vegetables, and not a very generous portion either.

After dinner it was great to be able to walk back to our gîtes across the village square and be in bed within minutes.

The next morning we were up early to drive back to Bordeaux train station. Despite one wrong turn we made it back to the train station in the centre of the city much more easily than I was expecting.

Tartallete de cepes a la creme d'ail

Confit du canard

Chocolate tart