Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Dabbous - London, England

Meet London's newest highly acclaimed restaurant, Dabbous. Foodies crush on them, reviewers adore them, in-flight magazines feature them. This media hype makes Dabbous superbly sought after. When I last checked, they were booked for dinner until March, 2013. Lunch is more accessible, the bar even more so.
When we walked in, I asked if there were any walk-in tables available. The main restaurant only has 14 tables, so spots are at a premium. However, sometimes people cancel last minute or don't arrive, and others eat faster than expected. Keep that in mind for the future. The upstairs was full, so we headed downstairs. As you can see, the bar was pretty quiet. Given our choice of varied seating (benches, low chairs, and bar), we chose the bar. My friend encouraged this since I'm given to asking questions and enjoy watching cocktails prepared.
Charlie, our main bartender, handed us our menus. The bar menu is cocktail focused, so if you're hungry, look at the very last page. Otherwise, enjoy perusing their selection of martini cocktails, long drinks, short drinks, beer cocktails, spirits, wine, and more. I began the evening with two inquiries - what can you tell me about your cigar syrup and what is Greengage liqueur? Without prompting, I was immediately sampled on both. Then I learned the chefs make the cigar syrup process easy, though it sounds involved. And that Greengage liqueur is a slightly bitter green plum liqueur.
My friend started with the Giddy Up. It features Tapatio Blanco Tequi;a, elderflower cordial, bramley & Gage Slider, lemon juice and camomile-infused acacia honey and was topped with Sierra Nevada IPA. We were both impressed with the silver stein.
After sampling the cigar syrup, I wanted to try a cocktail featuring it. This is the Mellow Yellow with Tapatio Blanco Tequila, cigar syrup and lime juice mellowed by yellow pepper and served in an Ardberg whisky rinsed Martini glass. The yellow pepper smell was the most prominent feature as you lifted the glass to sip. Then a bit of sourness came through, followed by a slight smoky finish and gritty finish (tobacco leaves from cigar syrup process). The bell pepper taste lingers. My favorite tastes were when I rolled in around and let it settle in the back.
We decided upon a three course approach to dinner this evening. The bar menu has a limited selection from the main restaurant's starters, mains, and dessert menus. We ordered 5 of the 8 selections available. This is the Coddled free range hen egg with woodland mushrooms and smoked butter. It is coddled and then is returned into the shell where it sits in a lovely nest. This dish invoked some memories of my grandparents's farm, working during a sunny day throwing hay bales onto the trailer. It was a delightful savory warmth.
Afterward, we split the Barbecued Iberico pork, savory acorn praline, turnip tops, homemade apple vinegar. The pork was so rich. The nutty meal tempered with some sweetness was the perfect accompaniment. The turnip tops in vinegar were a great snack to reset our palate between bites.
We finished our meal with Artisanal cheese from the British Isles, baked apple and toasted sourdough. They ranged in texture and flavor. 3 out of the 4 were from the UK, one from Ireland. The baked apple tasted like toffee and the toasted sourdough featured figs. I also appreciated the slate board presentation.
And I did have one more drink. I asked about a bottle behind the bar I hadn't seen before and sampled it. It was Kamm & Sons ginseng spirit, a bitter herbaceous spirit similar to bonal gentine, but much stronger. The Roots Manuka is pictured above. It features Kammerlings Ginseng Spirit, Qi Orange Tea Liqueur, manuka honey, rhubarb bitters, lemon and guava. The sweetness from the guava hits you first and lingers there. The bitterness comes in the middle and barely wins in the end. I would have preferred a more bitter forward drink and less guava.
The 4th and 5th items we had were the Nocellara del Belice green olives (wonderfully meaty) and the Roast cashew nuts with smoked salt (no distinguishing characteristics). These were enjoyed before, throughout, and after the meal.

Overall, we had a great time downstairs. The bar staff was very friendly and helpful. They must have been bored because they were running through a list of Robin Williams' films including Mork & Mindy, Jumanji, Flubber (I suggested she sees the original), and Good Will Hunting. As we were leaving, I even got some tips from the restaurant manager on how to get a table in the next two weeks. Are you interested as I am?

39 Whitfield Street,

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Hawksmoor - London, England

It's another brilliantly gray day in London. Saturday's scorcher started with the Sunday gray which turned into pounding rain. Fortunately, the Hawksmoor - Spitalfield was nearby.
Oftentimes, my food adventures begin with a mission. This was no different. Poutine has been on my mind recently. A certain New Yorker is obsessed with it and I had some in Rochester. Could I get poutine in London? Yelp returned with many hits, but most proved fruitless (fix your search engine). Timeout London gave me nothing. After searching through the Hawksmoor multiple locations' menus for confirmation, I finally messaged them via Facebook. The poutine was confirmed, but only at the Spitalfield downstairs bar.
We placed our drink and food orders. I ordered the oxtail poutine and the Hong Kong Phooey Reloaded (above). I'm a sucker for peer pressure. Why else would I have a cocktail that blends 7 different spirits and tastes like vitamin water. That list: vodka, gin, tequila, rum, chartreuse, midori, lemon and champagne.
My friend enjoyed her Marmalade Cocktail. It first caught her attention online and features: Gin, Lemon, Campari and Marmalade.
Here is the focus of my trip, the oxtail poutine. The oxtail poutine was delicious. I was hoping for cheese curds, but at least there was some cheese. The focus clearly was on the savory and spicy oxtail soaking the chips with its delicious juices. In the end, I was using triple cooked chips to clean the iron dish spotless. Quick notes: I'm still hung up on the missing cheese curds. This can also come with an egg for an extra pound.
The chilli cheese dog delighted my friend. She especially enjoyed the cheese on this hearty dish. I can concur based on my small sampling. The chili gave such a great little kick too.
This is the Spitalfield location's bar menu cover. Please note that the upstairs and downstairs menus are different because they have two separate kitchens.
Here is the full menu. Overall, the Hawksmoor was a great experience. I hope to visit again to taste their reputable great burgers.

157 Commercial Street
London E1 6BJ

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Broadway Market - East London

Welcome to the Broadway Market, a cornerstone of East London since 1888. As I rode the bus toward another food adventure at E5 Bakehouse, my friend and I passed the street above. She told me about the market's varied vendors and stalls and said I needed to visit. When she heard I was coming back to London Saturday morning, I was urged to hurry to the Broadway Market. And hurry I did! Considering I just landed from Zurich, I made remarkable time.
Let's welcome East London's unusual denizens. The vintage and used clothing racks attract the wild and free to the staid and frugal. Clothes ranges from brightly knit threads to sturdy Barbour jacket to denim Levi jackets. Further up there was even a stall selling vintage ties and mens bathing suits. I may have even spotted a vintage 40s bathing suit from Jantzen (made in England).
However, food was my mission. It's always my mission. It's true I was hunting for my friend, but why let a small thing like that sidetrack me from what matters? Here's a colorful stall from Gujarati Rasoi advertising traditional indian food. Bhujia, a fried treat consisting of gram flour, spices, and vegetables, were £1, so I grabbed a quick snack and kept hunting.
My friends were waiting for the above to happen. A band was promoting an event next Saturday using Swing Patrol London dancers. They were taking their sweet time moving to Broadway Market and I was getting antsy. There was so much to be explored here and I was waiting for some sort of parade (note: it wasn't a parade).
At the topmost point of Broadway Market, near London Fields, hang a right for more stalls. My hunger could be sated and I was close enough to the road to hear the band coming. I headed straight to Don Arancini for their risotto balls. Two flavors especially caught my eye - the chorizo, saffron, and chili and the goat's cheese, sun dried tomato and basil. However, there is a deal. If you buy three, it's £3.50 where as one is £1.50. What a great deal! I asked for a suggestion and he went with a new selection, the feta, olive, and spinach. I left happy with my three arancinis and more red onion jam.
It's easy to get sidetracked by Olympic fever and a sign boasting that Usain Bolt ate here. My hands were rather full with arancinis, but they were advertising plantain. I hadn't had those in a while, so I inquired about getting those as a side. This option isn't advertised, but I was informed it would be £2.50. Once agreed, they took a small takeout box and loaded it up with plantain. They were sticky, slightly sweet, and could be eaten with my fingers. I was very happy.
Whereas the parade was lame, the ice cream wasn't. Chateaux Gelato appeared with their bicycle toting frozen sweets. I had to have the orange zest, rosemary, and honey ice cream. A bit of citrus, but something lurking beneath, something herbaceous. Rosemary added a great balancing touch.
I was slowly filling up on savory and sweet morsels. Then this pie shop temped me with their inexpensive mini-pies. One apple and blackberry pie was inhaled.
The Northfield Farm allowed me to stand in front of the grilling hamburgers and sizzling bacon smoke. I would have loved to sample their menu, but I was too full.
Same thing here. I loved Scotch Eggs and they even had a Thai Red Curry Pork Scotch egg, but I passed. I want to consume immediately and not wait. The food was meant to be enjoyed willingly and the full stomach dost protest.
Slices of wild board, venison and blue goat's cheese hard cured meats don't count.
Roast Hog was at the market.
Musicians were playing the blues on the street corner. One of them works at Passing Clouds.
So the market comes to an end. It did wonderful work- providing me something sweet, something savory, and something to keep away drafts (Harris Tweeds, etc). If you're in London, definitely check out this market.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Jamie Oliver's Fifteen - London, England

Striding from Old Street Station to my friend's London apartment, I always passed Fifteen. I was struck to find out that Jamie Oliver's flagship restaurant was five minutes walking distance from me. His restaurant quickly got onto my "London To Do" list. I've seen his face on cookbooks and The Huffington Post. Who was this man and what was he capable of?

We had a reservation for four persons. I was excited. As the only one Fifteen newbie, my friends ordered the Antipasti Board with seasonal vegetables pictured above. This featured large green olives, creamy mozzarella with olive oil and spices, mortadella, salsami, pickled beets and charred butternut squash. My favorites were the mozzarella, mortadella, and charred butternut squash.
The delectability of the mozzarella drove me to the mozzarella starter. This featured mozzarella with citrus fruit, almonds, and rocket at Fifteen. The creaminess provided the perfect base for the acid and bitter flavors from the rocket and citrus fruit.
While I was enjoying the first of my two starters, one of my friends was enjoying this dish featuring pan seared scallops.
Here is the wood smoked salmon with potatoes, greens, and capers. It was an utter revelation. Nearly two months later, this dish has the longest lasting impression on me.
Dessert time was upon us. There were four of us and we had a troubling time deciding, so we ordered four desserts. This is one of my favorites, the basil pannacotta with strawberries.
The British cheese board, my second favorite dessert. Mix and match, it's such an enjoyment.
Our third dessert. There are no tasting notes.
Our fourth dessert. There are no tasting notes.

15 Westland Place
London, N1 7LP

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Nightjar - London, England

Welcome to the Nightjar, one of London's finest speakeasy-style drinking establishments located a 7 minute walk away from my friends' apartment. I recommend calling and reserving seats. Depending on the day and time there may or may not be a doorperson checking your name against a list. 
Regardless, you'll be greeted downstairs. Notice the brick walls, dim lighting, antique devices. An antiquated charm fills the air.
Booth seating beneath swooping art deco birds?
Table seating facing the piano? Live music occurs a few days a week.
Bar seating underneath the tin plated ceiling?
We came for drinks, so without further ado let's begin. We were seated at the the farthest edged table facing the piano. We were waiting for 3 other friends, but we were on time and ready to begin. As I glanced through their menu, I was filled with questions. What is this liqueur? Why is this cocktail named as it is? Is this infusion for real? And I kept glancing back at the bar. Noting my wagging head, my friend just told me to begone. 
Even the little breads with chutney relish couldn't keep me from the bar. I asked a server if I could sit at the bar. Since I was in another country, I thought it best to ask. They asked a bartender and I moved seats. 
Switching seats did have benefits such as the those two matching delicacies of bacon and jelly. Please notice the playing card labeled "Moby Dick". This cocktail features whaleskin infusion, one item that struck my curiosity. You can also buy the Nightjar card deck for £4. They get their whaleskin infusion from Japan. 

Here are some quick Nightjar notes: 
1. It's difficult to understand some of the bartenders. 
2. Questions are brusquely answered by the bartenders.
3. The bartenders don't want pictures taken at their bar station.
Overall, this doesn't add to a fun experience sitting at the bar. Because questions are hurriedly answered, it was hard to fully understand them through their accents. I understand they have a job to do, but I enjoy this interaction as part of my cocktail experience. Not only am I there to enjoy my drinks and socialize with friends, I want to learn something new and capture these memories in detail.
This is why I headed back to my original table with my Arabic spiced rum drink, The Arrack Julab. Garnished with turkish delight and rose petals it was a headily spiced drink. Now it was a table of 5 which meant much cocktail sampling and pictures. I will try to label the following pictures appropriately, but some might slip through the cracks.

The Moby Dick
Mediterranean Shrub
Bloody Mary
Bees Knees
Ginza Cocktail
 Amadeus Flip

Chocolate Cocktail

The Nightjar
129 City Road