@Platterform launch @hackneyempire

The night was warm, the night was young and the night was definitely loud. In a throbbing corner of the Hackney Empire, pop-up veterans Platterform have moved on from their trademark rooftop dining to a new venture which combines music, food and art – think Copacabana meets Clapton. On launch night, a DJ was enthusiastically pumping out tunes as people spilled out onto the road outside, clustering round the bar and snacking on foot-long prawn crackers, certainly not something you see every day.

We were ushered upstairs to a narrow mezzanine area to try the evening food menu, a global list of spicy, spiky sharing plates which take you from Mexico to Vietnam. Via Tokyo, it appeared – as a lady dressed in full Geisha regalia carefully poured out what looked like tea, but turned out to be pots of oolong heavily laced with a mix of Kamm and Sons, aloe vera and ginseng. Good and bad for you at the same time.

A lady dressed in full Geisha regalia carefully poured out what looked like tea...

A lady dressed in full Geisha regalia carefully poured out what looked like tea…

Plates of food arrived, starting with ‘snacks’: a selection of vividly coloured dips, beetroot and butternut squash and babaganoush with some charred strips of flatbread to scoop them up – irresistibly packed with flavour, and the perfect vegetarian dish which was almost too good to share. Some flash-grilled squid was heady with smoke: little salt fish fritters were lapped with a hot scotch bonnet mayonnaise, while Vietnamese summer rolls came stuffed with spicy prawns and some crunchy shredded veg – there was a veg-only version too. For spice lovers, there were mini roti breads topped with a neat pile of beef rendang, cut with a scatter of pickles.

Beetroot dip topped with  curd and Hazelnut

Beetroot dip topped with curd and Hazelnut

There was more to come: some sticky ribs coated in a chilli-laced barbecue sauce and then my favourite, little corn pancakes known as arepas, topped with black beans, avocado swirled with queso fresco and a fresh tomato salsa. Another fine vegetarian choice from a place happy to accommodate most menu requests – even my chilli allergy.

Little corncakes known as arepas

Little corn-cakes known as Arepas

My (non-teetotal) friends tried a selection of cocktails – including a ‘Jerk and Stormy’, which combined rum with jerk bitters, and a tequila daringly mixed with guava and baobab.

A (passionfruit) Jamm and @kammandsons in the making.

A (passionfruit) Jamm and @kammandsons in the making.

Platterform’s phase three promises all sorts of events throughout the day as well as providing a meeting point for the east London creative community and music lovers. The aim, they say, is to turn Hackney Empire into “one of London’s most pioneering cultural institutions”. There’s certainly no lack of ambition. And judging from the happy, buzzing crowd enjoying the food and drink and sounds on launch night, no lack of imagination, either.

A tropical paradise on Mare Street. Hackney: how you’ve changed.

Felicity Spector (@FelicitySpector) is deputy programme editor, Channel 4 News and writes for numerous UK food blogs. She is quite particular about the quantity of toffee sauce served on her sticky date pudding.


 

@Platterform launch @HackneyEmpire

Platterform #Stage3

Hackney Empire, 291 Mare Street, Hackney, London
E8 1EJ

Phone: 020 8510 0792
Web: http://www.platterform.com/

Reviewer: Felicity Spector, July 9, 2014

Easy #Chickpea and Carrot Salad (contains #Recipe #Foodporn)

chick_pea_carrot_salad_lime_dressing

Usually when I free-style something it takes a bit of refining before it’s ready to be a published recipe. This salad, was an exception. It just worked. Maybe I’m getting good at this or something? What’s more, it was SUPER easy.

Free, what? If you’re new to this free-styling business let me give you the low down. In short, I make up stuff. Usually from what’s in my veg box and what’s the cupboard. (See: Stocking the larder).

Chickpea and Carrot Salad with Lime and Garam Masala dressing

Ingredients

1 can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
4 small carrots, peeled and julienned (see tip, below)
4 salad onions, cleaned and sliced thinly on a sharp diagonal
2 tsp nigella (black onion) seeds
1/2 tsp dried parsley

Dressing
1 tbsp sesame oil
2 tbsp groundnut or vegetable oil (not olive oil)
juice of half a lime
1/2 tsp palm sugar
1 tsp garam masala
pinch of salt

Method

I like to begin by prepping all the veg and adding it to a large flat tray. You could skip this step and just go for the serving bowl, but I like to get my hands in, experiment with flavours, etc, so this is where I started.

Carrots, salad onions and chick peas, prepped and ready.

Carrots, salad onions and chick peas, prepped and ready.

Sprinkle the carrots with Nigella and the chick peas with the dried parsley. Toss them around to coat. This just gives individual ingredients a bit more colour and texture.

Mix all of the dressing ingredients into a jar. Shake, taste. Adjust as necessary, likely you’ll need more sugar or salt, depending on your tastes. If your Garam Masala isn’t so fresh, you might need to boost that.

Toss until dressed, serve.

Tip: I think the easiest way to Julienne carrots is either with a mandolin, or if you want funky curls, get yourself one of these Gefu’s. They are just great.

I’m also adding this recipe to Credit Crunch Munch: all the ingredients for this dish come in at a steal! Created by Helen and Camilla the challenge is being hosted by Sarah from Maison Cupcake this month.

Brunch and Lunch @GrangerAndCo #Clerkenwell

Granger and Co Clerkenwell

Remember Clerkenwell before Caravan and Modern Pantry? When it was too close to the rough and tumble of Kings Cross to be proper chic? I do. Now with Crossrail tunnelled through, Kings Cross almost cleaned up and revolutionary levels of redevelopment, so much of the edgy cool character of Clerkenwell is going, going gone. Replaced with something much more tarted up, more international and some might say, homogenised.  This, dear reader, is why I had two minds of the opening of Bill Granger’s Granger And Co in Clerkenwell Green.

On the one hand, a revered (Bill’s breakfast eggs were almost as popular as his TV show when I was a Sydneysider) Australian cook was opening in my ‘hood, promising food cooked in a style dear to my heart. On the other, what better typifies character reducing gentrification than the opening of a high-end yet cool, internationally franchised bistro?

Urban environment soapbox aside, I’ve been to Granger and Co a few times now. Enough to have developed a sense of the place. I thought it time to write it up.

This place is decked-out in a cool yet opulent way

Nestled in one of the most atmospheric parts of the Clerkenwell village, Granger and Co has taken over the second floor of a recently redeveloped office building. Stand out front on a warm spring day, under the dense canopy of the trees that envelop St James’ church and you could be forgiven for thinking you’re not in London but a quaint market village. Step inside Granger and Co and you’re immediately reminded that you in a very modern London. This place is decked-out in a cool yet opulent way. Light coloured walls, neutral flooring, modern scandi-meets-east-asia looking furniture and smatterings of brass on light fittings and other fixtures. It’s comfortable, yet classy.

Classy yet comfortable: arriving at Granger And Co Clerkenwell.

Comfortable yet classy: arriving at Granger And Co Clerkenwell.

I had breakfast solo on a morning during the soft launch. Their was a food shoot going down and Mr. Granger himself was there and thoughtfully bought me a newspaper. We had a quick chat, it cured me of any “sitting on my own” anxiety. He informed me he liked to be around for new openings to make sure all was on track. Luckily his team (I counted six) were also there to assist. We reminisced of North Sydney beaches. I giggled like a school boy.

That is a good latte.

That is a good latte.

The menu was perused, and the nostalgia-cum-familiarity I’d felt on arriving was reinforced. This read like a Sydney surf-side cafe menu. So much to choose from, smoothies, eggs many ways, the now ubiquitous avo’ on toast, grains and fruits. The large plates in particular illustrate Granger’s Asian influenced style: miso mushrooms, crab meat brown rice,  get the drift? There’s good news here for veggies: I reckoned atleast half the dishes were veg only, perhaps another quarter would suit if you remove one ingredient. I think that’s pretty good odds for breakfast.

Sweetcorn fritters, roast tomato, spinach & bacon (£13.50), with #teamphotoshoot in the background.

Sweetcorn fritters, roast tomato, spinach & bacon (£13.50), with #teamphotoshoot in the background.

I couldn’t resist my favourite, sweetcorn fritters, roast tomato, spinach & bacon err, hold the bacon. Except in my earlier mentioned state of of celebrity and photoshoot giddiness, I forgot to hold the bacon.

This was the soft launch, so I was prepared for the food to be not yet perfected. The fritters were good. But, simple. The sort of clean cooking you could do at home if remotely skilled and so inclined, probably for a lot less than £13.50.

Onwards, brunch continued, with a visit to the cake counter. I made two fly buys and again encountered Bill for a low down on the selection, all freshly baked on premises this morning. I settled on one, and another coffee…

A baked custard doughnut and a second latte (£3.20 incl soya surcharge).

A baked custard doughnut and a second latte (£3.20 incl soya surcharge).

The doughnut was definitely pretty, quite fluffy and sweet. Not bad, I’d say, but in a context of rapidly rising baking standards in London, not stellar. The coffee on the other hand is what you’d expect from a place with Aussie roots. Well crafted, tasty, moorish.

I returned to Granger and Co, this time for lunch

That was breakfast done. But as the weather warmed, hands man and I returned to Granger and Co, this time for lunch. The menu had a sense of the familiar: some features from the brunch menu stay on till lunch. Fruit cocktails, some of the large plates. But joining these items are pasta, pizza, a selection of bowls and small plates. They all read to be fresh and vibrant. Not as many veg options as at brunch, but you weren’t left with no choice. I liked the sound of Spaghetti with Artichoke, Mint, Lemon and Parmesan. But this time, determined to tuck into something fused with an Asian influence, I feasted my eyes on the large plates.

Courgette fritters, deep fried egg, hamoumi, tahini yoghurt & parsley salad (£11) and a watermelon & lime frappé (£4.5)

Courgette fritters, deep fried egg, hamoumi, tahini yoghurt & parsley salad (£11) and a watermelon & lime frappé (£4.5)

The Courgette Fritters were wonderful. Crispy yet silky, packed with flavour and not at all greasy. Served with a cheeky fried egg, haloumi and lashings of salad. This was a brilliantly designed and well sized main. I really enjoyed it.

Citrus quinoa, sprouting sunflower seeds, beetroot, feta & chilli (£12.5)

Citrus quinoa, sprouting sunflower seeds, beetroot, feta & chilli (£12.5)

Hands man opted for the other major veg dish. A well balanced quinoa salad with chunks of feta and a tempting blast of beetroot.

We did, take another look at the baked goods. It was, looking rather resplendent.

And for dessert, could you resist this berry cheesecake?

And for dessert, could you resist this berry cheesecake?

Perhaps ‘s predictably, and despite my urban homogenisation rant, I’m giving Granger and Co a fair dinkum thumbs up. With the caveat that some of the dishes I tried were to my mind, quite basic for the prices. Overall the atmosphere, innovative larger dishes and the prominence of meat free options, make this a sure fire bet for a flavour of Aussie beach side dining, sans heatwave, over here in the big smoke.

3.5 / 5

Brunch and Lunch at Granger & Co, #Clerkenwell

Granger & Co

50 Sekforde Street, Clerkenwell, London EC1R 0HA
Phone: 020 7251 9032
Web: http://www.grangerandco.com/#restaurant/clerkenwell

Reviewer: Jared, June 24, 2014 (Several visits during Spring 2014)

Square Meal

Granger & Co on Urbanspoon

We had every #veg dish @100Hoxton

Rapberry and Lemongrass Collins

Hoxton Street is a funny spot, the investment pounds that have cleaned up Shoreditch are only just beginning to extend into this rough-round-the-edges East London market street. We tried White Lyan, with it’s fully homemade cocktail menu and art-decor influenced interior just a few weeks ago, it was a great night out. Tonight, we headed just across the street to 100 Hoxton, a sharing platter style, asian/middle eastern fusion number, opened late last year by the same folks behind Zalouf’s, on Upper Street.

I’ll spare you commentary of the on-trend interior, concrete floors and welcoming ambience. (plenty of other reviews have covered that), and instead I’d like to excitedly report that 100 Hoxton has a really veg-friendly small plates menu. It starts with three all-veg numbers, pauses briefly while some meat and fish stuff happens, then continues with four veg sides which, frankly, read more like features than support acts.

We ordered pretty much everything veg on the menu after beginning with obligatory drinks. It was Friday, after all. Mine was a Lemongrass and Raspberry collins (pictured above, £8). It was a retro experience for me, in a way, reminding me of the boom in asian infused cocktail flavours in Sydney restaurants in the 00′s.

Flatbread with beetroot, herbs, seeds and preserved lemon (£4).

Flatbread with beetroot, herbs, seeds and preserved lemons (£4).

This was the first dish to arrive and, right away, any niggles about whether we’d chosen the right place (this was an un-researched trip), disappeared. The flatbread was homemade, spread with a perfectly smooth, beetroot dip and then smothered with crunchy veg, preserved lemon, fresh herbs and then with seeds that really mixed up the flavours and textures. It’s arrival signalled immediately that this was going to be a vibrant and creative meal. It was devoured.

When the other small plates began to arrive, the explosions of colour continued. For a moment I wondered if this would be more a visual than a taste sensation. Not so.

Smokey, charred Aubergine, smothered in a coconut sauce, beetroot, apple, coconut and micro-greens.

Smokey, charred Aubergine, smothered in a coconut sauce, beetroot, apple, coconut and micro-greens.

First: the burnt Aubergine (£6): The coconut sauce was thick and rich, I suspected it had a green-curry base to it as well. I’d never contemplated using that sort of sauce on, what was essentially a salad. It totally worked. The smokey aubergine wrapped in the exotic freshness of the coconut was warming and exciting. The rainbow beetroot another interesting touch.

Sweet Potato Salad with preserved lime cream.

Sweet Potato Salad with preserved lime cream.

The sweet potato salad (£6) took a similar surprising turn but with very different ingredients and flavour profile. The sharp sourness of the preserved lime contrasted the warm, homeyness of the sweet potato. Comfort, with a twist. Pomegranate and coriander leaves opened the dish up further.

Charred corn with chilli mayo.

Charred corn with chilli mayo.

Don’t you love it when corn gets creative? This charred corn (£4), taste of summer barbecue days, but was topped with a delicious mayo and parmesan, sprinkled with sunflower seeds. Again, a visual hit that delivered a rich kick to a stately veg base.

Roast squash and quinoa salad.

Roast squash and quinoa salad, sumac feta yogurt.

At risk of overdoing orange root veg, we also ordered the roast squash and quinoa salad. The squash was of bite sized chunks, and it and the avocado were surrounded with the creaminess of quinoa. It was a more subtle dish than the others we’d had so far, but still had a fresh yoghurt dressing. Feta and yogurt is such a wonderful combination: bitey yet creamy.

 

Crushed potatoes (£4) with coriander leaves, poppy seeds and yoghurt.

Crushed potatoes (£4) with coriander leaves, poppy seeds and yoghurt.

I’ve had a lot of roast potato sides of late. They are one of hands-man’s favourites. But these were a real surprise. I wondered if they had been roasted in sumac or coriander seeds. They had a seasoning I couldn’t quite place. Topped with poppy seeds, coriander leaves and yogurt, they underscored the fusion theme.

Cauliflower Pakora, lime coriander yoghurt.

Cauliflower Pakora, lime coriander yoghurt.

Oh and there was one more thing. A Cauliflower pakora (£4). A real mouthful: crispy on the outside, dense I’d have to guess more indian than asian flavoured inside.

This might look like a lot of food. And for three of us, it probably was. My one criticism of the meal was that as there’s a lot of richness going on. Every dish has a dressing, a cream or a sauce. At the same time, while certainly taking you on a fusion flavour journey, with some dishes, such as the Pakora, there could have been more punch.

My advice, be a little cautious on how much you order, and come back for more. And in a case of do what I say, not what I do: we ordered a dessert, which we really didn’t need.

Panna Cotta lime, mango, candied chilli.

Panna Cotta lime, mango, candied chilli.

A Panna cotta (£6), topped with luscious mango and candied chilli. Intensely sweet. Again, a real flavour bomb and clearly well thought through. I might come back one day and have it on an empty stomach!

We found 100 Hoxton to be a really great night out. The service was more than accommodating, friendly and honest and like the food, certainly unpretentious.

If you follow me in the kitchen, you probably are not surprised to hear I really loved the food at 100 Hoxton. This is the kind of thing I make at home: lots of veg, salads which combine flavour influences. Nuts and fresh herbs to add contrast and cut through richness. I can imagine that this sort of eating: more bold than refined, and perhaps to some, intense, probably isn’t for everyone, but this is Hoxton, which probably isn’t either.

4 / 5

100 Hoxton

100 Hoxton

100-102 Hoxton St,Hoxton, London N1 6SG
Phone: 020 7729 1444
Web:

Reviewer: Jared, June 6, 2014

100 Hoxton on Urbanspoon

Square Meal

Review: Little Georgia, #Angel

Rose, sunset and dinner. What more could one want?

With fondness I recall Saturday mornings in my 20s, when, being a Hackney-ite I’d follow up a visit to Broadway Market with a tasty lunch of dips, dumplings, perhaps a cake and certainly punchy coffee at Little Georgia on Goldsmith’s Row. Since moving in to N1, I’ve walked past Little Georgia on Barnsbury Street at least six times a week, without ever realising they were the same business. I’d been very curious, even tried to book once, but tonight, the first proper sunny Friday night of the summer, we finally got around to trying it.

We arrived and were told they were booked out, I was surprised, it always looked empty when I had wandered by. A little perseverance and we were able to secure a table and sat down to take in the menu. Georgian food has what I would have to call an East meets East feel. That is to say that influences of Eastern European origin (pancakes, stews, paprika, pickled and stuffed veg) collide with Eastern Mediterranean ones (Yogurt, Skewers, rich tomato sauces and plenty of walnuts and honey). The menu’s setup with hot and cold starters, the majority of which are meat free or have a meat-free options (mostly beans or cheese to replace beef or pork). The mains are more meaty, though a veg section provides three meat free options and there are plenty of sides should you or your party be hungry.

We ordered three starters to share between two.

And we were off to a great start.

And we were off to a great start.

I really think we need to pause for a moment.

And step through these starters.

First, this beetroot salad.

First, this beetroot salad (£5).

I wasn’t expecting this. Beetroot as a starter is typically cool, yoghurty and decidedly dilled. This wasn’t: small cubes of cooked betroot smothered in something bitey and fiery. I think cumin and chilli, but I didn’t ask, so don’t hold me to it. Spring onions and vinegar too.

This isn't any ordinary crepe.

This isn’t any ordinary crepe. It’s a cheese filled Blini. (£6.50)

The Blini was delicious. Butter fried, fluffy yet crispy and ours was filled with cheese and served with a suprisingly fresh tasting Russian Salad.

I couldn't resist a little foodstinct style mash up.

I couldn’t resist a little foodstinct style mash up.

We also had a Lobiani (£6), a “cheesebread” stuffed with beans and onions. Flakey pastry and a delicious filling. I rolled mine up with beetroot and yogurt, because I could.

The service was friendly and efficient. I don’t think we were always fully understood when we ventured away from typical restaurant talk, but we didn’t care. They kept smiling and were very attentive, despite our slightly out of the way table.

Our mains arrived in good time. Both were solid but they weren’t the star of the show.

Mushrooms topped with mozzarella.

Mushrooms topped with mozzarella (£8).

The mushrooms were good. Probably not the most mind-blowing of what was on the menu but solid.

A tasty Aubergine stew, thick and tasty.

Ajabsandali (£10) – A tasty Aubergine stew, thick and rich.

And the Ajabsandali (an Aubergine stew with a rich, tomatoey sauce that by my reckoning must have been reduced for a few hours) was very good. Though perhaps not £10 of good.

New potatoes, packed with butter and dill. Gooood.

New potatoes, packed with butter and dill. Gooood.

Somewhat ironically, the gave our main course the boost it needed. The buttery potatoes were great. The new potatoes tasted of spring and we were recommended a serve of Nadughi – a cheese and herb Pâté – which complemented them brilliantly.

Drenched in a spicy Georgia paste dressing, tomato and cucumber salad.

Drenched in a spicy Georgia paste dressing, tomato and cucumber salad.

And a tomato and cucumber salad which was very present. The Ajika (a Georgian take on Harissa) gave it quite a kick, and I’m a big fan of a fresh, hydrating salad.

I haven’t got much to say about the deserts, just that I wonder if this is the sort of place you eat more from the start of the menu.

There’s a curious contradiction to this place. On the one hand, it feels very on trend, paneled wood painted in Farrow and Ball toned semi-gloss finish with expensive looking lighting. Antique photographs and objects surround, convincingly conveying the Georgian theme. There are unclothed solid wood tables and very on-trend earthenware crockery. Conversely, they’ve no Twitter presence and the website is a minimal holding page. On a busy Friday they’d not filled the seats by the window (they aren’t romantic enough, we were told) which made me wonder if passers by might just pass by. There’s probably capacity for 25% more people, if they were to squeeze. But the fact is, they’ve not wanted to squeeze. This place has, in it’s 18 months since opening, survived and from what we saw, thrived, based on quality food and I guess, word of mouth. How rare in the London food scene – but how refreshing.

3 / 5

A hidden gem: Little Georgia, Barnsbury, N1

Little Georgia

14 Barnsbury Road,Angel, London N1 0HB
Phone: 0207 278 6100
Web: littlegeorgia.co.uk

Reviewer: Jared June 6, 2014

Little Georgia on Urbanspoon

#Freestyled Egg-Whitey-n-Asparagus #Brunch

Egg whitey omelette, asparagus, hollandaise.

When I’m at home, I’m probably in the kitchen. Usually free-styling, especially for brunch. This recent brunch was so freakin’ tasty I thought it deserved a little more than 15 minutes Instagram feed fame.

It was spring, and Asparagus was everywhere. And I do mean everywhere, tasting menus, recipe book covers. You name it. It’s a popular veg. So much so that it’s popularity has grown 540% in the last decade. Crazy? Well, no. It’s an amazing veg. So tasty. So elegant. So pretty, especially when sliced sideways, thus.

Isn't it marvellous.

Isn’t it marvellous.

So this was the starting place of my brunch. But as I do not believe in breakfast without carbs, I still had some work to do. Enter these fresh new potatoes from my veg box. Scrubbed and par boiled, along with a bay leaf or two (A tip I read from another blogger that very week – try it – gives them a wonderfully edge).

Whack a bay leaf in your potato next time you par boil them.

Whack a bay leaf in your potato next time you par boil them.

The potatoes I thought needed brightening up, so after they were soften I pan fried them in coconut oil, mustard seeds and turmeric. For a little further colour and gloss, I tossed them in walnut oil and black onion seeds after they were well crispy. This was one part of the dish that probably could have done with a little refinement. While it worked, there was a lot going on. But that’s one of the risks with free-styling, things won’t be perfect.

Sometimes I like to pretend I'm on telly, with a bunch of glass ramekins like this.

Sometimes I like to pretend I’m on telly, with a bunch of glass ramekins like this.

Hollandaise is a fantastic accompaniment to asparagus. And something I’ve not had much experience with, so I googled a recipe, which turned out to be pretty impressive. I switched a little, adding some cayenne pepper instead of mustard and tabasco. The problem with hollandaise is that you end up with excess egg white, being a hater of food waste, this inspired the base of my dish. An egg white omelette. I always feel so NYC when I make one.

And that was it really. Threw the whole thing together and tossed over some chives, fresh from my balcony pots.

It was a brilliant dish. Went together sweetly, freshly and crisply. High fat and carbs, no doubt. So use in moderation. :-)

Egg white omelette

Egg white omelette, asparagus, hollandaise. Brunch me up.

It’s time to try @ShrimpyLoves, Kings Cross.

From the outside it's a stark, modernist concoction of serrated aluminium.

You know when you’ve known about somewhere, walked past, been curious, but never gone in? Then when you’ve finally got around to going, you wondered why you never went before?

Shrimpy’s opened around two years ago, the product of the team who already ran BISTROTHEQUE in Hackney and would later open Hoipolloi in Shoreditch. It’s right in the middle of the Kings Cross redevelopment, just a few metres from Granary Square.

I think I’d dismissed Shrimpy’s as another hipster burger joint. But having relished a Hoipolloi breakfast the other week, it seemed time try. The layout and interior is what you’d expect from this restaurant team. It’s achingly cool, opulent even, with a edge of quirk. Potted cacti line the window sill and a variety of pineapple shaped paraphernalia adorn other surfaces. The kitchen is part visible through an opening behind the bar. When we arrived, something meaty was being carved up, and only one other table was occupied.

The menu hasn’t got a lot for the veg diner. I expected at least one veg option in the burger section, but no – just beef and soft-shell crab choices. Some of the appetizers and snacks were veg friendly. There was one veg main which I initially glossed over. I hate to say it, I was seriously considering my emergency “I-can’t-find-a-main-I-want-so-I’ll-order-two-sides” manouvere.

Hibiscus Lemonade (£4)

Hibiscus Lemonade (£4).

We started with some soft drinks. This was a work day lunch. I had a Hibiscus Lemonade: not too sweet and certainly refreshing.

Although quiet, we waited a while for our food. The Frickles – mild, sour pickled chillies in a very light batter – were technically good but not dazzling.

Frickles: deep fried pickled chillies (£3.5)

Frickles: deep fried pickled chillies (£3.5).

I was glad the waiter convinced me to try the veg main, it was a pleasure to behold. Nine types of wild mushroom served with a mole and arepa, a chewy little corncake number originating from central America. The dish tasted good: though the mole a tame: while rich, it could have had a little more kick. I was glad for the coriander and sour cream garnish boost.

Wild mushrooms with mole, aprepa. (£13.5)

Wild mushrooms with mole, arepa. (£13.5)

A side we probably didn’t need, came next. Hot macaroni. Hot in that it has a trace of jalapeño, good rich cheese sauce, and very compact pasta tubes. I had to ask for a spoon, I wasn’t letting it get away.

Hot macaroni (£6)

Hot macaroni (£6)

The desserts were a real treat.

First, ricotta hotcakes. They were suspiciously similar to a breakfast hotcake I’d sampled not a few days before. And why not, they work. The dulce de leche set them apart and combined with the caramel, it was a rich, fluffy, explosion of contentment. A wonderful desert.

Ricotta hot cakes, dulce de leche (£7.50)

Ricotta hot cakes, dulce de leche (£7.50)

And the Banana & peanut butter sandwich, topped with vanilla ice cream and smashed up pieces of something biscuity and great, was heaven. The jelly lenghtened the peanut butter just right, and ice cream soaked into the bread, just a little. It took me somewhere childish, in a very adult way.

You cannot go past this Banana & peanut butter sandwich (£6).

You cannot go past this Banana & peanut butter sandwich (£6).

A little on the pricey side for lunch, I can’t see myself making this a regular. While I thought the food very good, the main and Frickles both could do with a little oomph to the seasoning. If you’re prepared to go with the veg main that’s on offer (or perhaps, appetizers and desert, or perhaps, two desserts!!), Shrimpy’s is worth a try. It sure made my day brighter.

3 / 5

It’s time to try @ShrimpyLoves

Shrimpy’s

King’s Cross Filling Station, Goods Way,Kings Cross, London N1C 4UR
Phone: 020 8880 6111
Web: shrimpys.co.uk

Reviewer: Jared May 13, 2014

Review: Why would a #Veggie go to @BirdoSmithfield?

Good bread. Crusty crust, squidgy sourdough.

Despite opening in the middle of 2013, Bird of Smithfield was yet to make my list. Lots told me this place was unlikely to deliver against my hunger for veg focused dining. First, Its location across from Smithfields Market. Being Masterminded by Alan Bird (exec chef at the Ivy for 15 years) and that it’s positioning as a membership free members club, both further pointers.

But when I was asked along by two Gloucestershire ladies, I thought I’d put my apprehension aside for what promised to be a fun night. As we settled in for a drink in the downstairs bar, I began to warm to the place. A buzzy feel, accommodating staff. A members club feel to the furnishing and artwork. We were tempted to visit the roof top bar, but we were hungry!

A quick G&T in a spirited lounge, what better way to underscore the end of the week.

A quick G&T in a spirited lounge, what better way to underscore the end of the week.

A slight butchery smell made me wonder if I’d made a big mistake, as we climbed the stairs. But as we sat in big comfy chairs, and viewed the menu, I loosened a little. The menu is meaty, there’s no two ways about it. One veg main and two starters, which could be ordered as main sizes if desired.

The wine list was extensive. We settled on this rather lovely Sauvingnon Blanc. It was that sort of night.

Isabel Sauvignon Blanc. That crisp, roundedness. Just a tiny touch of butter.

Isabel Sauvignon Blanc (£40). That crisp, roundedness you’d expect from a good Sauvignon. Just a tiny touch of butter.

The food arrived promptly despite a full dining room. And the service was both casual and friendly.

For starter all three of us had the same salad of garden veg, with a crispy egg (£9). The veg sourced from a garden in Temple Guiting, where one of the backers of Bird of Smithfield owns a Manor House accommodation. The egg was superb and the freshness of the veg was striking. Especially the the asparagus and peas. The only downside that the acidity of lightly pickled root veg distracted from the veg.

Fresh, crispy veg on a beetroot purée served with a crispy duck egg.

Fresh, crispy veg on a beetroot purée served with a crispy duck egg.

The main was right up my street. Bubble and Squeak dumplings. They had the soft doughiness of dumplings but a crispy outer, a nice contrast. The tomato sauce subtle yet smokey. I’m often experimenting with smoked flavours in my own kitchen, but I would be hard pressed to make something like this. And the veg, loads and loads of brilliant greenery. Asparagus, peas, a little cress. A real tribute to seasonal freshness.

Bubble and Squeak Dumplings, smoked tomato sauce, silky smooth buffalo mozzarella.

Bubble and Squeak Dumplings, smoked tomato sauce, silky smooth buffalo mozzarella.

My dining friends were non-veg and one had the Fish and Chips. We snuck one of the triple fried chips from her plate, and had to order an extra side, all to ourselves. Up there with the best fries I’ve had in London.

Triple cooked chips

Triple cooked chips (£3.50)

We didn’t really have room for desert, but the menu tempted us.

Rich chocolate torte, with salt caramel (£8).

Rich chocolate torte, with salt caramel ice cream  (£8).

Saffron Hill Burnt Cream (£6)

Saffron Hill Burnt Cream (£6)

Rhubarb and Bramley Apple Pie (£7)

Rhubarb and Bramley Apple Pie (£7)

I think the salt caramel could have been a little punchier. The lightly spiced burnt cream, unexpected, it really worked. All were devoured. Very good.

We left Bird of Smithfield more than satisfied. While there are a lot of restaurants in London which give non-meat eaters more choice, Bird doesn’t leave anyone out in the cold.

3.5 / 5

Why would a #veggie go to @BirdofSmithfield

Bird of Smithfield

26 Smithfield St, Smithfields, London EC1A 9LB
Phone: 020 7559 5100
Web: birdofsmithfield.com

Reviewer: Jared May 2, 2014

Disclosure: Our evening at Bird was complimentary, but not due to any connection with this post.

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Review: #Vegetarian Tasting Menu @LylesLondon

Lyles London - Vegetarian Tasting Menu - with Sourdough

Strikingly fresh – I would say. Simple, yet bold. Elegant, yet understated. Lyle’s, a newly opened Shoreditch offering from James Lowe (of Young Turks fame) and John Oglier. Evenings, they offer a tasting menu of 9 courses, including a veg option, of which we partook.

Feeling somewhat frantic on arrival, having charged across town in the midst of a tube strike, I was welcomed and right away I felt transformed. At home, even. A casual intimacy, no pretense or stress. Just contentment.

The interior, like the food, is fresh, delicate and to the point. Polished concrete, dainty chairs and tables. A wall sized cupboard your grandmother would have treasured adorns the entryway. No more than 50 covers, in a good sized space. There’s room to move. A fully open kitchen reveals an equally calm staff (somewhat surprising, this was their first night), quietly preparing fare.

Grilled Asparagus with (Amazing) Walnut Mayonnaise.

Grilled Asparagus with (Amazing) Walnut Mayonnaise.

We wanted to take home a jar of the Walnut Mayonnaise. It was creamy, almost whipped and jam packed with nuttiness. The earthy purée complementing the freshness of the crunchy asparagus, stopping just short of distracting. We spread the remains on the fantastic sourdough and gobbled.

It’s nice when one a veg menu is on offer. But even better when you don’t feel at all short-changed. There were a series of gorgeous mouthfuls, starting with Innes (a Staffordshire goat cheese) and honey, wrapped in Mustard leaf.

Innes cheese, wrapped in mustard leaf with a smash of honey.

Innes cheese, wrapped in mustard leaf with a smash of honey.

The dense, slightly salty interior was blanketed with a bitter leaf, laced with the sweet honey. Soon after a Mushroom pastie, quite tempting. Plus, due to a little mix-up, a surprise:

A sweet surprise. Charred baby gem with hazlenut and home-made sour cream.

A sweet surprise. Charred baby gem with hazlenut and home-made sour cream.

I was quite shocked that they russled this up, to make up for a mistake. It was quite delicate, the caramalised gem leaf melting into the tart cream, broken up with a crunch of nut. Who knew lettuce could be so good.

The wine list was extensive. As the sole drinker this night, I opted for a glass of a Domaine Rolly Gassman, a Riesling from Alsace. It more than hit the spot.

The service, like the atmosphere overall quite well balanced. There was an effortless dance between us as dish after dish arrived, numerous questions were indulged, and banter entered into. First class.

Then the food got serious.

Forresty, fresh and smooth. Nettle soup with pheasant egg.

Forresty, fresh and smooth. Nettle soup with pheasant egg.

I was concerned about the pheasant egg, but it worked. And provided a protein boost to the meal without reverting to cheese. The soup was just great. Proper earthiness, with a tangy ending you’d expect from nettle. And a perfect consistency.

New Seasons' Onions with Wild Leek & Ramson

New Seasons’ Onions with Wild Leek & Ramson

The new season onions, were so unbelievably fresh and you could tell. Incredibly delicate, yet cooked down perfectly to add an extra touch of sweetness.

There was another course here, of grilled Keveral Farm Barssicas (another stop in the cruciferous family, or a cabbage, to cut to the chase). I’m afraid the light let me down and I couldn’t grab a snap, but suffice to say it was dripping with a buttery sauce, and covered in purple sprouting brocolli. Hard to describe, but Lowe took what might have been another veg, and turned it into another highlight.

Right up my street: Baked Risely with Chegworth Leaves

Right up my street: Baked Risely with Chegworth Leaves

The cheese course, as you could call it, took on a different shape to what you might be accustomed. I’m a major fan of cheeseporn, and this Risely happily tipped me over the edge. Cheeseporn heaven. I loved how it melded with the smokey toasted sourdough. But of much surprise was the salad of Chegworth leaves. Dressed in a bitey dressing of I think shallots, it was a triumph. The only salad I’ve tasted that came anywhere near it was one that was forraged that day at River Cottage HQ. So I’m guessing these leaves had been plucked from their beds only hours before.

Despite the ride we’d been on, we weren’t over full and had room for desert.

Spelt Cake with Loganberry Jam and Yogurt

Spelt Cake with Loganberry Jam and Yogurt

Loganberry is such an under-utilised fruit. But keeping with the make the most of local theme, this jam added a sweet yet tart splash, while bringing in the taste of another season. Topped with a disc of frozen yogurt, the three ingredients came together well. As much as I enjoyed, the dessert represented my one (small) problem with the meal. Not enough Jam, and on it’s own the cake just slightly too dry. But otherwise, a wonderfully contemporary take on a desert you can imagine gran serving up after a Sunday roast.

And if that weren’t enough, a final taster, a burnt butter cake. More like a Madeline, a perfect mash up of sweet, eggy cake and plenty of butter. You should have heard the satisfied groans.

Lyle’s did what they promised they would, when they tweeted that “It will be good”. They’ve sourced seasonal veg and produce honestly and self-assuredly. The food’s been crafted, to produce dishes which are delicate, tasty and capture the freshness of the ingredients. And they’ve created an environment which wholeheartedly celebrates the food, whilst embracing the diner. As the bill arrived my dining partner remarked that this was perhaps the best meal she’d had this year. I agreed, adding somewhat precociously “the best in London, certainly”.

4.5 / 5

Lyle’s #Vegetarian Tasting Menu

Lyle’s

The Tea Building, 55 Shoreditch High Street, Shoreditch, London E1 6JJ
Phone: 020 3011 5911
Web: www.lyleslondon.com

Reviewer: Jared April 29, 2014

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Review: Mildred’s #Vegetarian Restaurant, #Soho

A pornstar martini. Steeped in passionfruit, with a side of prosecco. Welcome!

Since opening in the mid 80′s, Mildred’s consistently rates as a London vegetarian institution. But for some reason, I’d never been. When I wrote up a list of my top London Vegetarian haunts, I decided it was time to rectify that.

Somewhat annoyingly, this is one of those no reservation affairs. Luckily they’ll serve you up a cocktail while you wait for a table. Like the pornstar Martini pictured above. Steeped in passion fruit, with a side of prosecco. Lush.

There is no doubt this place is still doing well, 30 years on. At 7pm on a Friday we had a 45 minute wait. But the cocktails helped. Once seated, the service was super slick. The dining space is bright, bustling, bistro feel.

I always find it a lovely experience when the menu arrives at a Vegetarian restaurant, so many choices without having to even think about whether meat might be  lurking, or that you’ll end up with goats cheese tart, again. The menu is great: inventive, vibrant. There’s a middle eastern, north African influence, but then East Asian and veg takes on Anglo too. It’s truly international.

We were tempted by the sharing plates for starters, but instead opted for two individual dishes to share.

Gyoza with a soya chilli dipping sauce.

Gyoza with a soya chilli dipping sauce.

The Gyoza was slightly underwhelming, it might have been my recent Italian artichoke experimentation, but I found the Artichoke Crostini quite delicious. The lemon aioli stunning.

The Artichoke Crostini was heaven. Chunky whole artichoke with a delicious lemon Aioli.

The Artichoke Crostini was heaven. Chunky whole artichoke with a delicious lemon Aioli.

I found rumours of unfriendly staff unfounded. We were more than indulged by the staff who rushed out hot plates with smiles, maintaining the right level of attentiveness, despite the the hectic crowd.

Our mains arrived.

Aubergine and Chickpea Tagine

Aubergine and Chickpea Tagine

The Aubergine Tagine was well balanced. The juicy, massive green olives enlivened the Tagine itself, which otherwise was fairly simple. I was hoping for a touch of cinnamon, which if present I couldn’t detect. The cous cous was fab, peppered with apricot, pickled lemon and flaked almonds, it turned the dish around.

Sri Lankan Ssweet potato and cashew nut curry

Sri Lankan Ssweet potato and cashew nut curry

The star of the show. This rich, nutty curry was bountiful. A creamy, soupy sauce, chunks of sweet potato perfectly al dente, and plenty of nutty garnish. Top marks.

We were pretty full after that lot. But a scan of the desert menu revealed a treat that couldn’t be missed.

Persian spiced polenta cake with pomegranate.

Persian spiced polenta cake with pomegranate.

We paid £45 each for 2.5 courses, wine and cocktails. It may have been overdue, but certainly worth braving the queue.

3.5 / 5

Mildred’s Soho, More than worth the wait

Mildred’s

45 Lexington Street, Soho, London W1F 9AN
Phone: 020 7494 1634
Web: www.mildreds.co.uk

Reviewer: Jared April 26, 2014

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