Monday, 29 December 2014
This write-up has been a while coming. We've been to eat at Colmans more often than anywhere else I can think of, both before and since I started electronically recounting these gastro-ventures. The up side of this is that, unlike most places where I'll go once, declare it to be good, average or crap (as if my subjective experience on one particular night can be extrapolated from) I can fairly claim to be something of an authority on this place. I might even be worth listening to. The quid pro quo is that I'm personally invested in the things that come from their fryers; we decided some time ago that the fish and chips here are better than any around, and have brought legions of friends over the years. Such is the dilemma of expertise. Still, you can make your own mind up for under a tenner, so let's not lose any sleep over it, ok?
Sunday, 21 December 2014
Well today was a bit of a stinker and no mistake, the type of Sabbath which might drive Alan Partridge to exclaim "Sunday, bloody Sunday!" Not only did the mackems dole yet out another dose of misery to those of a black and white persuasion, but it looks very much like scenes such as the one above may soon be consigned to the scrapbook. We popped down to the plot to find a couple of notices saying that the Freemen of the City are now minded to shut the allotments down.
Wednesday, 17 December 2014
I'm writing this having just sat through Newcastle not turning up to a major cup tie for the ump-bloody-teenth time, partly to remind myself of a fairer day, not so long ago at all. 2-0 against Chelsea was a remarkable reprise of the previous year's performance against Jose's lot. Chelsea sympathising friends were up visiting for a spot of football and merriment. Needing somewhere to round all this off I suggested House of Tides, thinking an expertly done Sunday roast would be an ideal coda to a fun weekend.
Tuesday, 2 December 2014
"We should totally go there for food sometime". God knows how many times, peering inside as we scampered down towards The Sage, we've said that about Raval. An Indian menu that avoids the usual Bangla-tastic clichés, some luxurious ingredients and a recommendation from no less a curry fanatic than Cliff Richard: there's plenty going on here to pique the interest. En route to what turned out to be one of the best gigs I've ever seen (John Grant- honestly, what a bloody show) we finally did what we'd threatened to for about five years and popped into Raval for a pre-music dinner.
Saturday, 22 November 2014
Today was the first time we'd visited the allotment in about a month. Happily it's still there and looking much the same as the last time we were down. If you're going to neglect your patch of ground, this is a good time of year to do it, as the shortening days and plunging temperatures put everything into stasis. We've defo made the right choice in downsizing our commitment to the plot; as much as we love doing this veg thing, there are too many other bits of life that take up significant chucks of time as well.
Wednesday, 19 November 2014
I tell you, it's not as easy as you might think to find somewhere for a fancy lunch in London on a Monday ( I know, isn't life hard sometimes?) A lot of the places on my "next time we're down there" list were closed; I suppose the quieter days are the weekend of the catering world, and fair enough. After a bit of a scout around we settled on The Square for what, with the arrival of some good news, was to be a bit of a celebratory meal. Possessed of a pair of étoilés Michelin, and sister restaurant of the completely wonderful The Ledbury, The Square is a long-time mainstay of francophile cuisine in the heart of Mayfair. Chef and co-owner Phil Howard has been on the telly a bit recently, and comes across as a very thoughtful and considered character, and a chef focused on a quite classical brand of excellence, rather than being in thrall to any particular fad. After a busy weekend of catching up with various London-based comrades we were ready and primed for a top feed.
Monday, 3 November 2014
It's amazing what, lacking actual experience, you can convince yourself of; things that haven't happened yet are unsullied by the weight of their own reality. We are ever-hopeful creatures, seemingly hard-wired for optimism. Nothing else, for example, can explain the way I look forward to the start of a new football season. Who is is to say that the few players signed over the summer won't turn out to be world beaters? No-one, not yet at least. I vaguely remember promising myself after some grim experience or other that I would never again eat in the Metrocentre, but I broke that personal covenant recently. We were there for a film, it was a school night, and - what was this? - a Japanese place I'd never heard of. And therein lied it's attraction; in a sea of Waga this and Pizza that, Ikuze had all the promise of the untried.
Sunday, 26 October 2014
With some foods, a little context and a bit of understanding can go a long way to aid enjoyment. The first time I ate Bigos, I'd not long been going out with Kasia, and we were in a Polish restaurant. Noting from the menu that it is a hunter's stew, and not realising that two different types of cabbage go into the stuff, I ordered a side portion of pickled cabbage. I decided there and then that Polish food was just irredeemably cabbagey, and not for me. Since then I've had my fair share of Bigos at countless meals at Kasia's parent's and on a trip to Poland, not to mention chez nous, and I've gotten to love it. It's a hearty one-pot wonder of a stew, a sweet/sour umami-bomb of autumnal satisfaction. We used our own cabbage and carrots, only hours out of the ground, which probably did no harm. But fret thee not if yours aren't quite as fresh, for the key ingredient in this dish is time. Lots and lots of time.
This and last weekends have seen the customary autumnal tidy-up work proceed in earnest. Except, there hasn't been a great deal of work going on, which is the bit I like about this time of year. Weeds are only growing at a shuffling pace and the veg being harvested is hardy enough that if you don't get it today it'll be fine in a week. The weather has been fine too, sporting that fine combo of warm sun and cool air, making the plot a nice spot to just sit and be.
Friday, 17 October 2014
You're not short of interesting lunch options in Manchester these days which is a good job bearing in mind the fanny-on we had before settling on a venue for this one. Aiden Byrne's Manchester House was the first choice, but we left it too late. No table for us. The Aumbry in Prestwich seemed a solid back-up suggestion and I was looking forward to seeing how much of Mary-Ellen McTague's fun-looking cooking from GBM would make it onto the lunch menu. Not to be; I got a call a week ahead saying they were closing the place for a refurb. And so finally to the rather fancy city-centre Midland Hotel, and Simon Rogan's Mr Cooper's House and Gardens.
Monday, 6 October 2014
There's some fine eating to be had around the Quayside these days, much of it bearing the imprimatur of Terry Laybourne. Cafe 21, Caffe Vivo and The Broad Chare are all within the lob of an olive pip's distance from each other. Must be handy if the ice machine breaks down, or you get shafted on a cheese delivery. The last man to hold a Michelin star in this fair city, these days Laybourne's places are more about good food at a reasonable price. The Broad Chare was just awarded a Bib Gourmand for doing that exact thing. On a rare weekday sans travail, we had a very enjoyable shuffle round the river (The Daniel Buren thing at Baltic is great, especially when the sun shines- you've got until 12th October before it packs up) before, after much indecision and the toss of a coin, we headed for Cafe Vivo.
Sunday, 5 October 2014
A couple of weekends away, like the ones we've had recently, are all it takes for things to get unruly in allotment land. We spent a few hours down there today harvesting bits and bobs and having a well-needed tidy. There is an extra impetus to get all our veg out of one side of the allotment as we've decided, after some deliberation, that having the whole plot is a bit of a stretch and so we've offered it up for newcomers. Better to do half a plot well than constantly be chasing our tail, or planting great swathes of minimum-effort veg; that's the thinking anyway.
Saturday, 4 October 2014
I'd watched, and hugely enjoyed, the first 4 or 5 episodes of Netflix's House of Cards, starring Kevin Spacey and Directed by David Fincher, when I read an article about why the online streamer had been confident enough to throw $100m at the project in the first place. Basically, they'd noticed from their data that a shit-load of subscribers watched the entirety of Fincher's stuff on their service; ditto Spacey's back catalogue. Meanwhile, the original BBC version of the political thriller had garnered a surprisingly high number of streams. x+y+z= SURE FIRE HIT! All of a sudden I felt slightly used, if not outright soiled. The programme that I had thought I'd stumbled upon serendipitously turned out to have been custom bloody designed for People Like Me; they'd sussed out what I liked, fed it straight back to me, and guess what? I'd lapped that shit right up. I gorged on the rest of the thing, enjoyed it plenty, but with a newly jaundiced hint of quease.
Wednesday, 1 October 2014
Since Eldon Square has been getting redeveloped I've seen the odd poster in there claiming that some sort of premium food options are in the pipeline. This is surely well needed as, unless I'm just not noticing them, there are very few decent spots to grab something tasty on those occasions when, for whatever reason, you just have to venture in there. Every time I walk past Spud-U-Like and it's offer of a potato, beans and cheese for £4.49 - now there's some mark-up! - I'm struck by the dearth of imagination invested in Eldon Square's eateries. In which desert, St Sushi sticks out as a verdant oasis.
Tuesday, 23 September 2014
How much is your integrity worth? I had cause to find out the value of my own recently when I received a nice email from from a company called Beer52. Eight bottles of beer, that's my price. In my defence I should say that since I started flinging these gobbets of screed into the electro-ether I have not exactly been inundated with offers of free stuff, and those that have arrived have been easy to turn down on account of falling into either the "weird" or "crap" categories. The offer of 8 actual bottles of booze in exchange for a few words seemed more than fair, although I did wonder how I'd live with myself if the beer wasn't up to snuff. What a relief all round then, as I can in fact report that Beer52 are doing a cracking job, both in terms of the service they provide and the beers they dish up. Plus, I've got a money-off code for you to have a bash at, of which more later.
Monday, 15 September 2014
September has provided some us some serious gluts as well a couple of useful lessons, all set to a soundtrack of ominous, if not outright grim, undertones. More on that last bit later, but first here's some of what we've hauled in and been otherwise up to as the days shorten and cool.
Thursday, 11 September 2014
According to no less an authority than Beardy McPirate, we have reached "peak burger". Burgers are on less menus in the UK than they were a year ago, although you'd be hard pressed to tell that from a quick mooch round recently opened restaurants in these parts; that down n' dirty menu vibe just keeps on trucking. If however at some point in the not-too-distant we see a move away from Americana to whatever's trendy in London three years prior (something that looks like the Clove Club please), some of our less brilliant burgeries may be in trouble.
Sunday, 7 September 2014
In these times of ferment and flux, it's comforting to find something that hasn't really changed in years. Not in the interests of nostalgia, but actually to negate the need for it; when you find something, years later, just as you left it then there's no need to pine for the past. Which brings us to a seriously decent brunch in Heaton.
Tuesday, 2 September 2014
With friends visiting from darn sarf, we spent an excellent day and night at Kasia's folks caravan in Northumberland recently. Being right on the beach it's perfect for strolls along the sand which can often be beautifully and eerily lonesome affairs, as tourists eschew this particular stretch in favour of the better known destinations such as Bamburgh and Seahouses. Fine by us. A hard day's paddling demands the cadence of a decent feed, one which we hoped to find at Hooked in the ever-pretty village of Alnmouth.
Tuesday, 26 August 2014
A couple of hours were wrested from a busy bank holiday on Sunday morning and spent among the crops and weeds. After a storming July, August has been decidedly nippy, with wild talk of frosts in those sheltered rural areas that seem so inclined to it. It was therefore very nice to feel the the heat of the sun chase away the last of the dew as we worked.
Wednesday, 20 August 2014
There was a story on the news tonight about how homo sapiens are now thought to have spent a good few thousand years alongside our neanderthal cousins before the latter bit the dust, trading, exchanging and even mating with them. Well, we saw some powerful evidence for the existence of unevolved barbarian DNA in the gene pool when we went down to the allotments last night. After a period of relative and very enjoyable calm, the marauding turds that have taken it upon themselves to vandalise the water supply in the past have had another go.
Sunday, 17 August 2014
...I knew him, Horatio. Although thinking about it, people usually give inanimate things the female gender, don't they? And you're almost certainly not called Horatio, so what the hell am I on about? Oh well, at least I didn't get the quote wrong like everyone always does. Never mind Shakey Bill, the big news I'm trying to communicate here is that our polytunnel is shafted. Again.
Wednesday, 6 August 2014
About halfway through our meal at Fatoush I realised, in a rare moment of clarity, why it is that I like Lebanese food so much. It's basically a big old barbecue! There's a whole bunch of salads, dips and breads to get things going before the main event - great wodges of meat grilled over flames of varying intensity - demands everyone's attention. It's a convivial way of eating which lends itself to sharing. Civility and deliciousness all at once, what else could a person want? Saying that, it's still perfectly possible to mess up this kind of stuff, resulting in neither of those fine outcomes. Thankfully that was not the case at Fatoush, a newish joint up the top of Westgate road where we recently enjoyed a cracking rendition of Lebanese favourites.
Sunday, 3 August 2014
Just in case you think it's not actually us that does the work on our plot - I noticed the other day that all the pics on here are of veg, without any evidence of who's toil produced it - here's me digging up some onions. In a couple of hours at the plot we managed to get on with some harvesting and weeding, and sowed some green manure which will be a first for us if it germinates.
Thursday, 31 July 2014
I might as well say it straight off the bat: if I know anything about any food, then Japanese is not it. In the unlikely event that you're here in search of some sort of, I don't know, expertise, then sorry, but the next few hundred words are set to disappoint. Is the food they're serving up in Osaka - that most contentious of words - authentic? No idea. Does it conform to the conventions of any particular region of that place? Not a clue. I've had my fair share of chicken katsu and half-arsed sushi in my time but that's about it. As blind a guide as I may be, what I can tell you is that the food we had in Osaka went down a treat and I reckon it's well worth your consideration.
Wednesday, 30 July 2014
You'll no doubt be relieved to hear that the lack of recent allotment-based noise coming from these parts does not result from a total failure of the harvest, but slightly the opposite. Trips to the plot currently resemble a vegetal version of supermarket sweep as we career around, trying to keep on top of harvesting/watering/weeding. We've got more food resulting from our toil than we've ever had before, resulting in straightforward meals of salads and roast veg, enlivened with a sprinkle of za'atar here and a splash of sriracha there. The weather has been great in this corner, verging on heatwave conditions. I stole a few hours at the plot Saturday gone, managing to give our parched plants a rare morning drink before it got too damn hot to dig.
Monday, 21 July 2014
Since we had a mostly stellar dinner at House of Tides, I had wondered if they were going to open for lunch at any stage. The cheapest midweek menu still clocks in at £45 per head, not including service etc which takes dinner here into what for us is very much the "treat zone". When I heard they were indeed opening for Sunday lunches I got us booked up and then wondered what we'd exactly we'd be eating. A full-on roast presumably, but how would this most traditional of meals look once refracted through the "casual fine dining" lense? And what would the pre and post-roast options look like? Read on.
Wednesday, 16 July 2014
There are a few things I should tell you about Cabosse, although only one thing I really want to, such is the singular, opulent brilliance of the item in question. But, in the interests of utility and context, let's set the scene a little first.
We must be either mad dogs or Englishmen, because it was sweltering in the midday sun on Saturday. Having been frolicking up in Northumberland (of which more in due course) during the first of two weeks off work, the weeds required tackling. As did the autumn-planted onions and garlic, as the first really substantial harvest of the season was undertaken in earnest.
Monday, 14 July 2014
What's the value of objectivity when trying to write a bit about food? Very little I hope, as the ensuing screed may or may not demonstrate. The idea of trying to wrench something as fleetingly ephemeral as a meal eaten, with friends, in someone else's room into the semi-permanence of words that live on the internet, the better that others might elect to have a similar experience seems daft enough to make it worthwhile. That's my excuse in any case. And so here I am, about to tell you of just such an occasion.
Sunday, 29 June 2014
Yesterday was spent pottering and picking. Weeds were trimmed and everything that needed it watered - we've had a really dry spell lately - before the fun bit of liberating food from the ground. Broad beans, peas, beetroot, kale, strawberries, radishes, chard, spinach, tarragon, borage and lovage all came home with us in varying quantities
Saturday, 21 June 2014
And so finally the harvest begins. It feels like this point has taken longer to get to than in previous years, but looking here and here shows that we're about level par; some things are further ahead and others behind where we were in each of our first two years. The headline news is that a whole bunch of food is just about to come on-stream which is pretty damn exciting.
Thursday, 19 June 2014
Scarborough is my kind of English seaside town. Just a little bit down at heel, it evokes a nostalgia for childhood holidays you either had yourself, or sense that, coming from these islands, you should have. Either way, it's hard to look now at endless rows of B&Bs, retro ice-cream parlours and two-penny falls palaces through eyes unadjusted by a lense of mild ironic detachment. But I love all this stuff. I don't think there's a more melancholy sight than a beach-side pleasure park on a drizzly November afternoon, and melancholy is one of my very favourite things. Happily enough, the pleasures in the meal we had at Jeremy's on the Saturday evening of a visit to friends on the North Yorkshire coast were neither ironic or nostalgic ones. The (excellent) choice of our hosts, Jeremy's specialises in good cooking of fine ingredients, in very sensible combinations.
Monday, 16 June 2014
Tuesday, 10 June 2014
There's a temptation when doing a bit of this eat-stuff-then-write-about-it thing, to talk about those places that are new and untested at the expense of trusted old-timers. Similarly, a meal at somewhere that is in some sense "special" seems to merit a few hundred words of effort more than one had in a regular haunt. Well, allow what follows to remedy these imbalances, at least for my own part. Thankfully a recently scoffed meal at one of our favourite local eateries was up to the normal standard to allow me to advocate for it thus.
Sunday, 8 June 2014
|Nature in action|
Wednesday, 4 June 2014
Remember the olden days, before we all turned into a bunch of aspirational food/drink-ponces? I do. I remember when, on visiting someone and being offered a tea or coffee, the sight of a jar of Gold Blend was sufficient evidence of your host being a person of taste and no little refinement. "Coffee; thanks". Simpler times. Coffee, in common with just about everything else that goes into a person's mouth and comes out as waste material, has, at the higher end, been subjected to a serious up-lift in quality over the past decade or so, with all manner of cottage industrialists springing up to cater for our allegedly more refined tastes.
Wednesday, 28 May 2014
|Brassicas go into a raised bed|
Saturday, 24 May 2014
When doing these restaurant write-ups I've spent a bare minimum of time talking about the actual interiors of the buildings in which we've been sat. I'm generally a good deal more interested in the stuff on the plate than the carpets, lights and other bits and bobs you have to throw together to create something called a "room". Maybe my priorities are changing with age, or maybe it's because recent meals out have involved a repetitive -ad nauseaum almost - diet of chemistry lab stools, exposed brick and filament light-bulbs, but The Herb Garden, sited in a railway arch just round the corner from Central Station, may just be the first restaurant in which I've enjoyed being sat there looking around more than the food itself. Not, I hasten to add, that there was anything drastically wrong with the meal we had; but the do-out is both pretty unusual and a real looker.
Thursday, 22 May 2014
|Broad bean flowers|
Saturday, 3 May 2014
|Strawberry flowers are out!|
Wednesday, 23 April 2014
|Oot the front|
Sunday, 20 April 2014
|Carrot Seeds. And my hand.|
Wednesday, 9 April 2014
Monday, 7 April 2014
|Full of chit|
Friday, 4 April 2014
Can ever a foodstuff so ostensibly humble have been so venerated, so lusted after, so - hyperbole klaxon! - fetishised as the burger? Having had to put up with some bloody awful specimens over the years, these sceptered isles have in recent times seen a wholesale improvement in standards, thanks in no small part to a certain London-based chain of grease-houses and all who followed in their slippery wake. Whole websites are now devoted to the things. My own personal epiphany came over a Dead Hippy a couple of years back. Holy effing shit! I remember thinking, as the perfectly calibrated mix of sweet, salt, meat, cheese and tang zeroed in on the cerebral cortex. Pretty much everything else has since then seemed sepia-tinged and tired by comparison, and so I'd basically given up on burgers, deciding that there's a glass ceiling on how good they can be in anything other than the most expert of hands.
Sunday, 30 March 2014
|A table with a view|
Friday, 28 March 2014
And we're up and running. A remarkably fine Sunday gave us the chance to commit our first potatoes to the soil last weekend. We dug over one of the patches that we've inherited from our former plot-mate Toni, having been given the all-clear to take over her side the the allotment. A smattering of horse manure was worked in, the usual trenches dug and in they went. We only planted our first earlies, which were Rocket and some other unknown variety (someone managed to throw out the label...), with second earlies and main croppers to go in this weekend if I get round to it. I'll be digging solo, as Kasia is out of town.
Monday, 24 March 2014
|That's going to take a while to shift...|