Monday, September 24, 2012

MEAT Liquor: Best Burger Joint in London, right next to Oxford Circus


After a night out, we were walking back home, when one of my friends started feeling hungry. There was a debate on whether we should go to McDonalds or not, when I suddenly realized we were right on Oxford Street, a few steps away from the famous Meat Liquor. 

I instantly declared we had to go there and waxed on lyrically how the burgers were supposed to be out of this world. When they asked me if I had been there, a bit deflated, I had to admit – no I hadn’t. But I had heard so much – the reviews promised such greatness and we had to go. I think to humour me, they agreed.  





It’s in the building right behind Debenhams and the interiors are intentionally grungy. It was 1 am and the kitchen had closed but the waitress was nice enough to sneak us in and place our order. I ordered the Dead Hippie – a double cheese burger with pickles, minced onions, ketchup and mustard and some crispy, stringy fries.


And after the first mouthful, I knew it was true – this was certainly the best burger I had ever had in London. The meat was of amazing quality and was so soft and juicy.  My mouth was in utter bliss.

I used to be crazy about the burgers at this place called Burger Joint in New York City (behind the curtain in the lobby of Le Parker Meridien on 56th St. between 6th & 7th Ave. in case you’re interested) – and I’ve finally found a London replacement. I practically inhaled it in one breath – it was that good. 

So good, I actually went back two days later. I told myself it was for research purposes – to find out if the food was actually that good in the light of day. The second time around I sat at the bar and had the Swiss cheese burger with mushrooms. And it was just as amazing as before. I’ve officially fallen for Meat Liquor – hook, line and sinker.


MEATLiquor

74 Welbeck Street London W10 GBA
Tube: Oxford Circus



MEATliquor on Urbanspoon

Square Meal

Inside MEAT Liquor

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Epicurely feast with Chef Josh Posner


I met Elco through a friend and soon we were chatting about my favourite topic – food. He’s part of the team that launched Epicurely– a website for people to find out about all food events in London or even host their own event.

There are some great supper clubs in London but it’s hard to find information on them. You usually have to be on a mailing list or hear about it through a recommendation from a friend. Epicurely is perfect if you want to attend a supper club and check out all your options in one place.

When he mentioned the next feast that was being organized, I was quite keen to check it out. I think supper clubs are great way for budding chefs to showcase their talent. Too often you really never get to see or meet the chefs behind the amazing dishes you eat.

So one Friday night after work, my friend O. and I went to the featured Epicurely feast – an 8 course meal by Chef Josh Posner. Josh is a young chef with some serious street cred – he’s worked at Roganic and with James Knappett at Bubbledogs& - 2 of the most talked about restaurants in London

That's the chef - Josh Posner plating away

Initially, I wasn't thrilled with the location of dinner at Acton Town near Ealing since it was quite a trek across London from where I worked. But in the end, it turned out quite well as it was a cooking school that was conveniently right outside the tube stop. And since we sat around the chef’s counter, we could see Josh cook and plate right in front of us which was fun and interactive – something you normally don't get when dining at a restaurant.

The minimum contribution was £18 and at the end of the meal I was quite happy to put in a little extra with £25.  It was great value for money – good food, fun conversation, new people, and a chef who put in so much thought and effort - made it quite special 

I had met Josh before and had an idea of what the menu would be like - lots of unexpected pairings and each course had a number of components. I did wonder how it would all get executed. And the verdict - he was pretty flawless with his execution. Despite chatting with us through out, he didn't miss a beat. He plated everything so beautifully, seemed totally in control and more importantly, like he was really enjoying himself - which I think definitely set a good vibe around the table.

Cured salmon belly, gin, dill, wild fennel and vanilla

The first course was cured salmon belly with dill, wild fennel and a dressing made of gin, juniper, lemon and vanilla. The salmon belly was gorgeous but I felt the vanilla didn’t really belong and overpowered the rest of the dressing.


Black bread crisp, beef dripping mustard, pickled shallot

Next were tiny little brown bread crisps that had a dab of mustard made using beef dripping and pickled shallots.  Unfortunately, I found the mustard too strong and couldn’t really taste the beef dripping but my friend O. did, so maybe it was the one I had. 

We then had baby potatoes cooked in a terracotta pot – homage to his Grandmother’s cooking. The potatoes had an intense, earthy flavour that I couldn’t quite place but wanted more of and came with a brown butter emulsion that was delicious and pickled cucumber slices.

Terracotta potato, brown butter emulsion, cucumber, yarrow

The fourth course was one my favourites - Braised Shallots in rice wine served in a bowl of chicken broth with blackberries and marjoram leaves. It made quite a pretty picture and the simple shallot was elevated by tasty chicken broth. I couldn’t get enough of the broth and ended up spooning what was left out of the bowl!

Xiao xing braised shallot, pickled unripe blackberries, marjoram, cooking juices
Then came the Roasted Cauliflowers covered in a mushroom glaze served with a chicken and sherry vinaigrette and toasted sliced almonds. I love how with the shallots and this dish, Josh makes the vegetable the main focus on the plate. I didn't even realize we hadn't yet had a meat course. This was one of the top dishes of the night for me. Who knew cauliflowers could taste so good – the mushroom glaze in theory sounded a bit strange but actually added a nice savoury taste.


Mushroom glazed cauliflower, chicken and sherry vinaigrette, toasted almonds, celery seeds, sorrel

I think one of Josh’s strengths as a cook is how he makes his sauces. Whether it was a purée or broth or emulsion, he was pretty much spot on with taste and seasoning.

Pork neck and tenderloin, burnt creme fraiche, baby leek, roasted hazelnuts, turnips, pork sauce

My favourite course of the night was the Pork neck and Tenderloin. Two cuts of meat paired with roasted hazelnuts, burnt crème fraiche, leeks, turnips and a sprinkle of crackling. Full of porky goodness and so utterly satisfying. I really liked the addition of the roasted hazelnuts. I’ve never had Pork neck before and I quite enjoyed eating it.

The pre-dessert was Ricotta and Greengage (a type of plum) seasoned with white pepper and tarragon. 

Ricotta, greengage, tarragon, olive oil

The last course was Baked Figs with blackberries, damsom plum jam, and yoghurt – sprinkled with oats and violet petals. The petals were a nice touch, making the dessert look really eye-catching.

Baked fig, allspice oats, yoghurt, blackberries, violet, damson jam.

Oh yes and if you're curious to check it out: this is the Epicurely website and here is the link to Josh’s profile. I'm pretty sure Josh is going to be hosting a lot more dinners. This meal was the perfect combination of quality food from a professional chef and the easy intimacy of being at a dinner party with friends. I’m looking forward to seeing what feasts are going to be coming up on Epicurely.

What I really wasn't expecting was how much I would enjoy the social element. It was fun meeting a whole new bunch of people, who all have at least one thing in common - the love of eating well! So I think the Epicurely concept is great - bringing people together over food and in this case that's by organising feasts featuring young and upcoming chefs like Josh.


Thanks for the lovely meal, Josh!


Saturday, September 8, 2012

Sakura: Authentic, reasonably priced Japanese food in Mayfair




I don't usually expect a restaurant in Mayfair to be wallet-friendly, especially a Japanese restaurant. However, dinner at Sakura pleasantly debunked that notion since the bill came up to £15 per person. 


Located  just off of Regents Street, it does appear to mainly cater for the Mayfair office crowd but I think it's perfect if you're in the area and looking for reasonably priced, authentic Japanese meal.



Grilled Pork marinated in Miso

Prawn and Vegetable Tempura
We ordered a bunch of grilled items from the Chef's Specials on the menu: the Grilled Pork marinated in Miso, Salmon belly and Asparagus with Salt and of course some light crispy prawn and vegetable tempura. And I have to credit them for having the best Miso soup ever. I couldn't get enough of it. It's always a good sign, if the simple, understated Miso soup is a winner.


Salmon Belly marinated in Miso

So for some simple, authentic, no-frills Japanese food in Mayfair, try Sakura.  Word of warning - you have to reserve and I've heard they are extremely fussy if you show up late or if all the people in you're group don't show up together. 

Sakura

23 Conduit Street London W1S 2XS
Tel: 0207 629 2961 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            0207 629 2961      end_of_the_skype_highlighting
Tube: Oxford Circus/Bond Street

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Tayyabs vs. Lahore Kebab House: Battle of the best curry house in Bricklane

Chicken wings and Naans
If you're wandering along Brick Lane craving for some kebabs and a good curry, don't get lured into one of the many curry houses by the promise of free drinks and other shady offers. Anyone who's lived long enough in London has learned not give in to temptation but head straight to real deal - Tayyabs in Whitechapel or Lahore Kebab House on Commercial Road. There's been fierce debate on which restaurant does the best grilled kebabs or whose lamb chops are the most succulent. Having been to both, here's the lowdown:

Food

I'll cut straight to the most important point: by a very slight margin, Tayyabs wins on the food. Their trump card is their lamb chops - dry rubbed with spices and grilled to perfection,  were a shade better than Lahore, which were good but seemed more thinner and leaner. On the rest of the grilled food, I'd say they are both equal, you can't go wrong ordering a mixed grill platter of delicately spiced sheesh kebabs, the infamous lamb chops and fail safe chicken kebabs. 

If you go to Tayyabs, you must order the dry meat. I know its the strangest name for a dish but its essentially slow cooked lamb that is soft and tender and of course, indulge yourself and have a garlic butter naan. 


Lamb Chops
Atmosphere

I much prefer the airy, well- ventilated large space of Lahore Kebab House though it does feel like a school cafeteria. Tayyebs is much smaller and is always packed to the brim. There are queues outside, inside, people standing everywhere AND most important, you will smell of curry for the next two days if you eat at Tayyabs. I am utterly serious - unfortunately it's not very well-ventilated. After you wake up from your food coma from eating that amazing meal, your clothes and even your hair will still be smelling of that amazing meal as well. Both places are BYOB and take reservations for large groups - it's much easier to get reservation at Lahore's since its bigger.


Service

Well, given how popular and cheap both places are, don't expect a fine dining experience. However, the waiters are helpful  when you're asking for a recommendation. Oh and bring cash - Tayyabs had only 1 card machine for the entire restaurant which meant a bit of painful wait to pay. The bill came around to about 13£ in both places - so given amount of delicious food you eat, it's great value for money.

I guess you can tell which one I prefer - Lahore Kebab House, pretty much the same quality of food and more convenient. However, if you are brave of heart and don't mind smelling like curry for a day or just less fussy than me, definitely check out Tayyabs.

Either one you choose - you can't go wrong. It's quite an experience.

Feel free to leave a comment if you've been to either or let me know which one you prefer. I'd be interested to know what popular opinion is on Tayyabs vs. Lahore Kebab House.

Tayyabs

83-89 Fieldgate Street London E1 1JU
Tel: 020 7247 6400
Tube: Whitechapel


Tayyabs on Urbanspoon

Square Meal

Lahore Kebab House

2-10 Umberston Street London E1 1pY
Tel: 020 7481 9737
Tube: Whitechapel / Aldgate East / Aldgate


Lahore Kebab House on Urbanspoon