I want to #vegify your favourite dish

So as well as free-styling, I like to #vegify. Taking a meaty dish and making it veg-friendly. Is there a meat dish, something that you love (or loved) but had to leave behind due to meaty ingredients?

If so, tell me! Leave a comments below. and tell me what dish you’d like vegified. I’ll pick one, give it a go and share the recipe.

Go on, tell me the meaty dish you want to vegify, in the comments below.

Win 2 Tickets to see VegFest in London

I’m running this in conjunction with VegFest UK, one of Europe’s biggest veggie events, which runs September 27 & 28 at London Olympia. If you’d like to win 2 Sunday tickets for VegFest, just retweet this tweet.

vegfest.co.uk

vegfest.co.uk

Get your hands dirty @RitasDining #Hackney

Bitter chocolate pie with soured cream £5

It was a hot summer eve and Rita’s was calling. In fact, news of the cocktails, starters and pies had been calling me for months. We rocked up and snuck past the tables of young trendy hackney things with their frozen margarita’s in paper cups. Sat down, and soaked up the atmos. A clean, light interior. It’s miles from the Mare Street of greasy Vietnamese and 2am nights at the Dolphin that I recall.

We started with cocktails and a few items from the snacks menu. While my carnivorous friends tried the bacon peanut brittle, we opted for some of the pickled veg. Daikon, carrot and fennel, still crisp and vinegary-finger licking good.

Start with snacks. Cocktail, house pickles.

Start with snacks. Cocktail, house pickles.

Don’t let the polished interior fool you. There’s a down and dirty edge to the food. It’s part diner style: buttermilk battered fried chicken, burger in a bun, steak sandwich… a story you’ve no doubt heard before. But keep reading, because this place does plenty of veg too. And plenty of veg, really well, and with the same dirty diner style. Tres bon.

I couldn’t resist the grilled whole ear of sweetcorn.

Elote Grilled Corn £6.5

Elote Grilled Corn £6.5

It’s impact was enormous. I resisted Freudian interpretation. But I did need a wet one to wipe myself clean. It was delectable, a smoky flavour to the corn from the grill plus more in the paprika. And a rich cheesy topping in case you wanted to indulge. I did. And so much fun to pick up and devour.

Avocado with spring veg and mascarpone dressing.

Avocado with spring veg and mascarpone dressing £7.5.

Hands man ordered well, a plate of spring greens, including a whole half of an avo; dressed in a mascarpone dressing. Spring onion ends, too. Dirty. Me likey.

Sweet potato gnocchi, smoked buttermilk, pecan gremolata £11

Sweet potato gnocchi, smoked buttermilk, pecan gremolata £11

On well informed recommendation, we both had the Sweet potato gnocchi. I enjoyed the gnocchi, and the grilled baby gems that came with it were quite a treat. But found the whole thing a bit too oily. Sadly, it was the only veg main choice too.

Luckily, the sides were killer, especially the green chilli mac n cheese. One of the best I’ve ever tasted.

Green chilli mac & cheese. £4.5

Green chilli mac & cheese. £4.5

And then the deserts. The pictures almost speak for themselves. The Bitter Chocolate tart was TOTAL foodporn.

Bitter chocolate pie with soured cream £5

Bitter chocolate pie with soured cream £5

But I loved (and I don’t use that word lightly), the salt caramel ice cream sandwiched between two perfectly soft choc peanut cookies. I picked it up, stuffed it in my gob, then fetched myself another lemon scented wet wipe. Bliss.

Ice cream sandwich £5.5

Ice cream sandwich £5.5

The strength of the desserts and the sides far outweighed my gripe about the Gnocchi, I really rated this place, and would have even more so if there was a second veg main. Rita’s is welcoming and fun, serves food to be enjoyed not just for it’s taste, but the eating of. After all, fingers if dirtied, are easily wiped clean.

4 / 5

Get your hands dirty at @RitasDining

Rita’s Dining

175 Mare Street, Hackney, London E8 3RH
Phone: 020 7251 9032
Web: ritasbaranddining.com

Reviewer: Jared, July 26, 2014

Square Meal

Rita's Bar & Dining on Urbanspoon

Freestyle diary: #ShopFreeWeek

Prep now, use later. Lentils, leavening bread, caramelised onions.

I took a little week out just lately, went to the country and totally switched off. No phone, no twitter. Not much of anything really. I had a real detox from the noise, tweets and mobile devices of modern living. It was bliss.

When I got back, handsman helpfully pointed out that perhaps my kitchen was in need of a detox too. I took a peak in the cupboards. Loving a culinary challenge, I took his feedback on board, and decided to have a #ShopFreeWeek.

The rules were simple:

  1. No food shopping.
  2. Cook/Eat at home.
  3. Do a little clearing out.

I’ll just get it out there: I had quite a lot more than I realised. Rose water expired in 2012. Persian rose flowers which I thought were still good, but weren’t. Three types of fruit syrup or reduction in the freezer. At least 1kg of flour and 2 separate sealed containers of icing sugar, both of which I had forgotten about.

From left. A secret weapon: salad growing on the balcony. A handicap: the fridge was almost empty.

From left. A secret weapon: salad growing on the balcony. A handicap: the fridge was almost empty.

And while I’m bearing all, I must admit to one cheating moment: I forgot I had a veg box delivery scheduled; and a secret weapon: the massive container of lettuce and rocket growing on my balcony.

But for the rest of the week, I stuck to the rules!

Here are some highlights.

It started with salad

There were plenty of salads. This one, with cannelli beans, pine nuts and the grilled artichokes that had been in a jar in the cupboard, hiding. I topped with some mint flowers.
2014-07-21 16.26.02-1

Prep for later

I often do this, just get a whole lot of things prepped. Not knowing what they might be needed for. I roasted two heads of garlic and caramelised three red onions. I wasn’t sure what, but figured they’d come in handy.

Prep now, use later. Lentils, leavening bread, caramelised onions.

Prep now, use later. Lentils, leavening bread, caramelised onions.

Breaking bread

With time to spare I decided to bake some bread. Two batches, one with kalamata olives, another with the caramalised onions.

The first batch with olives. A bit of an experiment.

The first batch with olives. A bit of an experiment.

The second, was an improvement on the first. If you will. Caramalised onion, plus rosemary. I added a little extra salt and let it leaven longer. It was lighter, tastier.

The second, was an improvement (if you will). Caramalised onion, plus rosemary. I added a little extra salt and let it leaven longer. It was lighter, tastier.

Plenty of pasta

I’ve always got tinned tomatoes in the cupboard and dried pasta. So I mixed a bunch of tomatoes up into a super rich tomato sauce with plenty of smoked paprika and a touch of chilli. I had some on fettuccine, but kept some for later. Such sauces always come in handy.

Fettuccine with smokey tomato sauce.

Fettuccine with smokey tomato sauce.

There were always going to be a lot of beans

Veggie kitchen + using up dry goods can mean only one thing right? Plenty of beans. But they were put to good use.

This roast garlic hummus was sensational. Six cloves of garlic, roasted, then blended with chickpeas, extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice and tahnini.

Roast garlic hummus in the making.

Roast garlic hummus in the making.

Some brie, the garlic hummus, bread and artichoke salad were great picnic snacks, but I needed a lentil, bean and basmati salad to make it go a little further. Dressed with fresh chives (again from the balcony), dried chilli flakes, white vinegar, sesame and groundnut oils.

Contrary to popular belief, you don't need to stop at M&S before your picnic.

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to stop at M&S before your picnic.

Waste not want not

And again, not wanting to waste anything. I saved half the basmati salad and made a lentil ragu with the rest of the smokey tomato sauce. It sure did me for lunch the next day.

Smoked tomato lentil ragu, basmati and broad been "pilaf".

Smoked tomato lentil ragu, basmati and broad been “pilaf”.

Let them have cake

Perhaps most shocking, was I had all the ingredients for a delicious cake. Some orange and cardamom syrup was in the freezer, along with some plums I had stewed. Together with my regular dry stores, I had all the makings for a fab cake: Orange and Cardamom almond cake with Plum and Pistachio frosting.

A sugar high to end #shopfreeweek.

A sugar high to end #shopfreeweek.

What a week. The scariest thing is, I’ve hardly made a dent in the dry cupboard. Perhaps I should do this again!

@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