Monday, April 24, 2006

S&M Cafe - near Liverpool St Station

S&M Cafe
Originally uploaded by daveyll.

In case you're wondering, the S&M stands for Sausage and Mash. Could it be some play on the Vore fetish? "I'm so delicious, eat me! EAT ME!! Oh please won't you eat me?!"

At any rate, the sausages are delicious but I'd stick to the plain ones. The fancy ones may appeal but the true taste is in the pork.

Good traditional English food done very well - from sausage to mash to gravy.


British pork is very tasty. The take pride in their pork, to the extent that named pigs are now the feature in the top restaurants, "Today's pork chops are from Rosalie. She's a duffel-coated black spot pig raised on acorns and olive oil in the wilds of Surrey." Well, not quite, I exagerate.

But another pang of homesickness made me create these dishes of my family.

Steamed pork mince with pickled cabbage (tung choy)
- I flavoured this also with white pepper, shao xing rice wine, ginger and garlic

Stir fried pork with spicy ham choy

Snake bean omelette.

Flat white Cafe

Berwick St, Soho, London

Antipodeans in London (or anywhere else in the world) will know of that strange epi-phenomenon that is the absence of the otherwise ubiquitous 'flat white' on the standard coffee menu. But o-ho, this is fixed for my resourceful bf has found it: probably the only place in London that serves this exotic drink.

And the name of the locale? Why, Flat White, of course.

An antipodean duo own and run this cafe, which also sells L&P and Bundaberg ginger beer for the same price as a coffee (£2). They also do damn good vege bagels and a decent range of snacks. Service is quick and friendly - you order and pay at the counter and they bring you the food afterwards - just like in Australia/New Zealand. Even the barista's accent brought back memories.

Saturday, April 22, 2006


The Halkin, 5 Halkin Street, London, SW1X 7DJ
Nearest Tube: Hyde Park Corner
Cuisine: Thai
Telephone: 0871 2238097

With much anticipation I finally get to try the great Nahm - the world's only Michelin-starred Thai restaurant. After eating at his first restaurant Sailor's Thai in Sydney several times and reading his extremely well-researched tome on Thai Cookery, I looked forward to tasting the cuisine of the man the Thai government asked to establish a Thai cookery school in Thailand.

We chose the traditional thai nahm arharn meal (£49.50) consisting of 6 shared courses: an hors d'oeuvre, a salad, a soup, a relish or light curry, a substantial curry and a stir-fried or casserole dish. Individual ordering is also possible with dishes ranging from £8 to £15 to suit tastes or budget.

We started with an amuse bouche of mar hor (minced prawn and chicken served on cucumber slices) which was followed by latiang. This amazing egg-net construction encased chewy strands of sweetish-coconut flavoured with crab. The pomelo and crispy trout salad with toasted peanuts yam som oo pla tort was a maze of textures - refreshing pomelo chunks, crunchy fish and reslient lime leaf - flavoured with a sweet and savoury sauce. We'd all elected for different soups and my spicy oxtail soup with onions and tomatoes sup hang wua tasted earthy and rich, full of beef flavour and redolent with mysterious aromatic spices. A chiang mai grilled chilli relish with grilled zander-fish followed. This small red pile of chilli and ground dried shrimp was pungeant with garlic and shallots and accompanied the raw cabbage and vegetables well.

Our two curries followed: an extremely hot jungle curry of chopped prawns with heart of coconut and chillies made me gasp but that is the nature of jungle curries. The chiang mai pork curry with shredded ginger, pickled garlic and shallots had a refreshing and aromatic ginger tang and was again very pungeant with onions.

My favourite dish was the double steamed rabbit with pickled mustard greens (known as ham choy in Cantonese) and daikon. This earthy peasant-style dish with the savoury pickles and sweet rabbit meat married perfectly with rice. We also had a firm and translucent deep fried royal bream with a rather sweet three flavoured sauce.

We dined in subdued lighting in a warm light-golden room decorated with subtle South-east Asian accents, e.g. bright red corded ropes in the atrium. The extremely friendly Thai staff gave elegant and knowledgeable service. Although we were only supposed to have one curry and one casserole she offered to make us two smaller serves of each because we couldn't decide.

An exotic range of desserts beckoned and I had a coconut ash perfumed egg custard with jackfruit - quite delicious.

For most people, Thai food is what's eaten on the streets in Thailand, usually cooked in a blazing hot wok seasoned with fish sauce, lime and peanuts. In reality, this method of cooking comes from the large contingent of Chinese traders that lived in Thailand. The old Thai cuisine as developed before Chinese influence made use of slow coal fires and gradual simmering. As such, you don't get the vibrant fresh flavours associated with stir-frying over high heat but an interesting blends and layers as the slow extraction processes develop and release aromas. I also found the food a little too pungeant and strongly flavoured for my liking, but I'm sure it's authentic and what's proper - I'm just not used to it.

If you like your pad thai and green chicken curry as served in pubs and are expecting just a 'better' version, this place is probably not for you. Nahm is quite a different concept and serves Thai food rarely seen outside of Thailand and the royal houses.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Lunch today - Tapas in my House

The most expensive ham in the world (£7.99 /100g) is Serrano ham (San Danielle) bought in a West End London suburb. It's about half the price in Spain, but the cost of an airfare would have evened things out (just). Although she assured me that it was indeed the acorn-fed pigs, I had my doubts. But she gave me a free sample, and it was just as delicious as I've had in Spain. What you can see in the picture cost me £3.50, eek, but Leon was feeling tired and un-hungry, and I'd made it my mission to tempt him to eat.

I also bought some boquerons (marinated anchovies), giant Kalamata olives and made Matzo brei - an omelette made with rehydrated crumbled Matzo crackers. I'd seen this recipe in the book Garlic and Sapphires. We're having this with warmed seed baguette, roasted red pepper strips, fresh tomatoes and cos lettuce. There's a small square of English blue cheese that you can't see in the photo.

Ayam Masak Merah

(adapted from a Cyberkuali recipe)

Dry spices:
cinnamon stick
anise seed
cardamon pods

garlic - both pulverised in a blender

lemon grass

tomato paste
small can of chopped tomatoes

ground cashews

Trawling the streets of my local Middle-Eastern district, I was hard pressed to find the Indian spices necessary for this Malaysian dish. Lots of pre-made packets of felafel and shawerma spice, but nothing Indian. This dish is usually made with candlenuts instead of ground cashews and star anise, but I couldn't find any on Edgeware Rd. I think the Spice Shop in Notting Hill sell all of what's required (even white Sarawak peppercorns) but as with all things in London, you can get anything you want, at a price.

I should have fried the onions and garlic for longer as a slightly sulfurous raw taste still permeated the dish at the end. This could have been fixed with some sugar, but I'm loathe to add sugar to curry dishes like this.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Song Que Vietnamese Restaurant

134 Kingsland Rd

A whole bunch of work colleagues and I went to dinner at this wonderful Vietnamese restaurant last night. This place serves a great pho, but because this was a group of 10, we ordered more Chinese style dishes to share. However, we did get some of my favourite Vietnamese treats for starting with.

I love Vietnamese food and its use of fresh herbs. It's so distinctive and difficult to do in London. I recently discovered that South East Asian herbs and vegetables are air-freighted once or twice a week from Thailand and surrounds. Outside a grocery store in Chinatown I saw masses of big white styrofoam boxes with labels from Thai airways containing bitter gourd, pea-eggplant and numerous other greens. Song Que does the whole gamut of traditional Vietnamese food with authentic herbs (as well as supply will allow it) and it pulls it off very well. We did notice that they stinge on the herbs and beansprouts if a non-Vietnamese is ordering. I guess these are the most expensive part of the meal and unless you appreciate it, most people might see it as some sort of garnish.

And at £5 for a bowl of pho, you can't really beat that.

Our meal cost £14 a head including beer and wine. Service is quick and efficient but gruff in the usual way - you're here for the food.

Summer Roll
rice noodles, herbs and pork or prawn wrapped in rice-paper with a dipping sauce of chilli, sweet-bean and ground peanuts

Barbequed beef wrapped in betel leaf
served with lettuce, mint, shiso (large purple serrated leaves), pickled carrots and radish and rice vermicelli. Vietnamese chilli dipping sauce

Chicken with chilli and lemongrass
yellow coloured slices of chicken with large chunks of chilli

Shredded crispy beef in sweet and sour sauce
thin strands of deep-fried beef in orange sauce with tomatoes

Singapore noodles
rice vermicelli with shrimps, shredded barbequed pork, beansprouts, onions and light curry seasoning.

Lamb with ginger and spring onion

Freshwater bream with crystal noodles
whole fish with black bean sauce served on mung bean thread noodles (served on a big square plate)

Duck with pineapple
boneless duck pieces in a sweet and sour sauce with pineapple

Tofu, pepper and aubergine stuffed with prawn paste

Pork with shrimp paste
served with cucumber, chilli and other vegetables

Stir fried ong-choy with garlic

Monday, April 03, 2006

Saturday morning market in Poitiers church square

Saturday morning saw us at the local market in the church square, a bit of a French institution. Wow, is all I can say. The freshest, best produce, meat and cheeses I have ever seen. All totally French, the most exotic thing I saw was a vanilla pod, but the myriad of cheeses and strange traditional root vegetables that are unknown to me.

French (goat) cheeses, just a small selection from the local Saturday market

These pink and white radishes were recognisable, but there were also some incredible gnarled deep purple-brown tubers, they looked like fibrous yams or something.

Bistro eating in Poitiers

The other meals we partook at various bistros around the city centre.

Steak cheval hâché avec frites (horsemeat hamburger and chips)

La Serrurerie is a very popular and busy bistro serving what I would describe as French ranch food. Hearty big serves with vibrant flavours. The menu ranges from Soup á l'oignon (onion soup) served traditionally with a big chunk of baguette in the soup, covered in grilled cheese to Thai flavored barbequed prawns as long as your hand.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Restaurant eating in Poitiers

Leon and I went to Poitiers, France a few weekends ago. While the town is charming, quaint and full of old shit (there're about six ancient and crumbling churches alone) it is very small and we really didn't need a whole weekend to experience it.

Our first dinner in France we ate at a local restaurant that was delicious, but in my mind, unremarkable. Nothing too exciting or scintillating here but everything well presented and flavours well balanced. I can't even remember the name, Alain ...something (not Ducasse), within walking distance of Le Grand Hotel (The Big Hotel) in town. We chose the set menu of E32.

Sorry for the crap layout, but I'm clueless when it comes to these HTML thingamies.

A happy smiley Leon with our first plate of French food in France.

Home-made pate with crispbread

Scallop hearts with endive

Pan-fried whole frog with white-wine reduction

Beef with parsnip souffle

Venison with offal and berry flavoured jus

Almond ice-cream, chocolate truffle loaflet, pear and ginger sorbet, rasberry coulis

Waitrose stock duck eggs and these pretty blue hens' eggs. Quite charming with vibrant yellow (almost orange) and thick yolks.