Last night after finishing a pretty tough module in University, went to Caravan in Kings Cross’ Grant Square as a well deserved reward. This place has been open now since 2012 and I’ve been eager to try it out since then too, so it was nice to finally get a chance to visit. I’m quite enjoying this ‘sharing’ culture going on at the moment, it’s nice to try new foods and flavours so to order a host of smaller dishes and get the chance to dip in and out is always a treat. The interior of a restaurant is always so crucial for the determination of atmosphere and ambience, and something I always mention when reviewing an eatery. Caravan nailed it, the industrial feel paired with the stylish warehouse furniture and dim lighting just worked. It was a Monday evening when I went along, so it wasn’t heaving which I really like. Mondays are quickly becoming my favourite night to eat out because there is always a better chance of reserving a table last minute. Service was very friendly, I love it when the waiter/waitress is able to recommend a dish to you, to pair up a dish with another, and is generally attentive throughout the evening. Kicking off with a ‘Seoul Shrub’ cocktail, the food menu was large, with something to suit everyone and spoiling you with so much choice. My personal stand out was the gochujang ketchup, beetroot slaw and pickled cucumber that accompanied the Pork Belly, it was the right combination of tanginess and spice. The Smoked Mackerel was also a great choice with the pickled beetroot. If you order the Beef Cecina, make sure you get a bread dish with that because it works better, we got the Jalapeno Corn Bread which on its own would have been equally as delicious also. There is also the option have larger plates or a pizza if you are feeling selfish and want a meal to yourself. I think that it’s a great place to visit for a social evening catch up over some interesting and contemporary dishes. Prices are reasonable and for a good two course meal with cocktail you are looking at about £30 per head. Reservations can be made online: http://www.caravanrestaurants.co.uk/kings-cross.html
A couple of weeks ago I tried out a local restaurant/brasserie to me along with a friend- ‘Newington Table’ just off Newington Green. This was a hidden gem. I had not heard any reviews about this place, but from the outside peering in you get the impression that this is a place where neighbourhood folk could hang out all day every day in exchange for reasonably priced breakfast, lunch and dinners. It also works well as a location to meet for a coffee by day or a stylish drink at night. Newington Table has successfully achieved something many London hangouts have not- an attractive and alternative venue for whatever suits your mood at whatever time of day. I went on a Monday evening and it was not swamped however I can imagine this place piles up at weekends when people have more free time. The warehouse feel inside is all the rage at present throughout the city with regards to interior design. With the rise of the urban hipster, we are all looking for something new we can tell all our friends about and Newington Table in my opinion appears to have succeeded in filling a gap in the market. The atmosphere is calm and relaxed and the staff are exceptionally friendly and attentive. I thought that the interesting collection of dishes on offer were fascinating, with many foods on there that I had not ever heard about or would not have ever thought about combining before. The stand out dish for me was the ‘Burratta, artichokes & hazelnuts’ that alongside a fine selection of bread, went down so well with a carefully handcrafted Gin and Tonic. After food, we had a Negroni a piece which rounded off the night perfectly. I even managed to pick up a couple of pastries on the way out for breakfast the next morning which even though they were not fresh the next day, tasted incredible. Newington Table is great for whatever you fancy and whenever you fancy it and I don’t think you’ll be disappointed with the prices or offerings.
This past weekend I joined a friend for a late breakfast in Angel, Islington. I have been dying to try out a new Austrian/Viennese Café ‘Kipferl’ located on Camden Passage for months now, it is always heaving with customers and the menu looks authentic and reasonably priced. Be prepared to wait for your table at weekends, Kipferl take no reservations so it’s all down to luck. We had to wait about ten minutes in total for the two of us which was a lot shorter than the waitress predicted. The atmosphere was relaxed, the service was good. Breakfast is served all day so we had the option to choose between both breakfast and lunch. The special of the day was a rather tempting goulash, however I had already made my mind up that I was on the hunt for a breakfast as from the moment I walked in, I’d eyed up a few pans on tables full of bacon and eggs! I opted for the Bauernfruehstueck; a potato, onion, bacon and egg stir fry which was tantalisingly tasty, well-portioned and just what I needed at 11am. Thankfully I still had some room left to try a generous portion of my friends Organic Mountain Cheese Omelette; a special combination of rocket, walnuts and rye. Every flavour worked so well together and I actually preferred it to my own choice! What I did feel sad about was how I couldn’t try out everything else on the menu because it all looked fantastic. Beautifully colourful hand-crafted cakes and pastries are on display in the centre of the café so even if you just fancy coffee and cake to test out the place, I would highly recommend! I would love to return just to try out that goulash another day, and to compare their evening menu to the breakfast! Alongside a stingingly rich coffee, Kipferl was a great place to shut off from the world and take a ‘European moment’ for an hour or two.
I love to cook, and I love to experiment. Everything I have learnt has come from a combination of following recipes, watching my mum and dad, and then just pure improvisation.
Ingredients for the dish which serves two:
300g Chicken Breast
Two Servings of Brown Rice
A Bunch of Spring Onions (Chopped)
Plain Flour to thicken
Salt and Pepper for Seasoning
2 Bay Leaves
Half a pint of milk
100g-150g Extra Mature Cheese
Cook two servings of brown rice. Either fry or oven cook about 300g of chopped chicken breast, no need for seasoning. Add some butter to a pan to melt, then add some flour to create a roux. Slowly begin to add milk so the sauce begins to return to the right consistency. Add in a bunch of chopped spring onions and the bay leaves and continue to stir. About a handful of grated cheddar cheese is next to add, alongside a couple of teaspoons of Parmesan to give the sauce a little kick. Season with salt and pepper. Add milk/flour to achieve the right thickness and when finished, remove the bay leaves and add the rice and chicken in and stir. Then serve.
Occasionally I add bacon to the dish, you can also replace the rice for pasta for example which is just as delicious. Its a relatively quick dish and extremely filling due to the rice. It provides a really rich and creamy taste and all the flavours work so well together. It looks a little like risotto but you don’t get the stickiness.
I went to meet an old colleague last night, we headed over for some Japanese food at Ippudo in Central St Giles, London. He had been before and raved about the menu so I was willing to test it out, I love high quality oriental food and its sometimes quite tough to find in the city here. At first glance I can tell you that you are spoilt for choice, and you do pay a little extra for what you get but trust me- it’s all worth it. I am always a little hesitant when a menu includes photographs of the dishes as usually, they look nothing like the photo when it sits before you. Well, every dish we ordered looked identical in presentation to how the photos appeared on the menu and when you pay £15 for a sushi dish I can wholeheartedly confirm that you are paying for its authenticity and taste- it blew my mind. I treated myself to a Hirata Pork Steamed Bun and it’s such a great little starter, a small taste sensation that packs a punch and is taking London by storm this year. I enjoyed some Taki Dofu which was the most delicate and light diced tofu I have had in such a long time, I never really used it in my own cooking yet have always wanted to and now I’m curious after last night. If you are after something a little meatier, take the Beef Katsu, it’s really tender deep-fried beef fillet served with a Tonkatsu sauce which was mouth-watering, I could have easily taken another dish. The Chirashi Sushi was so incredible and is the dish I mentioned earlier, it has set the bar high for my future sushi trips, they are monsters in size however, good luck when using your chopsticks. Finally I took the Miso Tonkotsu, a very flavoursome pork-based ramen guaranteed to fill you up. We did spoil ourselves with dishes because we wanted to try so much, and all of this between the two of us alongside a pint of Asahi (which is vegan by the way!) came to about £30 each but I could have easily dropped a dish so you are looking at nearer £20 each for a good meal, but it’s well prepared, very tasty and any overflowing restaurant is always a good sign.
After returning from Canada this week, I decided to improvise and tackle a dish inspired by a few things my friends taught me out there. It was so good I had to share it!
Ingredients for the Salad which serves two:
- 2-3 Handfuls of Spinach
- 2-3 Beetroots Chopped/Shredded
- 100g Walnuts Whole
- Chop up a few Spring Onions
- 100g-200g Feta Cheese Chopped
- 4-6 Rashers of Bacon (Bake in oven for 20 mins until crisp)
- 2 Boiled Eggs
Ingredients for a generous portion of ‘Maple Mustard’ dressing:
- 2 Teaspoons of Dijon Mustard
- A healthy dollop of Rapeseed/Olive Oil
- Salt and Pepper to season
- A good pour of Maple Syrup
Chuck all ingredients into a big bowl with room to toss. It’s the first time I have put bacon in the oven, it crisps up so well and you don’t get that grease that you would expect from grilling and frying, then just crumble it into the bowl. Get the walnuts on a medium heat and douse them in some maple syrup and let them heat for about ten minutes, it’ll take the bitter edge off the nut and the maple glaze will be your new favourite salad staple. The dressing takes 60 seconds so leave that till last and drizzle it over the salad to suit your taste. A really easy dish that I promise you will be a flavour sensation, don’t be put off by the quantity and clash of flavours because they all work so well. It felt super healthy and I honestly rate it to be the most delicious salad I have ever consumed. The best BBQ dish to bring over to a garden party. It’s a perfect lunch or dinner.
I hadn’t heard of Franco Manca before however my friend suggested it to meet up with a few others for a social pizza. Franco Manca began in Brixton Market, London and now has begun to conquer central London. Some people did warn me to expect a queue however after a ten minute wait we were in so its not too bad. What separates this pizza place from others is that they specialise purely in sourdough pizza which is baked in a wood burning oven. I love sourdough so I was more than happy to try it out. Their menu is thin however its simple and quick but they have a specials board that rotates and introduces off-menu items often. I went for the ‘Number 6’ which was tomato, organic cured chorizo and mozzarella. The crust was one of the best i’d ever had, so soft and chewy and I didn’t see many people around me leaving theirs to one side. The best part about the evening was how cheap it was! Now I realise why it is so popular because you can enjoy a filling pizza and a couple of glasses of wine for about ten pounds! The service was fantastic and so friendly which made it really comfortable in a relaxed and social environment. The only downside to the evening I would say is that they had run out of prosecco. A great choice for a delicious and cheap eat.