Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Pork Belly & Barbour.

Sorry it's taken me so long to write this post, I have been pretty busy for someone without a job! Although that front is looking up, very up actually, so fingers and toes crossed please.

So over a week ago I was pretty excited and also quite nervous. The nerves were due to my parents and T's parents meeting for the first time (my Grandmother came along too - double nerves) and the excitement was due to going to Roast which I was already salivating over due to Neil's post and Denise's recommendation.

It had been quite a warm day so I decided to get the legs out. This H&M skirt always seems like a great idea at the time, but I should have learnt after my Maze trip, it isn't - there is NO room for food. I could eat a riveta and soon end up bursting out of it. Never mind, the zip is always unfastened by the end of the starter, nicely hidden by the waist belt. I was itching to wear my new Barbour jacket from ASOS, even though it probably doesn't go at all, I still felt freakin' cool. I kind of want it to stay a bit cooler as this jacket is my new addiction.

(Skirt - H&M, Top - ASOS, Jacket - ASOS)

B picked me up and we went for Champagne in their hotel room in St James Park - I have stayed there before, it makes me feel like I should speak in arts and thous. Arriving at Roast was interesting - Borough Market on a Friday night is MENTAL. There were millions of suits lining the streets with a Guinness in one hand and a fag in the other. I liked it, so much so I tried to persuade the parents to have a pre-dinner drink with the buzzing crowd but they just laughed at me. Snobs.

The restaurant was gorgeous inside with a great atmosphere. The piano player was brilliant and the gin to settle every ones nerve was even better. I like it when people ask the preference on gin. Tanqueray all the way. T and his parents arrived and when the awkwardness passed we all went to the table and everything was fine (too fine, they wouldn't stop chatting! T and I felt left out!).

This is when I got annoyed. I always think the most important thing for guests at a restaurant is to have fully topped up drinks - waiting for booze is far more annoying that waiting for food (especially when it's a parents meet parents scenario!) so 25 minutes later when our starters had turned up and not our wine, I got a bit pissed off. The waiter was great and fetched it straight away, but it meant I had eaten half of my starter by the time I had the much needed pinotgrigio. It was lovely when it arrived, though.

On to the food. I went for the deer and it was gorgeous. Moist, flavoursome and well spiced with a zap of beetroot and then a creamy horseradish sauce - really bloody good.

T's prawns were just as good. I have only just started to like prawns and can usually only have one or two without getting grossed out, so the fact his came in a creamy tomato sauce made them really attractive to me. That annoyed T.

G ordered the sprats and I had to try one after Neil's tweet. He was right, they were bloody fantastic.

Next up I had already made up my mind what I wanted a week in advance, helped by some recommendations. Slow roasted pork belly with mash. B'jesus it was good. I am the sort of girl who would order steak and chips everywhere I went, if I could. But this blog has pushed me to try new things, and I am so glad I did. The pork just slid off and the crackling was perfect against the fondant of potato which was beautifully seasoned and the tart apple sauce. The only downside was the temperature, which is my pet hate. I don't even care if it's absolutely boiling, at least I could wait for it to cool down instead of ramming it down my throat before it got too cold. I would order it again... and again... and again, though.

T ordered the duck and all was well until he tried the veg - they had been served with pickled onions and they ALL tasted of onion! It would have been find for me - I would eat an onion like an apple, but put the poor boy off a little. Great duck, though.

Dessert was a simple treacle tart to be shared by T and I. It was good, not great, but how crazy can you really go with a tart? The clotted cream went well but it was very, very rich. Especially as I thought it was ice cream so took a huge scoop first off...

I had a bit of dessert envy, as usual, of B's trio. 3 desserts in 1, what was I thinking?! I could have had 3 DESSERTS.

A really enjoyable evening was had by all and new friendships were made. I want to try the take out section they do soon. I do hope they have the belly on the menu.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Maxi dress & roast beef.

So one of the reasons I set up this blog was because in April I had quite a few meals planned, the main one being at The Ritz on Easter Sunday. Each year my very generous Step Dad buys me a very generous Christmas present - vouchers to a restaurant. Last year was Le Manoir (the best dining experience of my life, set to destroy any other when trying to live up to it. Woe) and this year was The Ritz. T was pretty chuffed as he got to be my plus one, of course.

I dressed up quite a lot for Raymond's experience last year, however I wanted to be a little understated as I had read the previous day that they were now allowing people to wear jeans. This annoyed me slightly as I feel somewhere as well known and respected as The Ritz, they should keep it very smart. Who cares if you have to don a suit for a few hours? It's part of the experience! Anyway, I obviously pushed T towards his dark blue, mod style suit which always gives me butterflies, and I opted for a black maxi dress:

(Black Maxi - River Island)

After having great intentions to get the tube, then ending up in a taxi (regular occurrence) we arrived at the extravagant building and the door was opened for us by a lovely older man in a top hat. I was quite speechless when I walked in - it was beautiful. Definitely, completely over the top, but I love all that stuff. Froths, deer heads, edible flowers - bring it on.

After being slightly speechless for a while, then carrying on the silence as it felt too 'posh' to talk, we downed a glass of pink fizz which should have definitely have been sipped after we saw the price. One thing I noticed, and wasn't overly fond of, was the seating plan. Every table was round which is great, however the tables of two had the chairs next to each other, not opposite... fine again, unless you are on a business lunch. But we were facing the wall... what woman wants to face a wall when she is a celebrity spotting shrine?! I know I should have been gazing into T's eyes and feeding him my (his) dessert seductively, but I want to people watch damn it.

Never mind, onto the food. Bread first, we both went for the warm baguette but when I eyed the bacon and onion pastry, the waiter popped it onto my plate as well, legend. The baguette was fine but the pastry was gorgeous! It's quite strange eating something you expect to be sweet but is actually savoury, quite like Heston's Duck A L'Orange last night (genius). Yum.

It was a 3 courser with 3 options per course. T went for the scallop (yes, just the one) and I opted for the ballotine of tuna. They came quite promptly along with our bottle of cold, crisp Pinot.

The tuna was perfectly raw with lots of flavour and the remoulade of turnip and lemon was a brilliant partner, it was just on the small side as well which was good due to my bread-off earlier.

The one scallop and it's gnocchi and morels accompaniments was lovely. Scallop cooked perfectly but not cancelled out by the garnishes. Bravo to both.

Onto the main course - we had seen a huge silver thing rolling around the restaurant, which when opened, revealed a huge slab of beef, that's what I'm talking about. After deliberating over whether one of us goes for the beef and the other with the pigeon, we both gave in and got us some bloody cow.

Unfortunately, everything was cold. The beef was nice enough and cooked well, however lacked on the seasoning front. Two roast potatoes made my heart sink, but they were nice and fluffy - just cold. We ate everything, of course, but were both pretty disheartened that the restaurant we had built up so much in our heads had let us down hugely with the main. Boo.

Luckily dessert was better. T's being the absolute winner with the rhubarb souffle.

It was gorgeous! Light, fluffy with a hit of rhubarb and then a melt-in-the-mouth ending to a wonderful mouthful. I had serious food envy.

My chocolate parfait was... OK. Extremely pleasing to the eye, but lacked a dreamy, melting hit of dark chocolate that I was craving after the subservient beef. However I ended up getting my hit with the warming double espresso and selection of impressive friandises. Another great touch was that every woman got a Ritz Easter egg at the end! That was a nice end to the copious amount of cocktails we consumed after lunch.

All in all a wonderful experience that I will remember fondly, but not with the passion I hold for Le Manior. I text the Step Dad after to say thank you and he replied with 'we'll see if we can beat it next time.' Oh, yes please! Maybe El Bulli?

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Cropped top & Tapas.

I just had a £6 lunch from the glorious Wok to Walk in Soho and I feel almost disgusted with myself that I spent £25 on a meal at La Tasca last night (and HP has just placed a Snog on my desk which will definitely beat last nights desert) I really didn't want to come across as a negative blogger, but if the nosh isn't good then I'm gonna tell you about it.

So HP and I decided to have a separate goodbye (it's not goodbye, it's 'see ya later') and because she's a Northampton gal we decided to go to my ends. I anticipated a full, bulging stomach because you ALWAYS over order on tapas, but I went crazy and wore a crop top!

(Jeans - Topshop, Belt - Republic (later removed), Crop top - Joy, Bow - Asos, Boots - Asos)

I really like that crop top, it's not too short so can be worn day and night. I sometimes rock it with a high waisted black bodycon skirt to glam it up a bit. The bow is great for short hair as us crew cutters can't do much to our locks, so I try to add different coloured bows or pretty headbands to mix things up a bit.

God this Snog is good.

So we had great intentions - sitting outside under the heaters, drinking morgans spiced and coke whilst smoking endless cigarettes (I wonder if I'll lose readers for that comment?) and munch on some steaming, tasty tapas. Oh how wrong we were.

It started off well - we were wrapped up warm and drinking a much needed R&C, reminiscing about our time spent working together and the many adventures we got up to. Then we realised we were freezing, so popped inside to get a table. The place was actually really attractive - good lighting, spacious and the tables weren't so close that you could nick a chip without the person next door realising. Our waiter, Rog, was a bit flustered considering he only had four tables (it's not a lot, trust me - I've been there) but was sweet enough. We ordered some bread with dipping oils and olives:

I absolutely hate olives, but have decided to teach myself to love them. I did it with coffee, red wine and goats cheese, so this shouldn't be too hard. If you are doing the same, DON'T get taught by La Tasca. They were very obviously from a jar, an old jar. Terrible, terrible after taste. The bread was stale and lifeless but would have been slightly passable if it had been warm, unfortunately it was positively chilled. The dips were OK, HP liked the tomato and oil number where as I stuck to good old garlic. Love garlic.

During this we ordered a bottle of the house red which was a Viura Monterio from Castilla, and for the cheapest on the menu it was absolutely gorgeous.

Then food came:

Calamari, fresh (?) salad, chorizo, garlic chicken, beef stew & patatas bravas. Sigh. I don't think I have one good thing to say? Apart from the patatas bravas tasted like chips and cheese from a kebab shop, which, when you're drunk, is great.

A few dishes stick out though, for all the wrong reasons...

The calamari looked anaemic. It tasted like it too. Limp, luke warm and soggy. The only promising factor was the ailoi, but putting a little garlic in some mayonnaise isn't that difficult. Just... no. Never again.

The crispy, fresh salad turned out to be a squidgy, old mess. Browning avocado, wilted spinach and cucumber that actually upset me. Tasteless and oily. I felt quite offended to be honest.

The rest was just plain boring. No real Spanish flavours, a kick of chili here or a sprinkle of coriander there would have been greatly appreciated. Maybe dessert would make up for this mess? Yes, a dark chocolate and hazelnut torte sounds lovely, thanks.

Excuse the picture. We are not actually children who play with our food, it was actually to prove how rock solid the torte was. I am guessing it was removed from the freezer about 15 minutes prior to our order. You could have used it as a deadly weapon, which I was sorely tempted to do so when they forgot to take the 50% off our food. No hazelnut, watered down jam disguised as a coulis and The Worst Strawberries Ever on the side. I died a little bit inside.

It's such a shame! The setting, area and atmosphere is great! It is a perfect spot for a group of girls/boys, a family or a first date, but at the end of the evening someone would get a clip round the ear for putting their company through such torture.

If you have already eaten at one of the lovely restaurants around Fulham and the night is young, pop to La Tasca for a bottle of red and NOTHING ELSE.