Saturday, 31 July 2010

Great Rivington Lobster Massacre

Having chatted to a number of foodies on Twitter for a while, we decided on catching up for a twEATup... this is a get-together over food.  A last minute change of venues, we decided on heading to the Rivington Bar and Grill in Greenwich one evening after work.

I know Aussie Foodie through friends in Australia, and while we only met earlier this year, we've been having a blast ever since, and she's an absolute sweetie (just don't tell her I said so!!).  Aussie Foodie met Cook Sister a month or so previously at a blogger event, but I'd only "met" her via Twitter so far... and Cathy257 was a Twitter-only entity.  Now, this is likely to freak some people out - what if any of them were completely painful?!  But I was just looking forward to a girlie catch up over good food with people who will likely gush (or critique) as much as I will.

Arriving at the restaurant with Aussie Foodie, we found Cathy257 ordering a glass of wine, I did the same, Aussie Foodie opted for a cocktail and we headed outside to the patio area for a brief wait for Cook Sister who joined us for a pre-dinner drink.

Courteous service from the start, we were shown to our table, one of my only criticism for the evening being that the tables are just a little close together for my liking.  Perusing the menu, there were no discussion about calorie consumption or diets, these were girls cut from the same cloth.  We'd already been discovering each others likes and experiences and having a good laugh.

Beautiful hot home-made bread was bought to our table, we ordered some wine and contemplated the menu.  The menu looked delicious, but when we heard there was lobster on the menu eyebrows were raised.  We'd booked through a TopTable offer, and with 50% off a whole lobster and chips came to £13.50 each.  No guesses what all four of us ordered!

To start, some Maldon Oysters and Heritage Tomatoes were ordered, but I couldn't go past the Chilled Beetroot and Horseradish Soup.  It was absolute perfection in a bowl.  Delicious and refreshing, with a great kick, which I absolutely love.  I'm going to try to recreate this at home soon, but not sure that Boy Wonder will love it as he's not a fan of Gazpacho, but you never know...

And then the lobster arrived.  Now normally half a lobster would satisfy me... but I was determined to do this lobster justice.  I decided not to fill up on the carb-loaded chips, but that decision went out the window as soon as I tasted them... these were some of the best chips I'd tasted in a long time, golden and crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside with the most delicious home-made mayonnaise, exactly as it should be.

But back to the not so humble lobster.  It was fantastic, chargrilled sweet meat.  The four of us went quiet for quite some time... and believe me that is saying something!  The hollondaise it was served with was a lovely accompianment, not necessary but a lovely addition.  Not much else I can say other than the staff were very accommodating as we piled the discarded shells higher and higher... hence the well named Great Rivington Lobster Massacre!

Pretty much says it all really!
We adjourned to the sofas for dessert.  I had been having a yearning for chocolate, so spotting Chocolate Mousse on the menu my mind was made up.  I was to be sorely disappointed though, my biggest let-down of the evening.  It wasn't the cocoa rich concoction I had imagined but a sugar laden dessert with a lower grade chocolate than expected.  I barely ate a third of it, and had been expecting to lick the bowl clean.

Now it wasn't a perfect evening.  Service was a little patchy at times - we had to follow up a couple of requests - the tables were a little close for my liking, and the chocolate mousse was far from perfect.  But boy did I have a fantastic night.  The company made it one of my best nights out in a while, and I'm already looking forward to the next time!

Cheers, KangaRue

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Fish Food

Still a foodie review, this will be slightly different from my usual posts, since I am going to be the food!  Yes, I was heading to Aqua Sheko for a fish pedicure.  I've heard of this treatment from friends who had visited Asia, so I was thrilled when I saw the offer on Wahanda.  I could sit back on a padded leather seat, submerge my feet in warm water while silvery Garra Rufa fish sucked off the dead cells on my feet.  Usually £30 to have your feet washed and 25 minutes with the fish (there is an upgraded service that includes - a glorious looking - 15 minute massage with Neals Yard products), the Wahanda deal at £12 was a bargain.

After I got over my fits of giggles at the tickling feeling of the fish, it was actually very relaxing.  In the end it felt more like spa bubbles massaging my feet.  Swirling my feet gently around or opening my toes attracted more fish.  BoyWonder sat at the next chair, and enjoyed it even more - surprisingly, as he is generally more ticklish than me - and we chatted over the green tea that was offered to us.  And fear not, it doesn't hurt the fish - little can survive in the temperatures of their natural waters, so we're providing mutally-benefial service; and after hours, if they're still hungry, they feast on cucumber.

Afterwards, my feet were lovely and soft, and since the fish only remove one layer of skin at a time, ideally a series of treatments should be undertaken to get feet in tip-top condition.  We both really enjoyed it, and look forward to going again.

Cheers, KangaRue

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Beyond Brunch

You've got to love the irony.  BoyWonder had a friend coming over from the US, on the 4th of July... so we just had to take him and his friend to Hawksmoor for a traditional English brunch.  We've been a couple of times before, yet I've never made it past the brunch items.  This time I was determined to hit the Sunday Roast.  But before I get to that, I had to try the remaining Bloody Mary on the menu (there are three, but I've also been lucky enough to try the award winning special produced for the Ketel One promotion).  The Bloody Mary No. 16 is made with beef broth instead of tomato juice, and is served warm - I would have preferred it a bit more spicy, as I like my Bloody Mary's with a real kick, but it was really lovely.

Now, I'm not sure how he snuck it past me, but BoyWonder ordered a Zombie.  Last time he had one of these, he went missing on the train home, and lost a couple of hours.  But he did only have the one drink this time, which made a difference.  These things are lethal; with three rums, Falernum aand Absinthe (as well as grapefruit & lime juices, Bitters, Grenadine and spiced syrup), it's not surprisingly that only one is allowed per person.  A work friend of  BoyWonder's had his first Zombie, and lost his post-lunch afternoon!

The brunch selections for the rest of the table, were a huge success yet again - the HkMuffin and the Hawksmoor Breakfast didn't disappoint (you can read my previous blog on these here).  Oh, and I reverted to my favourite Bottomless Bloody Mary (No. 7) which is based on a 1921 recipe made with gin rather than vodka with fresh horseradish and a dash of Meantime Stout to the classic tomato juice, Worcestershire Sauce and Tabasco (extra for me please!).

"Traditionally, large joints of meat were roasted on a spit over an open fire.  To achieve a similar flavour we start ours on real charcoal and finish them in the oven"... then they add potatoes roasted in dripping, a Yorkshire Pudding, carrots, spinach, whole roasted shallots, and lashings of bone marrow and onion gravy.  Now my Mum makes the best roast.  Well, so I thought.  Sorry Mum!  This was absolutely kick-ass amazing.  The beef was so flavoursome - the quality is obvious - but it was also cooked perfectly, I couldn't have asked for any better.  The potatoes were fluffy on the inside, but nicely crisp and crunchy on the outside, and the Yorkshire Pudding was perfect with enough crunch at the top, but enough density and chewiness on the bottom... and the gravy is brilliant!

I desperately wanted to try the salt-caramel icecream... I really wanted to have it with the chocolate brownie, but I just didn't have the room for it.  But then there was the cornflake icecream too (this is to die for, and is something that must be experienced - I successfully convinced a couple of others at our table to try it and they weren't sorry they did).  In the end I decided on a scoop of each of the ice-creams.  BoyWonder had the cheese plate and from the slithers he allowed me, the quality of the rest of our meal was maintained.

So I'll just have to go back again to try the desserts.  I think I'll have to go and just try the desserts!  And perhaps the champagne cocktails that are the remaining "breakfast cocktails" I've yet to try.  Oh the tortures I endure to bring a thorough review!

Cheers, KangaRue

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Ag-solutely Delightful

 Recently catching up on my Twitter feed, I heard a couple of people discussing The Royal Norfolk Show.  As they were discussing good food, it grabbed my attention, a quick google, a phone call to BoyWonder and we decided to take the day off work later in the week to head up there.

I love Ag Shows, but it had been years since I've been to one - The Royal Easter Show in Sydney was something that I loved going to as a kid.  The animals, produce displays and shows meant a great family day out, but as I got older, the focus of the show seemed to become more commercial with increasingly ridiculous prices for showbags and rides.  To be fair, there now seem to be some more reasonably priced showbags, but with the most popular lolly bags being $12-15 and the kids character bags at $20-25, it's not going to be a cheap day out for anyone.

But back to The Royal Norfolk Show...  it was a proper Ag Show.  I had a brief stint at an Agricultural Advertising Agency in what seems like a lifetime ago, and BoyWonder grew up in the country, so we know what a real Ag show is like.  And this one didn't disappoint.  After a quick glimpse at the dogs, we legged it over to the food tent to watch Dr. Tim Kinnaird demonstrate making the most beautiful Rose Macaroons (with natural colouring made from beetroot extract).  I'd sent a couple of cheeky tweets to Tim a day or two before the show, so it was lovely to meet him afterwards for a giggle.  And while I completed meeting the Masterchef 2010 finalists, I never did find out who was which of the hear-/see-/speak-no-evil monkeys.

Further wanderings around the food tent, we discovered Edinburgh Gin.  Now I'm usually a Tanqueray girl, but OMG, this is absolutely delicious.  A distinct yet subtle taste of botanicals, some specifically Scottish in origin (juniper berries, milk thistle, pine and heather) as well as the distillation taking place in "Jenny", a Scottish Copper Pot Still, have led to my changing allegiance at home, and hopefully out-and-about as it becomes more widely available.  The Sheep Dip Whisky that originally caught my attention at the stand was also really nice - beside the great name - with hints of orange, and low-peatiness, so yes, a bottle of this also made its way home with us.

Time for some lunch.  I'd been tweeting with Sarah from Bray's Cottage about the show (it was her tweet originally that led me to discovering it was on), I was on the hunt to try The Perfect Pork Pie.  Now, I'm not usually a huge fan of pork pies - I find them too fatty with too much jelly.  BoyWonder decided on a medium traditional pork pie (supposedly for slicing or sharing between two!) and I went for a Thai chilli version.  WOW!  This really is the best pork pie I have ever tasted.  The quality of the meat from home-reared rare breed pigs is obvious, it was well seasoned with a hint of onion marmalade, and the pastry was lovely as well.  Now I just need an excuse to order some!

Off to check out some livestock, everything you could possibly imagine from birds, alpacas, cows and bees... but my favourite was this inquisitive pig.  I named him Bacon.  I think BoyWonder's perverse sense of humour must be rubbing off on me - growing up he (briefly) had lambs named Lamp Chop and Mint Sauce.  Then we wandered around the farm equipment, saw the tractor show, with some really old tractors as well as the most modern bells-and-whistles variety.

Pork crackling and some craft stalls later, we spotted some bikes.  I had been on the verge of buying a new bike over a year ago before I put my back out.  Then my physio said no cycling (anything sitting was putting pressure on my problematic lower back).  So the old bike remained in the shed - it was just to heavy for me.  Lighter in weight and cheaper in price than the one I almost bought a year ago, I fell in love with this gorgeous pale-gold traditionally styled bike... Pretty isn't she!  I've now started cycling to work, and one week in my back has been pretty good, my knee has bothered me more. 

We apparently "had" to see the ferrets.  I've not been won over, though they have soft & silky fur, they stink.  So we headed back to the dogs, and saw the cutest puppy - we'd been speaking to her owner at the start of the day - win the best of the Toys category.  Now, I've wanted a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel for a while... the name Grace Kelly has already been chosen to join Lulu & Hermes in the handbag inspired names of our fur-babies.  And I think BoyWonder may be won over now as well.  Time and budget restrictions mean it won't be happening anytime soon, but how long can we resist these big brown eyes?!

What a fab day out!

Cheers, KangaRue

PS.  Do you like Ag-shows?  Have you ever been to one?  And are my pun-titles killing you?

Sunday, 4 July 2010

I'm a shucker for good food

It's a month without an "R", and in the Northern Hemisphere, it's traditionally a good time to eat oysters.  As a child, my parents attempted to feed me oysters, and I tried chewing away with little result other than to put me off eating them for years.  It was only a few years ago that I tried oysters again, extremely good oysters... and I've been hooked ever since.  So when I heard that Le Cafe Anglais was holding an oyster shucking lesson, I asked my fellow foodie, Aussie Foodie, to join me.

Wright Bros Oyster and Porter House provided both the oysters and the expertise.  There were oysters from England, Ireland, Scotland and France.  I've watched a friend struggle to shuck oysters before, but having an expert show me how to hold the oyster in a tea towel protecting my hand, then apply pressure at the mouth of the oyster with a wiggling-twisting motion, I found it surprisingly easy to open my first oyster.

Platters were set out for those who would rather sit back and enjoy the action from a distance (Aussie Foodie!), with traditional dressings of shallots in red wine vinegar, lemon wedges and green and red Tabasco.  I tried all the toppings, but lemon with red Tabasco is still my favourite.  You could really tell a difference in the regionality of the oysters, with a variety of textures, sizes and meatiness - I think the French were my favourites this time around, but I'm looking forward to a trip to Colchester soon for the local variety.

Our plan to have the set menu of mussels, salad, chips and dessert was unsuccessful - after gorging on at least 8 oysters each, the last thing we wanted was more shellfish!  I insisted Aussie Foodie try the delicious Parmesan Custard with Anchovy Toast, which I raved about in a previous blog post from my visit last year - and it didn't disappoint, with the savory creaminess being perfectly balanced by the salty soldiers.

We sipped away on an amazing cocktail - a vodka martini that had been infused with Earl Grey tea, added depth was provided by an orange liqueur... and it was absolutely knock-your-socks off brilliant.  Possibly the best ever martini I've ever tasted... and I'll be trying to recreate this at home.

Rowley Leigh, head chef and proprietor, had suggested we try the Pike Boudin with Fines Herbes for our starter.  I'm so glad he did, as this was my favourite dish of the day.  (We shared courses in deference to both our wallets and our waist-lines).  A mousse-like sausage in a hollondaise-esq sauce that had a subtle bite.  I incorrectly thought the piquancy was from mustard, but it turned out to be from Tabasco.  The crumbed top added a crunchy contrast to the texture of the sausage, which really finished it off nicely.  And there was not a drop of sauce left on the plate when we finished!

For mains, we decided on the Wood Pigeon with Braised Peas and a side of Gratin Dauphinois.  In hindsight, this was probably a poor seasonal choice on our behalf, as while it was tasty, on the whole it was a little on the tough side.  There were perfect slithers of tender breast which saved the dish in my mind.  The braised peas and jus were a perfect match for the game and you really can't fault Dauphinois can you?!  We enjoyed a carafe of Ponte Pietra 2009 Corvina Del Veneto with this course, which was a good match - enough body to stand up to the meat without over powering it.  I love that Le Cafe Anglais has a range of wines offered by glass, small carafe and large carafe that are priced at the relevant percentage of the bottle (i.e. without further mark-ups), as it makes it easier to match wines with the courses.

Time for dessert.  Le Cafe Anglais does great dessert.  I'd hoped the chocolate souffle with pouring chocolate that I'd envied from across the room on my last visit was still on the menu, but as more of a wintery dish, I'll just have to return again.  We went for the Queen of Puddings instead.  A lemon curd and sponge with a thin layer of raspberry topped with delightful meringue... one of the better meringues I've had in a long time.  Utter deliciousness!  Had to be matched with the stickyness of a Monbazillac (2006 Domaine de l’Ancienne Cure) of course.

I've not been blown away by the mains at Le Cafe Anglais - possibly from poor choice on my behalf.  But perhaps when I next return, and I will, I'll stick to the hors d'oeuvres, starters and desserts - there's certainly enough deliciousness and choice amongst them to keep me well fed.

Cheers, KangaRue

PS.  Will you forgive me for the pun in the title?  I couldn't resist!