Monthly Archives: February 2015

Bah Bah: a Persian pop-up at The King & Co

Usually I would start off a blog post with some sort of a pre-amble but I’m so excited to tell you about this that I’m going to cut to the chase. The quicker you get the message that you must go as soon as possible to Bah Bah, the Persian pop-up at The King & Co pub, the better.

It’s only on until the end of March so time really is of the essence.

If you need some more reasons as to why you need to head over to Clapham Park Road quick-smart, behold the menu:

Bah Bah at The King & Co - menu

Bah Bah at The King & Co – menu

 

For those of you who don’t know, “bah bah” is what Persians say when something is especially appetizing; it’s the equivalent of “mmm” or “yummy” and a very apt name for the cooking from Bah Bah’s founder and head chef James Nicholson.

Like me, James has an Iranian mother and grew up on Persian food. Middle Eastern and Persian cuisine is finally starting to get the recognition and reputation it deserves which is brilliant. James is flying the flag in an innovative way; as he pointed out, you can get excellent Persian food in London if you know where to look, but never in a pub! Or in Clapham!

The King & Co is a relatively new independent freehouse, launched in September 2014. It’s a great place with a diverse selection of craft beers and interesting food; the pub hosts lots of different kitchen residencies. After Bah Bah there is word of a Ghanaian pop-up moving in.

The food served by the Bah Bah team definitely has a bit of a British accent; it is a more modern adaptation of traditional Persian dishes, often done in a very clever way.

If you go to an old-school Persian place you will be served huge mountains of buttery saffron rice and vast platters of chelo kabob with bread the size of tablecloths.

James and his team have a more refined approach and serve small plates inspired by classic bright, fragrant Persian flavours.

IMG_3818 small plates

The best small plates are the kufteh (lamb and dried fruit meatballs with pomegranate and pistachios) – addictively moreish and juicy. The kookoo sabzi (a sort of frittata loaded with herbs, walnuts and barberries) is really good, as is the bademjan (smoked aubergine with yoghurt) – although I do think James should use the traditional kashk (whey) instead of yoghurt for the distinctive tangy flavour.

Pirashki, crepes filled with spiced beef, was new to me. James said the dish is actually Russian in origin (quite a few Persian dishes are originally from Russia, such as salad olivieh, a rich potato salad) and that this was a family favourite. I thought they were a little on the oily side but my partner in crime gobbled them up.

Bah Bah ghormeh sabzi

Bah Bah ghormeh sabzi

Bah Bah’s showstopper is the ghormeh sabzi, a hearty khoresh (slow cooked stew) I was practically raised on, made with small pieces of meat, kidney beans, dried limes and masses of herbs (usually a mix of parsley, fenugreek, chives and others) – it’s always served with fluffy basmati rice. James’s version is one of the best I’ve ever had; he uses beef shin with roasted bone marrow which gives an amazing unctuousness. So inspired to use this cut rather than the more typical lamb neck – it’s rich, full of flavour without being overly fatty, and perfect in a slow cooked dish like this. I am simultaneously thankful to James for giving me the idea, and kicking myself for not thinking of it first!

Luckily there are still a few weeks left before Bah Bah moves on to new pastures – James is considering a few opportunities for the future and is definitely one to watch.

I will be back again soon for more of that incredible ghormeh sabzi and to try the regularly changing specials such as roast quail, which had sadly sold out when we were there. The team is planning specials for Nowruz (Persian New Year aka the first day of spring) which will be an excellent time to visit.

Nush-e-jan!

@bahbahlondon

Bah Bah’s residency at The King & Co ends Sunday 29th March 2015. To book a table or reserve an area, email hello@thekingandco.uk

http://www.thekingandco.uk

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Five of the best: sweet treats for grown-ups

I wrote a little piece about some of my favourite treats for a grown-up sweet tooth for The Holborn Magazine here: http://theholbornmag.com/2015/02/24/five-of-the-best-sweet-treats-for-grown-ups/

Baijiu Cocktail Week in London for The Holborn

Pop over to The Holborn to read a piece I wrote about Baijiu Cocktail Week in London:

http://theholbornmag.com/2015/02/18/taste-fire-in-london-with-baijiu-cocktail-week-this-chinese-new-year/

Stay in this Valentine’s Day! Romance is “in the bag” with a delivery service from Brompton Food Market

Look, obviously I love eating out at restaurants, but there’s one day of the year it is best to avoid them at all costs.

Restaurants on Valentine’s Day are invariably horrific: the overpriced set menus, the gaudy decorations, the forced phoniness of it all. No thank you! Chefs, waiters and kitchen staff hate it too; it’s much easier to cater for a restaurant full of friendly groups of 4 and 6 than dozens of lonely little tables for two.

If only this celebration of love and romance was in midsummer and we could revel in outdoor picnics, feeding each other strawberries and snoozing in the sun.

Best to stay in, get cosy and enjoy a genuinely intimate, relaxing feast together. The lovely, talented lot at the Brompton Food Market agree, and have come up with the brilliant idea to deliver a Valentine’s Day meal kit to London’s lovebirds. It’s not just for smug married types – they’re also offering the deal for one, AND a bottle of house wine thrown in for singles. All the prep is done to very high, cheffy standards so all you have to do is cook it as per the instructions.

The bags arrived with all the components and instructions to put together a classic, elegant, aphrodisiac-packed four course meal for two.

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Food is definitely the way to my heart, and this menu is the type of thing that would get me shouting undying love from the rooftops:

Lobster cocktail, blood orange dressing, romaine lettuce, baguette –

****

Peppered rare breed fillet steak, truffled mash, creamed spinach and nutmeg, red wine gravy

Or

Monk fish, truffled mash, creamed spinach and nutmeg, butter chive sauce

****

Lemon and passion fruit posset, tropical fruit salad

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La Tur soft cheese with truffle honey and oat cakes

You can also order specially selected wine as part of the kit.

The starter was luxurious yet light enough to save room for the rich courses to come. Generous chunks of beautifully firm, juicy lobster meat were enrobed in a silky sauce, offset by a crunchy salad and a punchy dressing of seasonal blood orange.

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The only bit of cooking required is to get a heavy pan very hot and sear the peppered fillet steaks briefly on each side.

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The sides of truffle mash and nutmeggy spinach just needed to be reheated – they complemented the meat beautifully.

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We managed to find room for lemon posset for pudding…

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And polished off the final course of ripe La Tur cheese, oat biscuits and truffle honey snuggled up on the sofa. You can’t do that in a restaurant!

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Everything was very easy to put together and the portion sizes were well judged. Even though my artistic plating up skills could do with some work, it all looked, smelled and tasted fabulous. Every component of every dish was restaurant quality; excellent ingredients prepared with skill and seasoned to perfection.

Whether you’re in a new relationship or have been together for years, this was the perfect Valentine’s Day date. It’s fun getting everything ready together and honestly, we felt the same sense of satisfaction as we would have done if the meal had taken hours of work. Best of all, we didn’t have to schlep home after the meal. If things do escalate romantically as one would hope after such a gorgeous meal, the bedroom is just down the hall… nudge nudge, wink wink!

The Valentine’s Day kit is available from Brompton Food Market, £70.00 plus delivery. Place your orders now in time for V Day this weekend!

@bromptonfoodmkt
http://www.bromptonfoodmarket.com

I was invited to review the service by Brompton Food Market.

Gordon Ramsay’s Heddon Street Kitchen, Mayfair

HSK Neon Sign

Last Autumn, “wedmin” (and a few weeks of last minute carb-dodging before the big day) meant I neglected to keep up with my always-growing list of must visit new restaurants with my usual vigour.

One of the places that has been on my radar for several months is Heddon Street Kitchen, the latest in Gordon Ramsay’s international portfolio. Mr “Big Sweary” has a dozen or so restaurants in London and this newest offering promises informal Modern European food in Heddon Street, a pedestrianised section of Mayfair which is being dubbed “Regent Street’s Food Quarter”.

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HSK Ground Floor

The restaurant has received a mixed reception since opening, and I was looking forward to sampling it for myself now the venue has had a few months to bed in to the London dining scene.

The atmosphere is buzzing; the crowds of people did not seem to be put off by any negative reviews. The industrial chic vibe is offset with cosy tables and banquette seating, plus some inviting details dotted around such as retro desk lamps and piles of rolled up blankets. It’s all very dark and my camera couldn’t capture any decent shots, so I’ve relied mainly on PR images.

Our assembled group of food bloggers kicked off with cocktails: Brits Spritz reminded me of a combination of a classic Aperol Spritz and Pimms fruit cup, combining Kamm & Sons, elderflower cordial, soda and Prosecco.

The Lady Regent was an elegant and refreshing blend of Hendricks gin, Ruinquinquin peach, elderflower, lemon and mint, garnished with a single rose petal.

heddon street kitchen

Most memorable was the Heddon St Grog – a quirky metal tankard brimming with Bacardi Oakheart, Cherry Heering, pineapple, lemon, Bitters, sugar, Innis & Gunn original beer.

Heddon Street Grog

We then shared platters of hot and cold starters so we could sample a variety of dishes from the menu.

The spicy tuna tartare, chilli garlic, sesame oil, wonton crisps (£12) was incredibly moreish and just the type of thing I would be happy picking at throughout the evening over cocktails with friends.

Similarly, the California maki roll with snow crab mix, avocado, tobiko made a great bar snack – I’ve had better sushi not too far from this restaurant, but it was tasty enough.

heddon street kitchen

The Fried Rock Oysters with fennel and lemon confit salad (£13.50) were popular, but in my humble opinion, I don’t see the point of deep frying oysters, or smothering them in accompaniments. This rare treat is far better ice cold, raw and freshly shucked for that pure taste of the sea.

heddon street kitchen

My top choice was the Tamarind spiced chicken wings (£8.50) which had a perfect crunchy crust, tender flesh and lip-smacking, tangy sauce.

Another winner was the potted salt beef brisket, grain mustard and piccalilli, buckwheat crackers (£9.50) – the bold, salty and meaty flavours of the meat were a brilliant foil to the punchy piccalilli accompaniment. I couldn’t stop piling it onto the nutty buckwheat crackers.

Roasted veal carpaccio with dill pickles and tuna dressing (£12.50) is an interesting combination and while it was pleasant enough, was not a finely balanced dish as the dressing overpowered the delicate flavour and texture of the veal.

Moving on to the mains, we sampled bites of a variety of options, starting with slow-roasted saddleback pork belly, spiced apple sauce (£16). Like several of the dishes at Heddon Street Kitchen, I couldn’t help but think that I’ve enjoyed better, cheaper versions not too far from this restaurant. The meat was a touch dry and mealy, which is surprising for such a fatty cut.

heddon street kitchen

Similarly Herdwick lamb cutlets (£26) were fine, but could have done with more “zip” in flavour, either from a marinade or a smokier finish from the grill.

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The spiced plaice, piperade, chorizo, cauliflower purée and parsley oil (£22) was a divisive dish: it was my favourite of the mains while others felt it could have been didn’t go particularly well with the other dishes we sampled.

Typically, the dish I most looked forward to was one of the most disappointing. The best mac & cheese should make you want to bury your face in it; I abandoned the Macaroni cheese with garlic roasted crumbs (£5) after a couple of forkfuls. Someone on the table queried whether the chefs may have forgotten to put cheese in – not a good sign.

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The highlight of the evening was hands down the Chocolat fondant (£8). We held our breaths as the first spoon went in, the moment of truth – sure enough, molten chocolate goo spilled out joyfully over the plate. A perfect example of this favourite dessert.

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I almost overlooked it but the Pineapple carpaccio (£7) quietly stole the show. Shaved slices of the aromatic fruit were served with a syrup infused with star anise and chilli – it was the most delicious way to round off the evening’s indulgences with something light yet interesting. I have made a mental note to recreate this at home; it would be an amazing, refreshing dessert after a curry night.

So to summarise, there were some hits, some misses, a pleasant evening of food all in all with nothing particularly astonishingly good or bad. While I would advise heading elsewhere if you want to be wowed by a truly unique dining experience, Heddon Street Kitchen is spot on for catching up with group of friends over cocktails and crowd-pleasing bites.

I was invited to dine as a guest of Heddon Street Kitchen.

Heddon Street Kitchen

3-9 Heddon Street, London W1B 4BN

http://www.heddonstreetkitchen.co.uk

@heddonstreetkitchen

Facebook.com/heddonstreetkitchen

 

The Pinewood with Woodford Reserve Double Oaked

Recently I sampled cocktails at the Hawksmoor Spitalfields Bar on behalf of The Holborn Magazine (http://theholbornmag.com) and wrote up the below piece, which can also be read here

Easing into one of the cosy, copper-roofed booths at the Hawksmoor Spitalfields Bar is a sure-fire way to unwind after a long day. Even more so when it’s with a steady supply of Woodford Reserve Double Oaked, pegged as the ultimate bourbon for modern whiskey connoisseurs.

The salty caramel bourbon can be enjoyed neat as an “occasion whiskey” or mixed by skilled bartenders such as Tom Vernon, brand ambassador for Woodford Reserve, America’s oldest and smallest distillery. Over the years, Woodford has produced award-winning bourbon and honed its skills in eking out the best flavour from the five sources of the bourbon-making process: water, grain, fermentation, distillation and maturation.

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The “Double Oaked” name refers to the unique two-stage maturation process which uses two barrels to yield a rich, smooth and well rounded whiskey. The bourbon begins life as fully matured Woodford Reserve Distiller’s Select before being transferred into a second, heavily toasted, charred barrel, which imparts a distinct rich, caramel quality and adds further layers of bold flavour. The amber liquid matures for a full year in the second barrel, over which time it takes on notes of dark fruits and hazelnut.

Tasting the finished product, there is sweetness to start with, before a pleasant dryness can be picked up on the sides of the tongue thanks to the wood treatment. Flavours of toffee, cinnamon, liquorice and even leather meld with spice and rye.

wr-old-fashioned

The bourbon shines in cocktails such as The Pinewood, a hybrid of a Manhattan and an Old Fashioned. Dry Italian vermouth enlivens the rich, smooth flavours of Woodford Reserve Double Oaked and the whole palate is stimulated with sweet pineapple spirit, smoked salt and a dash of bitters.

35ml WRDO
35ml Punt E Mes
Dash, Angustura Bitters
Orange rind
5ml Smoked Salt and Pineapple Syrup

Stir down and serve straight up with a twist of orange

Woodford Reserve Double Oaked, is priced at £50 per bottle, available from Fortnum & Mason, Harvey Nichols, The Whisky Shop (in-store and online), plus any Hawksmoor.

http://www.woodfordreserve.com