Tag Archives: fish

Casse-Croûte, Bermondsey

I can’t get too excited – it’s only early days – but I think I’ve found my favourite London restaurant. You can go with friends, on a date, in a suit, or jeans. It’s the perfect combination of cool and comfortable, fun and romantic.

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You’ll find Casse-Croûte on Bermondsey Street *she says begrudgingly*. The petite, reasonably priced restaurant transports you to Paris, with its gingham table cloths covering wooden, candle lit tables. The waiters and menu are French; the latter written on a blackboard by the bar.

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There were three choices for each course – there were three of us, so we ordered everything. Starters were Terrine de Foie Gras (£8), Cassoulet de Ris D’Agneau (£7) and Rilette de Salmon (£6.5). I couldn’t fault any of it – the Foie Gras was like butter and the wonderfully cheesy lamb cassoulet was a meaty fondue dripping from torn pieces of bread. Even the salmon got an oh la la.

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For main, we enjoyed Barbue (fish), Lapin (rabbit) and Canard (Duck) for £14.50 each. A fantastic, emerald green risotto helped Barbue win the course competition, but the confit Canard put up a brave fight with its creamy, perfectly formed potato gratin. YUM.

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The desserts were all £4.50. Baba au Rhum had been drenched in the good stuff, yet still managed a bouncy sponge. Soufflé au Chocolate was a tad bitter for my taste, but I still ate it, in between mouthfuls of caramel infused dessert number three.

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I’m giving Casse-Croûte a LLE Rating if 10/10 – sacrebleu! I hear you say. Disagree, and you’ll save room for me. Agree, and I’ll see you there next Friday.

Casse-Croûte, 109 Bermondsey Street, London SE1 3XB

Tacombi, New York

Tacos were high on my NY Bucket List, so when The Boyfriend’s Aunt recommended Tacombi in Nolita, it was the obvious place for lunch on our last day in the Big Apple.

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Tacombi is stripped back to reveal concrete floors, metal tables and chairs, crates of beer and a steel taco van ‘driven’ by two Mexican chefs. It has a bustling ‘street food’ vibe, with enough space so you don’t have to wait too long.

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Yet again, we ordered less than recommended, but still ended up with too much food. From the taco menu, we went for Pollo (chicken at $3.95), Pork Belly ($5.49), Barbacoa (a Caribbean way of cooking meat, coming in at $5.49) and Crispy Fish ($4.49).

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Each juicy taco excited my tastebuds with well seasoned, spicy meat, fresh herbs and crispy vegetables. That, and a strongly flavoured corn tortilla pulling everything together.

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On the side, we had average Ceviche ($5.49) and the star of our meal, Corn Esquites ($3.85) – beautifully sweet toasted corn, with lime and a thick chipotle mayo. Put simply, it was divine.

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Our meal at Tacombi was one of the cheapest and best we had in New York City. By the look on everyone’s faces, I could tell they felt the same. This was delicious food, worth having time and time again.

Tacombi, 267 Elizabeth Street, NY 10012

Caracas Arepa Bar, New York

An arepa is a dense, corn dough muffin that’s opened and stuffed with cheese, fish, meat – anything that takes your fancy. I first tried one aged 18, living in Venezuela. My second experience came ten years later, this time in NYC.

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Caracas was the restaurant feeding us yummy arepas. We had to wait an hour, but eventually got a seat in the bustling Manhattan branch, despite feeling tempted by the ‘food to go’ window.

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Inside we found a cosy, warmly lit space, decorated with statues of Mary Magdalene and ornate crosses. On wooden tables sat menus listing the 12 arepas available, along with nine ‘Sidekicks’, salads, full sized ‘plates’ and desserts.

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Now if there’s one thing I’ve learnt about America, it’s to order less than what’s recommended to you. The waiter told us we needed four arepas between two, so we went for three plus Guasacaca & Chips ($6.25) – delicious guacamole that was scooped up with crisp plantain.

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The suitably bland patties were the perfect vessel for the meaty fillings – De Pabellon ($7.5) with shredded beef, black beans, white salty cheese and sweet plantains, De Pollo ($6.5), a combination of grilled chicken breast, caramelised onions and cheddar cheese and last, but by no means least, Vista al Mar ($8) – pan seared tilapia with garlic infused oil, pickled onions, radish and a parsley, cilantro and oregano spread.

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Is your mouth watering yet? It should be as each one was packed with wonderful flavours, especially Vista al Mar, which reminded me of snacks on the shore in Choroni, Venezuela.

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There’s no way I can wait another ten years before biting into an arepa. If London doesn’t come up with the goods, I’ll just have to make my own…or take another trip to the Big Apple.

Caracas, 93 1/2 E 7th St., NY 10009

Tramshed, Shoreditch

On Saturday, I had dinner under a formaldehyde cow with a cockerel on its back. Now there’s a sentence I never thought I’d say.

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Some of you will know what I’m talking about. For those that don’t, I was in Mark Hix’s restaurant Tramshed – the one with Damien Hirst’s ‘Cock and Bull’ sculpture suspended from the ceiling.

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The sculpture is the perfect symbol for Tramshed –  the restaurant specialises in chicken and steak. That, and a couple of veggie options, some ‘seasonal sharing starters’ and puddings you’ll be too full for.

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I was with two carnivores and a pescetarian, so it was Swainson House Farm roast chicken for the meat-eaters and fish fingers with mushy peas for the veggie. The chicken was presented with its legs akimbo, sitting in a bowl of fries. Our friendly waitress tore off the legs before giving us the knife to carve the succulent, juicy meat with dangerously tasty skin.

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The best part were the fries that sat beneath the chicken. Each piece of potatoey goodness was drunk with chicken juice, but still managed to stay crispy. God knows how many I ate.

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On the side, we had sweet, lightly battered onion rings, a plate of chunky, sauteed field mushrooms and a salad with Roquefort and hazelnuts. Our waitress insisted on yet more fries. I wasn’t complaining, but appreciated not being charged for extras.

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All sides came in large and small portions. We went for large (naturally), which I’d recommend as they weren’t all that generous…

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Next to me sat N’s fish fingers with mushy peas, which she happily chomped on as we picked at our chicken carcass. The fish was light and moist, with a crunchy, golden crumb. The peas tasted like they were freshly picked from the garden, delicately flavoured with mint.

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We were stuffed, but couldn’t resist salted caramel fondue for dessert. Pieces of fluffy doughnut, creamy marshmallow and, eventually, our spoons were dunked into melted caramel. Pieces of fruit would have been less sickly, but it was a fitting end to our indulgent meal.

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My jaw dropped when I saw the bill. With two bottles of wine, it was only £32 per person with tip. Amazing given the quality of food, buzzing atmosphere and amazing setting. I was also impressed by the speed of service, which wasn’t pushy, but made the two hour sitting manageable.

Next time I’ll try the steak, perhaps on a Monday when you can bring your own booze. Until then, Tramshed gets a very worthy LLE Rating of 8/10.

Tramshed, 32 Rivington Street, London EC2A 3EQ

Tramshed on Urbanspoon

Canteen, Royal Festival Hall

I’ve eaten in two canteens recently – one at Lampton School in Hounslow and the other underneath Royal Festival Hall. Now as much as I’m sure you’d love to hear about my comforting jacket potato with cheese and beans at Lampton, I think I’ll focus on Canteen, the restaurant.

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There are four Canteen branches in London – Spitalfields, Canary Wharf, Baker Street and the subject of this post, Royal Festival Hall. The chain is committed to providing “honest food that’s naturally sourced, skilfully prepared and reasonably priced”. How do I know? I read the Canteen cookbook.

I hadn’t intended to go to Canteen the other week. Instead, it happened out of necessity – necessity to get out of the icy rain, necessity to catch up with my friend and necessity to find somewhere that wouldn’t make me wait over an hour before feeding me (ahem, Wahaca Southbank).

The restaurant has everything you’d want on a truly disgusting day – stews, freshly baked pies, daily roasts and an all day breakfast. The only thing it doesn’t have is a warm, cosy interior, but hey, it is a canteen. The most inciting thing on the menu was the fish finger sandwich, so I ordered one of those as a starter.

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My sandwich was a thing of beauty. Soft, white bread cuddled chunky pieces of golden breadcrumbed fish, coated with the perfect amount of homemade tartare sauce. I personally couldn’t fault it.

I went for a lighter main course – smoked haddock salad with leek, croutons and a poached egg. It felt healthy, yet deliciously filling. A perfect salad, if it wasn’t for one medium sized problem – the egg. I wanted it to explode with yellow gooeyness, but instead, the yolk was hard.

Pudding was skipped for no other reason than being full, so we ordered the bill, which came in at £15 a head for food, a glass of wine and tip. Not too shabby for Little Lady Eats.

I would, and probably will, return to Canteen as I’m keen to try more of their British delights. Apart from the egg, the rest was yummy, so I’ll give it a LLE Rating of 7/10.

Canteen, Royal Festival Hall, Belvedere Road, London SE1 8XX

Savoy Grill, The Strand

I am writing this 30,000 metres above sea level, an hour and a half delayed and hungry for something other than Ryan Air’s six Euro meal deal. Is this the right moment to think about my lunch at Savoy Grill last Saturday? Possibly not. But, at least it stops me thinking about what would happen if one of the plane’s wings fell off. I’ve never been a good flyer.

I went to Savoy Grill to celebrate my sister’s 30th birthday with my family. Again. As my Dad kept pointing out.

We started  in style with a drink at The American Bar. I warned my dad about the prices, but he must have felt more celebratory than he realised. My choice was predictable – a White Lady. Why risk being disappointed when you know what you love? My mum  and sister followed suit, but Dad struck out on his own and ordered an ever so manly Old Fashioned.


A drink down, we made our way to the restaurant. The staff were attentive and friendly, but I wouldn’t have expected any less from a man who spends his time telling (yelling) restaurateurs where they’ve gone wrong.


Seated in a booth – I do love a booth – we chose from the set menu, which was well priced at £26 per person. For me, it was the Chicken Liver Pâté and Fishcake that jumped off the page and straight into my mouth.

The Chicken Liver Pâté was light as a mousse and smooth as silk. It came with a sweet, tangy chutney and toasted bread I felt no need for.


My main course was stacked up high. On the bottom were courgette ribbons that made a bed for the fat fishcake stuffed with flakes of smoked haddock and chunks of king prawn. This was topped with a semi-runny poached egg and a serving of creamy, mustardy sauce that brought it all together. The sides of spinach and cauliflower cheese were better matched with my parents’ choice of duck confit, but that didn’t stop me reaching for a spoonful of each.


As the main courses were being cleared away, I took the opportunity to pop to the ladies (something I would normally leave out of a review). Where i write ‘pop’, i should say ‘escorted by a handsome Italian waiter’. I told you they were friendly.


The desserts presented me with a hard decision. So, I did what any pudding lover (fatty) would do – insisted everyone got something different (so i could eat them all). My sister put up a fight, complaining that she only wanted to eat the Eton Mess – she’s never liked to share food. The parents had no excuse.


So, it was Eton Mess, Gooseberry Trifle and Chocolate Pave. The Eton Mess was as good as expected, the trifle lacked the punch I’d hoped for and the Pave interested my taste buds with its pairing of Lavender ice-cream.

All thoroughly stuffed, my sister was less determined to hang on to every morsel when her birthday cake materialised. I smiled. A little sibling victory for LLE.

I was surprised to see it was 4pm when we left the restaurant. Time had flown, which I put down to great food, company and those oh so important waiters. For that, I’m giving Savoy Grill a LLE Rating of 9/10.

Savoy Grill, The Savoy, Strand, London WC2R 0EU

Cooking, Eating & Drinking at Food at 52

Food at 52 isn’t your average cookery school. At one point you’re learning techniques and cooking beautiful dishes, and at another, you’re in the midst of a dinner party with a group of your new best friends, pouring wine, breaking bread and laughing like you’ve known each other for years…not hours.

When I cook, I tend to stick to Italian, French and English recipes, with the odd Thai curry thrown in. Determined to learn something new, I jumped on the tapas bandwagon and went for the Food at 52 Spanish course, run by owner and head chef John Benbow.

I arrived promptly at 6.30pm and was whisked downstairs into what felt like the perfect country kitchen, complete with an enormous long wooden table, handcrafted by John. Spying another solo student, I quickly stood next to the lovely Vanessa, poured myself a glass of cold white wine and waited for the fun to begin.

After introductions were made, the lovely John ran us through the menu, which included everything from fish and meat to salads and chocolate. John explained that we would be stopping mid way for food, which was music to our ears, legs and stomachs.

Divided into three teams of five, we started at the end, making Spanish Olive Chocolate Truffles. Olives and chocolate?! I had a similar reaction, but trust me, it works – just like salt or chilli, the bitterness of the olives makes a welcome contrast to the sweet chocolate.

Next up were more olives, this time stuffed with Manchego cheese, deep fried and served with a drizzle of honey. I still can’t believe the simplicity and effectiveness of this recipe, so I’ve pasted it at the end so you too can make these tasty morsels.

Before moving onto our mains, we created a colourful Amanida Salad from Catalana. John announced that salad building would be judged between teams, which didn’t worry me as I knew my new friends were more than up for the challenge.

As you can see, what we ended up with was a thing of beauty, which clearly won the virtual trophy, even though John felt too bad to admit it to the others.

Moving onto mains, we braised some chicken thighs, before popping each piece onto a bed of chopped green olives sautéed with onions, garlic and pepper, and leaving it to braise for around 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, we created a delicious salad of new potatoes, chorizo, paprika and cumin, whilst pan frying sea bass with capers and roasted red peppers.

The end results were fantastic, reminding me how easy it is to make mouthwatering meals with just a few simple ingredients.

We covered a lot of ground in four hours, which included regular breaks to eat, drink and be merry. It was a complete contrast to my intensive Leiths course last year, but that didn’t surprise or upset me in the slightest. Food at 52 is about learning to cook exciting recipes, whilst having a brilliant time with your fellow classmates that are also passionate about sharing food. I left feeling inspired, a little tipsy, very full and, most importantly, happy.

Fried Queen Olives with Manchego

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

  • 200g pitted queen olives
  • 50g Manchego cheese
  • 2 tbls flour
  • 1 large egg
  • 4 tbls breadcrumbs
  • Mild Spanish olive oil for frying
  • A drizzle of honey

Method

  • Open the tin/jar of queen olives and drain the brine, taste and if too salty wash in cold water. Drain in a colander and pat dry
  • Finely chop the manchego cheese until is resembles breadcrumbs; then mix the cheese with 1 teaspoon of the breadcrumbs
  • Stuff the olives with the cheese and breadcrumb mixture using the back of a teaspoon
  • Once the olives are stuffed, sprinkle them all over with flour. Whisk the egg and egg wash the olives making sure they are fully coated. Then do the same with the breadcrumbs and put to one sid.
  • Heat oil (enough to cover the olives) in a small pan on a high temperature. Wait until the oil is hot (test by dropping an olive in and it should fry quickly in around 5 seconds). Once the oil is hot enough, fry in batchers of about 7 olives until golden. This should take less than 90 seconds
  • Pat dry on kitchen paper. Put on a plate and drizzle with the honey. Serve!

Food at 52, 96 Central Street, London EC1V 8AJ (http://www.foodat52.co.uk/