Monday, 8 November 2010

Khans, Clapham Junction, SW11

J&J were visiting from San Diego and have a well known penchant for all food Indian but we didn’t want anything too fancy for a casual Friday night supper nor did we want to venture West End so Khans in Clapham Junction was right on the money.
Upon arrival in the pouring rain the door swung open and a waiter blocking the doorway greeted us with “yyyeeeessss??” After managing to convince him that we did indeed have a booking we were allowed inside to wait whilst the previous occupants of our table finished up and left. Definitely a popular place to indulge in a curry fest on a Friday night! 
Poppadums and chutneys were delivered promptly, nothing unusual in terms of chutneys, the usual mango, chillied pickles, onion cucumber offerings but all were tasty.
J&J tend to go vegetarian so opted for a vegetable korma and a pumpkin masala.   Being resolutely carnivorous (and also allergic to pumpkin) I can only go by their description but I’m told that the masala was quite spicy but bursting with flavour and texture.  It did also look quite pretty rather than the unidentifiable blobs in sloppy sauce that can be presented in some Indian restaurants. The vegetable korma was really delicious and even I might not have noticed the absence of meat as the sauce was so good. As kormas go it was a very sweet version with lots of coconut but this is a plus in my book. Steamed rice was nice and fluffy and lightly flavoured with cardamom. Garlic naan was not the most garlicky tasting bread I’d ever had but a subtle flavour is definitely preferable to the whole chunks of garlic you often get in Indian restaurants.

I chose a chicken pasanda badani which was chicken in a cream and saffron based sauce with pistachios. It had a very mild flavour but was enjoyable. I love that the curries are all kept warm on hostess trays, this is something that I thought had been dying out but very much still happens at the Khan.
The thing I like most about Khans is that they don’t use any ghee or colourings in their food. Anything containing cream or coconut cream is labelled on the menu so you are making a conscious choice to go for the less healthy option.
Ordinarily anything heralded as low fat or additive free sends me running for the hills as the resulting dish is usually a poor cousin to the one that you really wish you were eating but in this case I genuinely felt it was for the better. Sometimes clear evidence of fat in a dish makes you know it’s going to taste good, for example shiny pork crackling or an oozing creamy carbonara sauce however I’ve eaten many an Indian meal where the slick of orangey fat on the surface of a curry doesn’t make you think ooh “I’m in for a treat here”, more a case of “can I pour some off without anyone noticing?”.
My only gripe is that some of the waiters appear to have attended the Indian restaurant school of customer service where there must be training module 101 in upselling dishes as the practice is so ubiquitous. “Poppadums? You’ll have 3 each?” “no thanks just 2 each” “You’re sure?”  and then later on; “no starters only mains? And sharing rice and naan, not each?” Desperate times call for desperate measures I guess as even after our bill had been requested and arrived “Can we get you anything more, drink? food?”
We ate on a offer of 40% off which meant that the total bill came to £30 for 3 including beers. Bargain.
I haven’t tried it (but definitely will do!) but you appear to be able to order for delivery online also.
159 Lavender Hill, Battersea, London, SW11 5QH   
Khan's on Urbanspoon

UPDATE: I have now had Khan's delivered to home on more than one occasion and was really impressed, decent discounts are offered for home delivery and the food was just as good quality, can highly recommend!

Friday, 5 November 2010

Hawksmoor, Seven Dials

I was in Covent Garden to see Deathtrap at the Noel Coward Theatre (Simon Russell Beale, Jonathon Groff, well worth seeing.....) and had booked a post-theatre table at Hawksmoor as soon as I heard it was opening this week. Having spent some time looking at the menu online and salivating over the prospect of big juicy steaks I found that whilst the play was good my subconscious focus was definitely on dinner.
 Hawksmoor is located in a  converted disused brewery tucked away inconspicuously on the far corner of Langley street past the fluorescent glare of Cafe Pacifico and Pineapple Dance Studios, the restaurant and bar both have real character. Considering its central Covent Garden location you also know that people dining there are in there because they really want to be rather than because they wandered past it accidentally.I really loved the interior of Hawksmoor which whilst contemporary was all dark woods, blackbloards and low lighting (hence the lightly dodgy photo quality!). It made me wonder what it would have been like to dine in one of the Victorian steak clubs that Hawksmoor models itself on.
Fancy gin cocktail
The cocktail list moves away from the classics and the predictable and focuses more on old fashioned cocktails. A “fancy gin cocktail” consisted of gin, cane sugar and lime and was tasty, not overly sweet and really packed a powerful punch, it was quite reminiscent of New York style martinis.
Not a great photo but nice lobster nonetheless!
I ordered the half Devon Blue lobster with Hazelnut butter to start. I have to admit that the hazelnut was being very subtle indeed and had masqueraded itself very effectively as garlic butter. Since I love garlic butter this was not ultimately a problem but I remain intrigued as to what hazelnut tastes like with lobster. The lobster itself was really succulent, sweet and felt like a good size portion for its price (£15). I would definitely both recommend it and have it again.
H chose the bone marrow and slow cooked onions to start at £5.50. The onions had been cooked in beef dripping and were sensationally good. It came with slices of toasted sourdough bread to heap the onions and marrow onto before shovelling quickly into your mouth.

From a panopoly of steak options I went for a rib eye steak for my main topped with stilton hollandaise.   The whole “subtle flavours” thing arose again at this point. Essentially if I had been doing the Masterchef taste chef on the sauce, stilton would not have featured on my list of perceived ingredients. It was still tasted an accomplished and tasty rendition of a hollandaise sauce but didn’t have the blue cheese flavour I’d been hoping for. The steak itself was cooked to perfection and had a nice flavour and more than met my appetite for a large slab of cow. The chargrill flavour that permeated both the lobster and my steak was full of flavour without being overpowering.
D Rump + egg
H ordered a 55 day hung D Rump on the basis that neither of us had ever eaten anything that had hung for that long before. At less than £20 for 400g it was an excellent choice and was a lovely cut. To be honest I kind of wished that I had ordered it too (despite my rib eye being lovely) as the grain of the meat was good and the depth of colour of the meat exceptional. I’m assured that the addition of two fried eggs for £3 was also well worth it.
We conducted a scientifically accurate* chip test between the beef dripping chips and the triple cooked chips (*not scientific really). The dripping chips were more like wedges and were, frankly, delicious. Crispy and rich on the outside but fluffy soft on the inside. Whilst the triple cooked chips were nice (and would have been more than acceptable had I never tried the beef chips) they didn’t rock my world so I know what I would have on a return visit to Hawksmoor. I still have a burnt mouth today from eating them too quickly!
Beef & Liberty: excellent!
Side orders of roasted field mushrooms and creamed spinach arrived. The field mushrooms were truly excellent and I could have merrily eaten a dish of them as a starter on another occasion. The spinach was, well, spinach. It was indeed creamed and perfectly presentable but as H said there was a “curious edge” to it that neither of us could pinpoint.
All in all portion sizes are huge and you will leave stuffed even if you only have a main course. I will definitely be visiting Hawksmoor again. The atmosphere was buzzy and a real mixed crowd from girls having gossipy dinners a deux to tables of macho guys phhwoaring over their steaks. The menu and style of Hawksmoor is not so dissimilar to that of Hix Oyster & Chop House but if I were to choose between  them then Hawksmoor wins for me both in terms of food and atmosphere. I would love to visit with a group and order a giant cut from one of the blackboards regularly updated by waiters as steaks are purchased. 1.4kg of chateaubriand anyone?!

Hawksmoor (Seven Dials) on Urbanspoon

Friday, 29 October 2010

Ferran Adria at the Royal Geographical Society

I had received an email from Phaidon publicising their latest culinary publications with a small note that both Colman Andrews and Ferran Adria would both be discussing the book at the Royal Geographical Society; no need to ask twice, I'm there!

Having set off early to thwart the killjoys that think the weekend is a good time to have engineering works on the District Line, I accidentally arrived at the RGS an hour early. I was met by a queue beginning to snake its way down Exhibition Road populated with lots of excited but very chic Spaniards.

The evening started with a video depicting autumn at El Bulli. Graphic images of hare being shot and butchered mixed with footage of how the famous “spherification” process works were shown alongside visual explanations of how the dishes are put together. Slightly overly artsy and bordering on pretentious but interesting nonetheless to see some of the techniques of the chefs at work.

US food author Colman Andrews, who has written a recent biography of Adria (details below) acted as interviewer for the evening and gave his own insights and experiences of the world of chefs and haute cuisine.

Ferran himself is very mediterranean in his mannerisms, his responses to many of the questions being evasive but still electric in their enthusiasm (example: Q. “Which is better sex or food?” A. “Why do I have to choose, I want both!”). Although he understands English quite well his spoken English is cautious and thickly accented so a translator was brought in. None of his natural charisma or humour was lost in translation however.

After some questions from Colman the floor was thrown open to questions from the audience some of which were bordering on the ridiculous (Q. “I’m a housewife, can I cook your recipes and do you offer cooking classes?”) others more insightful and interesting (Q. “if you could cook for any three people who would you cook for?” A. “Mick Jagger, Johann Kreuff and Picasso”).
A revealing element of proceedings was when both Adria and Andrews were asked for their perspective on the culture of the “celebrity tv chef”. It was apparent that Andrews has no time for Gordon Ramsay and he highlighted that many tv chefs have no formal kitchen training (naming Rachel Ray of US fame). More surprising was Adria’s praise for Jamie Oliver who he appears to hold in high esteem especially in relation to his approach to making cookery accessible and encouraging healthy eating.

The big news was the apparent misreporting in the media that El Bulli is set to close. Ferran assured the audience animatedly (and with the assistance of a whiteboard and marker pen?!) that this is not true. The entire staff is being given a two year sabbatical to go and travel and experience new foods and cultures. They will then reconvene in 2012 and will begin a new venture that seemed somewhat nebulous in concept (although some of this may have due to translation). Essentially it appears as though El Bulli will reopen and become a collective where chefs, artists and designers all work together on new ideas. No reservations will be taken and decisions on who will be invited to come and dine may be themed, Adria have an example of perhaps having a time when only children can come.

So ultimately it still looks as though I will never get to dine at El Bulli but at least I enjoyed an evening with Ferran..........

Reinventing Food: Ferran Adria. The Man Who Changed The Way We Eat by Colman Andrews.

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Food I like: Moo Yong

Moo Yong is strange stuff. The closest description I can offer is that it is “sweet pork fluff”. It’s kind of like a combination of pork scratching and candy floss. I openly admit and am quite aware that this isn’t an altogether attractive mental image but somehow it just works and I find it rather addictive. I’ve never found it yet in the UK but would love to hear if anyone has seen it!

It is known as "rousong" in China and is made by stewing pork in a sweet soy sauce. Once cooked to the point where strands of pork can be teased apart as finely as possible, the mixture is dried and hey presto, pork floss!

Friday, 2 April 2010

Gazette, London SW12

The original Gazette is in Battersea SW11 and any reviews that I have seen have always been good, recommending the simple but effective menu and genuine Gallic style brasserie feeling. I had high hopes that the Balham outpost would live up to these reports.

The upstairs of Gazette is quite small and, I am sure, is light and airy on a nice sunny day or balmy summer evening. On an unnaturally chilly March evening, however, every new entrant was greeted by a shudder and a glare from fellow diners until the door had been firmly closed. Tables are in a long canteen style row so I wouldn’t recommend it for discreet romantic dalliances or a first date scenario. For a weekend supper with old friends it was perfect though. Tables are covered in blackboard paint and a pot of chalks is provided so once the wine starts flowing the table decoration becomes more and more elaborate. A small basket of sliced baguette was accompanied by a tower of proper salty butter; just how butter should be in my humble opinion.

H ordered scallop chowder to start whilst L went for snails in garlic butter and I chose Oeufs Cocottes Meurette. It was some time before a waiter casually informed us that, in fact, there was no scallop chowder so Han belatedly changed to mussels in white wine.

L’s snails were served in a traditional French ceramic snail plate already out of their shells (all Pretty Woman moments therefore successfully avoided!). They were in a butter of garlic and carrot.

My Oeufs Cocotte were served in quite a deep and red hot Le Creuset pan. Pancetta and mushrooms had been pan fried in butter and three eggs added with some red wine. The result was very rustic (and very salty) but tasty if not particularly aesthetically pleasing.

My main course was a sirloin steak with chips. The steak was big in surface area but quite thin which means that if you eat your steak blue like me, it’s going to be very hard for the chef to get it right. Mine was definitely rare and he didn’t do a bad job in the circumstances. I liked the way that chips were served in a pan lined with yesterday’s menu. It seemed like a quirky take on the old adage that today’s newspapers are tomorrow’s fish and chip paper. Bearnaise sauce was clearly home made in a little separate jug but had been sitting around long enough for a thick yellowy skin to form on the top.
H ordered a tomato tarte which she reported to be very tasty if not particularly over exciting. L’s cod looked small but apparently quite a lot of fish was beaten into the mash and the flavour was nice.

During our main course the neighbouring table’s starters arrived. Well, one starter arrived. It transpired that the other person had ordered the absentee scallop chowder also but this time the waiter just hadn’t bothered telling her it was non-existent. To me this seemed to sum up the standard of service in Gazette. Red wine was poured up my arm clumsily and most questions or requests were greeted with a Gallic shrug, all that was missing was “Bof” on the end of it.

One of the common themes throughout the meal was that we had to wait an unnatural amount of time between courses. As a group of girls chattering away this wasn’t a problem for us but in other circumstances could have been quite annoying. I think this delay is caused by the fact that the majority of dishes on Gazette’s menu require oven baking and whilst their habit of serving all dishes in mismatching pans or Le Creuset skillets is quirky it also means a lot of oven space must be required and the kitchen really didn’t look that big.

I ordered a chocolate soufflé for dessert which was freshly cooked to order and was massive. A hole was pierced in the top of the soufflé by the waiter and hot chocolate sauce poured in. Not only did this add a degree of theatre to proceedings but was a welcome addition as otherwise I don’t think that the dessert would have tasted particularly chocolatey.

Hmmm the “and finally”. I couldn’t decide for a while whether to include the next bit in my review but decided as it was part and parcel of our experience I really should. In the (prolonged) wait between main course and dessert I spotted some form of insect crawling across L’s jumper. Upon closer inspection (and having both lived in & visited insect ridden countries in the past) we agreed it to be a cockroach. I drew the waiter’s attention to it and his reaction was to bash it to the floor and to crack a joke about how the restaurant really didn’t appreciate it when customers brought that sort of thing to their establishment. One thing is for sure, we didn’t bring it in and I didn’t appreciate the suggestion that we did. But, as far as he was concerned that was the end of the matter and I couldn’t be bothered kicking up a fuss. Ultimately however, this incident will probably be one of the main reasons that I don’t go back to Gazette again. The food was nice enough and I loved the idea of the upcoming fondue season followed by asparagus week but the cons outweighed the pros for me. There are plenty of other nice places nearby.

1 Ramsden Rd, London, SW12 . (020) 8772 1232

Gazette on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Hix Oyster & Chop House

Getting to Hix’s was an interesting experience. As a South of the River girl with a long term history of adverse events occurring on past visits to East London, this was comparatively new territory for me. Stories of a restaurant located within spitting distance of Smithfields Market, one of the best meat markets in the world, serving fantastic steak was enough for me to brave the journey. I had been telling anyone who would listen from Wednesday onwards in great detail about the huge juicy steak that I would be eating come Saturday night so there was a lot of anticipation.

After consulting the net the logistics looked simple enough, tube to Farringdon and a 2 minute walk. This would have been fine had some mentalist at Transport for London not decided that this would be a good day to a) close two of the three lines that serve Farringdon b) close Farringdon station itself and c) not put this on the TFL website. I hate arriving late for a restaurant booking and I especially hate arriving flustered. It always, always results in the need for a big fat cocktail (well on second thoughts this part isn’t so bad so maybe I should arrive flustered more often). The restaurant staff were lovely about it so, bar a taxi across East London, no damage done. The restaurant is actually very well located down a secluded little side street just off Cowcross Street.

I started with the house cocktail known as a “Hix Fix”. Consisting of eau de vie soaked morello cherries and champagne; it was delicious but I would have liked more than one isolated cherry for my £14 (yes £14, we’re in Ritz price territory here...) . It was served in a beautiful flat, 1920’s style champagne goblet which always scores bonus points with me. Mr H opted for Mark Hix’s own brew of beer, the Hix Oyster Ale. I also liked the touch of being offered either a glass or tankard (what man is going to turn down a tankard!?) The ale itself was very dark with a bit of a treacly aftertaste. Real ale is not my thing but I’m told it was quite yummy.

As a result of a lifelong love affair with anything porcine, I couldn’t resist nibbling on some pork crackling whilst I pored over the menu. It was served with a warm apple sauce which was the right side of sweet with a little bit of a tang. For me, the actual crackling was too hard. You genuinely felt at points that dental damage could occur, perhaps it was partly because the crackling was cold. For me the perfect crackling is salty and biting causes a firm crunch and leaves your lips shiny with hot grease.

Before ordering, a “steak tray” was brought round with all the different cuts being offered that evening. We opted to share the 1kilo Porterhouse as a result which has both the sirloin and the fillet on either side of a T-bone. The hangEr steak did look really beautiful though (and this was confirmed when I was later caught gawping at a neighbouring table’s plates so if I were to go again I would definitely try this. At £16 for a very large portion this made it even more of an attractive choice.

My starter was smoked salmon served with warm slices of Corrigan’s soda bread which had a nice sweet nutty flavour to it. The salmon had been home smoked by Mark Hix at his farm in Dorset. It did have a fantastically deep smoky flavour to it that you just don’t get in most other smoked salmon but I am terribly spoilt by having a Dad who home smokes his only salmon amongst other food. I think his is the best salmon in the world but then again Mr Hix’s tasted the same so in some ways that is the ultimate compliment.

Mr H opted for the ham hock terrine with piccalilli. I had been put off this option by the description which included lots of references to jelly but in hindsight I really wish I had picked it (or is this just yet another case of food envy?) It wasn’t too jellyey at all and the piccalilli was very tasty,a light amount of curry and spice and not overly tangy but strong enough to cut through the fat and jelly of the terrine. It was also a whacking great portion so I did manage to scrounge a good amount.

The porterhouse steak was a triumph. Cooked rare to perfection before being sliced at our table, we barely managed to finish it all between us. Definitely a cut I will be looking out for again. A side order of crispy "allumette" french style chips was served in a little metal bucket and three types of mustard appeared alongside.

Dessert involved choosing three portions between us. The sloe gin jelly shots were lovely but wouldn’t have been enough to constitute a dessert on their own so we added a slice of almond and cherry somerset eau de vie tarte with cherry cream. The cream was a bright pink and less sweet than I had expected with a slightly tart tang to it. I liked it very much but Mr H didn’t.

Our second dessert-proper was a steamed ginger pudding with custard. Now he won’t mind me saying this but being a northerner this was always more likely to be more of a winner with Mr H. Anything steamed is great but add custard and to him; that’s heaven on a plate. 
Both these desserts were accompanied by a glass of Lustau Pedro Ximenez (a well known friend that I know if always guaranteed to give me a sickeningly sweet blast of pure raisin nectar) and a glass of Jurancon for Mr H and the steamed pudding.

If I’m honest although much of my meal was delightful due to fabulous ingredients and good cooking I probably wouldn’t go again. We did really indulge in everything that we wanted from the menu but at £100 a head this still felt a bit pricey. It also didn’t feel as though you had had a special night out, it was just a bit too cool for school. The clientele are very casual and all a bit too Hoxton/Shoreditch trendy for me, but that’s just a personal thing. This hyper trendy vibe was enhanced by the Sue Webster and Tracey Emin art work on the walls and the offer of Stephen Webster jewellery designed for the restaurant. If oversized, black-rimmed glasses and drainpipe jeans on men are your thing you’d probably love it. Oh and definitely not for vegetarians!

36-37 Greenhill Rents, Cowcross Street, London, EC1M 6BN Tel: 020 7017 1930

Hix Oyster & Chop House on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

The Wharf, Teddington

Teddington wasn't what I had expected; only a few minutes by train from London but you can tell in no uncertain terms that you have left the sprawling metropolis! People talk to one another and are positively falling over themselves to voluntarily offer directions to lost looking visitors. About a ten minute walk from the station, down a high street filled with little boutiques and gifty type shops (I wasn’t allowed to stop....), you reach the river. The Wharf is located alongside the river next to the RNLI lifeboat station. It is housed in a light airy purpose-built modern building with a large bar area on the ground floor then restaurant areas on a mezzanine upper floor and in a big room overlooking the river. I really like the way that the building has been designed and furnished. It matches the service that you receive; welcoming and unpretentious.

I need to caveat anything I write here with the fact that I went to The Wharf on the day of an England rugby international at Twickenham. I suspect that this may have led to my having a very different experience to that of a normal day. Nonetheless it was a very good experience and I would definitely go back to the Wharf for a quieter meal. I think that having compared the “Rugby Day” menu with the normal menu, more emphasis had been put on stomach filling, “man food” than normal (indeed this was a good call as about 70% of the main courses coming out of the kitchen appeared to be burgers) The normal menu has much more of a lilt towards thai fusion food and use of seafood.

I started with a ham hock terrine which was definitely on the meaty side and a very good portion size. It was more in the style of a French “Rillette” terrine than a pate type one. Ham based terrines can often be quite salty but this one was not overly so and had bits of peppercorn which added nice bursts of flavour. I wish I could have tried the accompanying chutney (grape and pumpkin) as it looked delicious but the old pumpkin allergy prevented it and no alternative was offered. Others ordered the goats cheese salad which was roundly praised.

My main course of duck confit was tasty and not dry in the way that confit sometimes can be. The sauce was a bit on the runny side and there wasn’t much of it, equally whilst nice and garlicky, the potato gratin was a densely packed cube of thin potato leaves with not much cream/sauce interleafing it. Upon reading that back it sounds quite negative but I’m probably being picky as I did really enjoy it. I am told that the Wharf burger was a very good burger and did tempt me for a couple of minutes bearing in mind the rugby that lay ahead.

The definite shining highlight of the meal was dessert; a bread and butter pudding with toffee sauce. I’m definitely more of a savoury creature so this reaction surprised me. Unlike the potato gratin the pudding was really squidgy and oozy and the custard had just the right amount of vanilla without being overpowering. The raisins were plump and burst in your mouth offering a fruity antidote to the sweetness of the sticky toffee sauce drizzled over the plate.

Similar oohs and aaahs were coming from the other side of the table at their desserts so I think this is a course that the Wharf does well. Other options included Mango and Kaffir Lime Leaf Crème Brûlée and Caramelised Lemon Tart with marinated berries.

The wine list is not very extensive but matches the dishes on the menu well and I really enjoyed my Marlborough sauvignon blanc. The rest of the table only had praise for the pinot noir they ordered.

My only real gripe would be that whilst I don’t mind supplemental fees to a set menu price for a particularly nice dish or ingredient, I do think that a £7 supplement for a steak is quite extreme for what is essentially a gastropub on the river (despite the chefs fairly illustrious hotel restaurant background). The price for two courses when the supplement was added was rapidly heading towards central London decent restaurant prices.

All in all, The Wharf is a local gem and offered up a meal and dining experience that I really enjoyed and the restaurant is one I would make a beeline for if I was in the area again.

Highlights: desserts and the view over the river
Lowlights: the sauce with the duck confit
22 Manor Road
Teddington, Middlesex TW11 8BG
020 8977 6333

Wharf on Urbanspoon
Images © The Wharf, 2006

Friday, 26 February 2010

Anise Terrace, Anise Hotel, Phnom Penh

Granted, having lunch in my hotel was a bit of a lightweight option on my first day in Cambodia however in my defence a) it was ridiculously hot (37°c) b) I had spent the morning at the Killing Fields which is a sombre appetite suppressant and c) I was wiped out with jetlag. One of the main attractions of the terrace was the shaded area surrounded by palms, this combined with the overhead fans and the Billie Holiday being played on the sound system as opposed to the pan pipe/harp hell that invades my ears in many other asian restaurants made it my number one choice!

I opted for the ginger chicken with jasmine rice. I quickly learnt that in Cambodia you get exactly what it says on the menu. In the UK ginger chicken tends to contain maybe onions or peppers or some kind of veg. Not in Phnom Penh, if it says ginger chicken, you get chicken with ginger. End of. That said, it was very tasty, with a nice crunchy bite on the ginger for texture and the right amount of fire without burn. The jasmine rice was nice and fluffy so all in all for $5 who am I to complain?!

The rest of the menu is pretty evenly split between asian influenced dishes and western food, I guess to cater for the tourist crowd as well as those on a more long term travels who want a taste of home. I wouldn't recommend going out of your way to find this place but if you're nearby and need food it's a safe bet. 10% of all profit goes to a local childrens orphanage charity which makes you feel good whilst you eat; it's not often that eating can make you feel virtuous so it would have seemed rude not to make the most of it!

Nº 2C, St 278 off 57, Beoung Keng Kang I, Chamkamorn, Phnom Penh, Cambodia.


Monday, 22 February 2010

A Quest for Cambodian Cuisine

Khmer food is widely renowned for being similar to Thai or Vietnamese but not so spicy. Either this is not true or I have a ridiculously low tolerance for spice because most of the dishes I ate required copious gulps of Angkor beer after each mouthful (not that this was any hardship!) There are also clear influences present on menus from India and China which I guess, considering Cambodia's geographical location, is no massive surprise. In general I found that the food was sweeter than Thai, often involving large chunks of palm sugar or lashings of palm syrup so if you're a mainly savoury creature visiting Cambodia, be warned!

Some of the best known dishes and ingredients include the following:

  • Amok: usually with fish but can be with chicken, pork or prawn. The name "amok" comes from the cooking process whereby the curry is steamed in a banana leaf parcel. The sauce involves a mix of spices, ginger, garlic, fish sauce, turmeric, lemongrass and lots of coconut milk. The resulting dish is quite dry as compared to it's closest relative the thai green curry and less spicy.
  • Loc Lac: sugar and garlic marinated beef, stir fried with greens and served with a tangy lime dipping sauce. Often served with cucumber in Cambodia (which unfortunately put me off trying it due to my pathological hatred of cucumber)
  • Prahok: a fish paste made by drying crushed fish in the sun then storing in a jar to ferment. Fermentation periods vary between anything from 20 days to over 3 years and generally the bigger the fish and the longer the fermentation period the better the Prahok is considered to be. Prahok can be used as an ingredient in soups or curries but can also be eaten as a stand alone dish with rice for the very brave.
  • Samlar Machu: a hot and sour soup, spiced and flavoured with tamarind and lime

OK, so for a few days the sybarite bit goes out of the window. Whilst Cambodia is certainly changing fast, the definition of luxury here is still a little different to my usual one but here goes.....

Friday, 5 February 2010

Bellevue Rendezvous

Bellevue Rendezvous is actually one of my closest local restaurants so I’ve spent a fair amount of time there. Although this means I may be a little biased it also means I can vouch for its consistency.
Stephanie and Pablo are a fantastic French couple who own and run the restaurant. Whilst Stephanie masters front of house Pablo cooks up a storm in the kitchen. I love that the menu is always comparatively simple, offering up traditional French fare.

Designed to feel cosy and a little rustic, the grey gingham theme, flower murals, candles and olives on the table transport you several hundred miles away from the middle of Wandsworth to the French countryside. That said, in the last couple of months, whilst the quality of food remains high, there has been a clear focus on presentation resulting in more interesting visuals.


The First Post.......

Hello. Welcome.
It feels a little odd writing that when I know no one can read this yet but who knows, maybe once I unleash Sybaricious into the cyberworld someone might find my greeting.

I have been writing notes about favourite foods, meals and drinks for some time and keep hold of treasured menus but I had never thought about recording it all in a blog.
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