Thursday, 22 November 2012

YO! Sushi Battle: DuckGyoza Vs RamenWins

By Nathalie Bonney.

Thanks to its conveyer belt of delights, YO! Sushi took fast food to a whole new level; serving up small plates of sushi and sashmi, not to mention hot dishes and those weird sweet cakes that you wish you hadn’t picked.

The simultaneous challenge and delight of the Japanese sushi chain is knowing how much to order/when to stop. Like a child told not to touch a hot stove, it’s all too easy to stare at the stream of dishes going past and before you know it your hand has reached out and selected a particular dish that you shouldn’t have.

Trouble is, while you can eat a lot, sometimes small plates are just too small. Enter THE RAMEN; its sizable bulk makes the mini portions of avocado maki etc quiver in its shadow.

Five different ramen bowls, priced at £7 or £8 are now on the YO! Sushi menu, with a choice of chicken and miso, pork, beef, vegetable and fish. Steaming bowls of broth and noodles are garnished with hard-boiled egg, spring onions, a chic crispy seaweed rectangle, scallion and sesame seeds.

Pretty and delicious looking, and big. The Twitter hash tag and ad campaign #RamenWins certainly makes sense. After all the teeny tiny plates that I usually deal with I feel a little like a Borrower trying to get my head (and appetite) around the seemingly insurmountable size of the ramen bowl.

I am also worried that I won’t be able to order plate number two: duck gyoza. Time to think tactics. I decide to eat the noodles, fishcakes and egg in my Kaisen Ramen and leave most of the broth. Admittedly this isn’t too hard, despite smelling extremely fishy (not a date soup), the broth doesn’t have much flavour. On another occasion this would be disappointing and I suppose the sesame oil, garlic puree and chilli oil that you can choose to add to your broth would alter the taste anyway.

In conclusion: eat the ramen noodles if you like simple, clean flavours to your food, as a child liked tearing open sugar sachets and mixing into your dinner, and can’t be bothered staring at the conveyor belt your whole dinner. #RamenWins but (in this humble blogger’s own opinion) #DuckGyoza wins more.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

6 Best Gentleman’s Afternoon Teas In London

By Christian Rose-Day.

The afternoon tea: a tradition from the early 19th century involving fine china and elegant hotel settings that is today synonymous with Mother’s Day treats, posh hen parties, and the opportunity to wear your best pearls. In short, it’s women’s business, and us men are rarely to be seen taking part. And if we are, we never really feel entirely comfortable picking up those tiny pink fancies anyway. They’re called fancies, for crying out loud! Butch, they are not.

I have, on occasion, sampled the tasty treats of an afternoon tea: I’ve enjoyed burlesque afternoon tease; I’ve proved that afternoon tea is not just the privilege of central London; and I’ve even tried to win back an ex with an afternoon tea (epic fail, but the tea was smashing). Yet, on every one of these occasions, I was accompanied by someone of the fairer sex, thus almost legitimising my presence at the afternoon tea.

Over the weekend, however, I entered a new realm, a world devoid of doilies and fascinators, that provided a manly pastime for myself and a teammate from my sports club: the Gentlemen’s Afternoon Tea.

Chapters Brasserie in Blackheath is one of those rare establishments flying the flag for chaps across London. Gone are the dainty finger sandwiches, bite-sized cakes and floral patterns. Lads, say hello to macho portions, served on slates, flanked by beer.

That’s right, the Gent’s Afternoon Tea at this Michelin Bib Gourmand/2 AA rosette restaurant doesn’t actually involve any tea, just lashing of hearty, locally-brewed Greenwich Meantime Wheat Ale or Chocolate Porter.

Once the libations were settling our weekend nerves, it was time to move on to the first round of comestibles, which included the exquisitely greasy, deep fried herring melts with garlic and parsley croutons (easily the winner in the battle of the snacks), warm duck croquettes with plum chutney, and venison bresoala with toasted sour dough. A twee champagne glazed oyster took up space on the slate where, in my opinion, thrice-cooked goose fat chunky chips should surely reside instead and the treacle tart beat the warm chocolate brownie to the gold medal in the dessert stakes. Despite the size of the portion provided, we still adhered to our manly duties and made sure our slates were completely cleared.

Whilst we put the worlds of sport, politics and culture to rights, The White Stripes ‘7 Nation Army’ joyfully massaged our lugholes, and it was nice of the management to arrange several tables of attractive ladies to sit throughout the restaurant whilst we were enjoying our Gentleman’s Afternoon Tea, although we weren’t entirely sure if this was included on the menu.

Chapters’ Gentleman's Afternoon Tea is available for the last week in November and will continue in the New Year, Friday-Sunday, 3pm-6pm, for the reasonable fee of £32. You must pre-book though, don’t just turn up and expect immediate greatness you ruffian!

Lads who do natter on an afternoon, business blokes who conduct meetings during the week, sons who treat Dad like a superhuman, you brutes need not always look to the original format for afternoon tea in London, although we do recommend checking them out if you have a wife/girlfriend/galpal/sister who can accompany you. Instead, a new type of afternoon tea is born, so here are a further 5 Gentlemen’s Afternoon Teas in London you might like to book.

No 20 Sanctum, the Best Hotel of the Year at the London Lifestyle Awards two years previous. Different versions of the Gentleman’s Afternoon Tea are available but there’s only one you really need to note: The Ultimate Indulgence for £50pp available daily 2pm-6pm. Booze, nicotine and meat; all whilst sat upon snakeskin upholstery five floors above Soho. The man’s menu includes poached oyster with bloody Mary relish; seared steak on sourdough; smoked salmon, caviar, and watercress bagel; lamb and potato hotpot; rabbit pancetta and leek pasty; roast beef and Yorkshire pudding; twice baked chocolate fudge cake with Jack Daniels ice cream; a tankard of Jack Daniels Gentleman’s Jack; and, naturally, a cigar.

Drink, Shop, Do in King’s Cross. The Man’s Afternoon Tea (£22pp) here is perfect for a group of lads who are looking to hang out with lots of lovely ladies because this venue is essentially a woman’s domain. The afternoon tea includes a beer or ale, pork pie, organic Scotch egg, pickled onions, posh pork crackling and a Yorkie bar. It’s available 7 days a week, 10.30-10.30 (reservations for groups of 5 or more only), and, for a small extra fee, there’s the option of Afternoon Tea and a ‘Do’ - an informal activity class which you’ll need a minimum of 6 people for - such as hair fascinator making (errr), pantie embroidering (ummm), vintage hair and make-up (dude!), or wine tasting (yay!), ukulele lessons (much more like it), and learning how to bend balloons (most definitely!).

The Swan at Shakespeare’s Globe on the Southbank. This Gent’s Afternoon Tea will suit visitors to London who are taking the essential walk along the south side of the Thames. Fish finger sarnies, macaroni cheese and smoked bacon, Berkshire bangers, chocolate brownie and brandy cream, and a bottle of Globe ale or stout are on offer for £22.50. Monday-Saturday, 2.30pm-4pm.

Reform at The Mandville Hotel, Marylebone. Are you a gentleman who is planning to cram all your Christmas shopping into one day, centring your efforts along London’s Oxford Street? Then you will need a break at some point. On the Gentlemen’s Afternoon Tea here, British sandwiches - cucumber and goat’s curd; Yorkshire ham and piccalilli; egg and cress; and smoked Scottish salmon - sit side by side of Welsh wagyu burgers, pork pies, a HUMONGOUS selection of teas, Eccles cake, Black Forest gateau, Batterburg, fruit scones, and a classic Lagavulin whiskey cocktail all for £26.50.

Chiswell Street Dining Room, City of London. A classy retreat in the quiet streets behind the iconic Barbican, where you and your hirsute colleagues can let go of the spreadsheets and Blackberries for a short time and, for £20pp, tuck into Welsh rarebit, buttered toast with Patum Peperium relish, assorted finger sandwiches, homemade scones with Suffolk jam and Devonshire clotted cream, all rounded off nicely with a pot of Jing tea.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

5 London Restaurants That Offer Cooking Classes

By Sophie Marie Atkinson.

We’ve all been there; hammering on the kitchen door of a particular restaurant demanding to know how they made the chicken THAT DAMN SUCCULENT. No, just me?

Well, even if you won’t admit it, I’m sure you’ve walked away from more than one London restaurant wishing you could have had even just a few minutes with the master behind the meat (or veg, chutney, corn bread, or whatever tickles your taste buds).

So, from Mexican street-food to high-end Indian fare, here’s a look at some the London restaurants bold enough to open their kitchens to the hoi polloi.
Franco Manca, classes currently only available at the Chiswick branch.
If you've never paid a visit to one of the four Franco Manca branches of these now-cult Neapolitan restaurants, you've never truly experienced pizza. The pillowy dough; the organic, locally-sourced toppings; it's no wonder Franco Manca is often hailed as the best pizza in town. And now, NOW, they are prepared to share their much-lauded secrets. Fools!

Learn how to correctly kneed the slow-rising (20 hours!) sourdough; what toppings to use and where to get them (broccoli on a pizza? Who’d a thunked it?) and how to replicate the effects of their wood fire 'tufae' brick ovens - in which the pizzas in question are cooked for a mere 40 seconds – in your own home.

A bargain at just £20 per person, and you won’t walk away even remotely hungry, trust me.

To book, call Franco Manca Chiswick on 020 8747 4822.
Theo Randall at The InterContinental, 1 Hamilton Place London W1J 7QY
On the other end of the price spectrum, but very much worth the expense, lies the Theo Randall masterclasses, which take place within the realms of Theo Randall’s restaurant, in the chi-chi Inter Continental London Park.

Famed for his simple, rustic cooking that utilises seasonal fare, the man himself allows a handful of lucky guests an insight into his kitchen every Saturday morning. Each week he explores a different theme such as pasta and risotto, or seafood, demonstrating how to make up to five mouth-watering dishes.

Once the lesson is over, guests are treated to a wine tasting session with the Head Sommelier; a three-course lunch and a copy of Theo’s book, Pasta. Well worth the £200 price tag.

To book, call Maria on 0207 318 8747 or by email her at
La Porte des Indes, 32 Bryanston Street, London, W1H 7EG
Boasting the accolade Ethnic Chef of the Year 2012, Mehernosh Mody – head chef at multi award-winning La Porte des Indes – offers guests the opportunity to witness him in action.

La Porte des Indes offers up a unique style of Indian cooking inspired by the French Creole cuisine of Pondichéry and other former French trading posts in Southern India, and dishes here include Cassoulet de Fruits de Mer, a rich seafood stew simmered in 'vindai' spices, and Poulet Rouge, shredded chicken marinated in yoghurt and red spices served in a creamy sauce. Dribble.

Held on the last Friday of every month, the classes, priced at £45 per person, take place from 12pm with a 3-course lunch from 1.30pm onwards. Guests will also receive a signed copy of the best-selling La Porte des Indes cookbook, a complimentary spice mix and a certificate.

Along the way, Mehernosh will offer indispensable advice and tips on the huge array of herbs and spices that are the mainstay of Indian cooking, including how to source, prepare and store them. Suggestions will also be given on the best food and wine pairing options.

For details visit
Benito’s Hat, various locations around London.
Despite scoring highly on the cheap-and-cheerful front, Benito’s Hat serves up my absolute favourite burritos in London. And they know how to mix mean margarita too. What’s not to love?!

And now, with the help of founder Ben Fordham and his trusty cohort/head chef Felipe Fuentes Cruz, punters can learn how to whip up their own spicy salsa, make delectable tortillas from scratch and even how to recreate the divine cocktails.

Ben and Felipe are as enthusiastic and approachable as they are knowledgeable. They even dish out awards (in the form of great gifts) for the best team effort. At £15 a head, including food and drink throughout the evening, these classes are an absolute steal.

The next class takes place on November 27. Miss it at your peril. Email for details.
Mon Plaisir, 19-21 Monmouth Street, London WC2H 9DD
Eager to please high-brow dinner party guests? Then the monthly cooking classes at Covent Garden's Mon Plaisir French restaurant might be for you.

A purveyor of some of the finest French cuisine found this side of the English Channel (Charles de Gaulle himself dined here in 1942), on the first Monday of every month the owner of Mon Plaisir throws open his door to share with diners the secrets behind what is often said to be the best steak tartare in the city.

For just £29.50, guests will enjoy Champagne on arrival, followed by an appetiser and demonstration by the brains behind the outfit, owner Alain Lhermitte or chef Frank Raymond. And then – Pièce de résistance – your chance to make the famed dish yourself. Then sit back, enjoy a glass of wine (or an extra two for just £10) and sample your wares, served, as it should be, alongside chips and salad. Dessert and coffee are also included in the cost. Mon dieu!

Friday, 9 November 2012

Lordin’ Over Gordon: Love For London’s Best Kiwi Chef

By Philippa Morton.

As an ex-pat Kiwi, I can hardly hide my total and utter delight when I see my fellow Antipodeans making our mark successfully in London. It was with a proud heart I lifted my wine glass on Wednesday night, (it was full of Kiwi spirit: Waitaki Braids Pinot Noir) to cheer the success of chef Peter Gordon’s new cookbook Peter Gordon Everyday.

New Zealand’s ‘Down to Earth’ reputation couldn’t have been better portrayed in this treasure trove of recipes. For example, spaghetti on toast, meatballs and soft-boiled eggs make cameo appearances in the book. I just love how it brings cooking basics to the fore. Best of all, every ingredient can be sourced from a supermarket. Jeeez…it sounds like I’m back in student digs! To the contrary though - the recipes are fit for a King – Peter was off to cook for Prince Charles in a few days’ time.
Peter Gordon has gone from strength to strength over the years and spoke passionately about his love for fusion cooking. As for me, I am just delighted with his perfect fusion of Kiwi food and wine in the UK. But mostly it’s the ‘Kiwiana’ of his practice that I love: the great Kiwi attitude that finds its way into each dish. Take Kopapa restaurant, for example, which is set in the heart of Covent Garden and surrounded by neighbourly friends such as Jamie Oliver’s Jamie’s Italian and Indian restaurant Dishoom. If you’re in a group and cannot decide on a food genre for the night, just mix it all up and go for Kopapa, where a feast for all tastes can be had.

Peter has left a taste of himself all over London; The Providores and Tapa Room in Marylebone as well. Not only that, but he is the meat behind Kiwi founded GBK (Gourmet Burger Kitchen) restaurants. That burger you love, it’s Peter’s!

Whether it be burgers and beans, soup and stews, restaurants, books or cooking for Princes, Peter Gordon, you really have made me proud. Cheers bro!

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Cookbook Gifts For Christmas? Go For An Italian

By Nina Koo-Seen-Lin.

This Christmas give your friends and family the gift of cooking. Cookbooks are an invaluable source reference, inspiration and make the very best Christmas gifts. This year, Italian cookbooks are dominating the food section in bookshops. Nigella Lawson’s latest book, Nigellisma: Instant Italian Inspiration (£26), has been a huge hit and shows that Italian cooking can be simple and speedy and still produce no-fuss feasts. Then there’s Antonio Carluccio: A Recipe for Life (£20) by the larger than life TV chef and successful restaurant owner. The book details his life from his humble beginnings to the success he is today. Included in the pages are recipes that have shaped his life. Here are a few more cookbooks to look out for and may be just the thing to fill your stocking.

Eat Like An Italian: Recipes for the Good Life by Catherine Fulvio (£19.99)
Catherine Fulvio is one busy woman. As well as being the proprietor of the Ballyknoken House Cookery School she’s also one of Ireland’s top TV culinary stars and a cookery writer. In her latest book, she embraces all things Italian. Having a Sicilian husband, Catherine has gradually been seduced by the Italian way of life. In Italy, people live to eat, instead of eat to live. With the belief that Italians have the answer to long-lasting health and happiness because of their Mediterranean diet and so her latest cookbook encourages readers to adapt to the leisurely Italian lifestyle attitude. Recipes include lasagne rolls, plum and chianti soup, lamb stew with olives and lemon and unique ice-cream recipes such as fig, cappuccino and olive oil. A great touch to each recipe is that Catherine explains how the Italian recipes can be tweaked using local produce; for example, a risotto can be used with pear cider instead of wine.

Versatile: Cooking and Living Italian by Grazia Guliani (£25)
This book encapsulates all that is great about traditional Italian cuisine. Recipes encourage cooks and diners to eat, drink and be merry while also adopting the Italian philosophy that food is nourishment for the spirit as well as the body. Traditional recipes such as orecchiette (pasta shaped like an ear) with broccoli and agnello with salsa gialla (lamb in a yellow sauce) are presented with optional ingredients to be added or removed according to the various palates and tastes of family and friends. It’s an approach that reflects the heart of Italian cuisine.

Limoncello and Linen water by Tessa Kiros (£25)
Tessa celebrates the heritage of Italy, the country she’s chosen to call home, in her latest book. It’s a rather whimsical book that pays tribute to the women in our lives – mothers, mothers-in-law, grandmothers etc. (in Italy, women are considered the heart and soul of the home). Important lessons in life are noted throughout the pages that every woman of any age will learn from. With recipes ranging from robust dishes for the family to quirky cakes and preserves, this book will become a precious heirloom to treasure.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

The World’s Hottest Chilli Menu: Is It A Weapon Or Meal?

By Claire Williams.

I always thought of myself as pretty hard when it comes to spicy food. I grow a number of different chilli plants in my little makeshift window conservatory at home, and I put them – seeds and all – straight bang into my food. I’ve been known to eat a chilli raw for a bet (granted, after I’d cleared the alcohol cabinet of its contents). I mean, I’ve even attended a chilli festival for fun. So when I was presented with the task of trying out the World’s Hottest Chilli Menu at critically-acclaimed Pan Asian restaurant, Gilgamesh in Camden, I didn’t think twice.

“Just how hot can it be?” I naively thought to myself.

Well, the resounding answer to that question is: bloody hot.

On entering the restaurant, we were ushered to a table by a waitress.

“Two of your hottest chilli menu meals, please.”

The waitress looked at us. “You want to try it all?”

“Yes, please. And a bottle of wine, to go with it, if you may.”

She looked at us for a minute, and then dutifully went through the menu, explaining the origins of the chillis used and how they are spread throughout the dishes. I’m a massive fan of Asian food – especially from Southern and Eastern regions – so her warnings about the heat of the food fell on deaf ears. All I was listening to was green mango, papaya, monkfish…

“And we suggest you try a refreshing, milky cocktail to go with it. Really brings down the heat.”

“No, no. We’ll be fine.”

The waitress looked at us again. “I’ll bring you one, anyway.”

We went back to our conversation after she left, talking about god knows what, when Chef Ian Pengelley (the chef who once co-owned a restaurant with none other than the famous gutter-mouthed chef Gordon Ramsay) came and sat with us at the table.

“Guys, these are hot chillis. No joke.”

I looked over at my dining partner. Two people warning us of just how hot the food is, and one of them was the chef! Perhaps we weren’t fully thinking this through.

Ian went on to tell us about the types of chilli used in the dishes – the Naga, the Scotch Bonnet and the Trinidad Scorpion – and the fact that they are all 400 times hotter than Tobasco. In fact, the Trinidad Scorpion measures up to 1.4 million on the Scoville scale (the scale they measure a chillis heat). To put this kind of heat into comparison, the trusty Jalapeno chilli measures a measly 3,500 and US Grade Pepper Spray measures 2 million. So we were about to eat a chilli that measured closer in scale to a weapon than a normal chilli.

It slowly dawned on me just how hot this food was going to be. And when the waitress came out with a disclaimer form, telling us we’d receive a certificate at the end of the meal if we managed to get our way through the food, I realised this wasn’t going to be the walk in the park that I had expected it to be.

And I wasn’t wrong.

Our dishes came out all at once. We started off with what we thought would be the easy option: the dish of stir-fried cashew nut, chicken, dried red chilli and holy basil. The waitress came up with our cocktails that we greedily gulped back, dowsing our mouths and our taste buds in milky, cooling liquid. The red wine lay untouched.

“It’s… a bit… hot,” I gasped.

My partner nodded back at me. He was busy gulping down water.

“Actually,” the waitress said, “that’s probably the hottest of the dishes.”

We spooned the green mango and papaya salad onto our plates, hoping for some refreshing relief from the now burning sensations in our mouths. But we were offered no such respite. Every dish was as hot as each other. But as we continued eating (we didn’t talk, we didn’t even touch our wine) the flavours started to zing around our mouths. The heat was almost addictive. Just when I thought I couldn’t manage anymore, I reached in and spooned another piece of chicken onto my plate.
For those of you who’d like to try a dish from the World’s Hottest Chilli Menu but have some reservations: firstly, grow some balls. It’s called the World’s Hottest Chilli Menu for a reason. Secondly, I’d suggest going for the monkfish and physalis jungle curry. Yeah, it’s hot. But it’s not as intensely hot as the other two dishes on the menu.
Three tips for you, though. Firstly, listen to the waitresses. They’re right when they suggest you need a cooling cocktail. Don’t bother with the wine; your mouth will be on fire and the wine won’t put it out. They’ll also suggest you order coconut rice; again, do it. The creaminess of the rice sates the chilli somewhat. Secondly, don’t be fooled with the chilli berry sorbet (pictured below) for pudding. It’s delicious, but it packs a punch, too.