All posts filed under “££

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Barnyard

A bit of Dabbous..

It is a truth universally acknowledged by food critics that Dabbous is a restaurant worthy of month-long reservation attempts. For me, I have found tastier solace at its downstairs bar. You’ll find bar nibble quickies (BBQ beef buns, etc.), some Dabbous signature dishes, awesome desserts and funky cocktails. And, in my opinion, Barnyard – a walk-in only restaurant by Ollie Dabbous – is precisely that.

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Antidote

Four clues..

There were rumours that a certain Michelin star chef has quietly moved in at an existing restaurant address around Carnaby Street. He shunned the aids of PR. I was also further teased, “you had his food before and you liked it”. That’s about it. My two clues: the “Carnaby” location and that the chef is a “he”.

My brain labour started, no doubt. Social media network didn’t help much. The “no PR” works most effectively to obscure, when a lot of restaurants these days (especially in Central London) rely on PR bombs. Luckily, I was able to single out a couple of possible sites that had recently been refurbished. My foot work followed. I looked through the menus of my narrowed-down restaurant list.

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The Lockhart

Blogging again

The Lockhart isn’t a new restaurant but one that nobody talked about. It wasn’t until its recent acquisition of chef Bradford McDonald that The Lockhart got my attention. The fare here is Southern American with backflippingly cool and refined twists.

Before that. Bradford. He is American and Southern. He grew up in a farm and mobilised across the world’s best kitchens (including Per Se and Noma). His former restaurant Governor in Brooklyn, NY was lauded by chefs, critics and food enthusiasts. Sadly, it was swept away by Sandy. A year or so after, I feel privileged to have Brad cooking in London.

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Yashin Ocean House: Japanese Fusion Expansion (without Soy Sauce)?

Fish and a bit of Japanese..

Yashin Ocean House is a new venture by the team behind Yashin Sushi (in High Street Kensington). This is a designed-to-be-trendy restaurant with brown leather banquettes, smashed-and-exposed brick walls, polychrome of tiled tables, an emerald green kitchen island and counter, and a statement glass-covered facility for dry-aging fish. Not trendy enough? The restaurant also puts up a black horse sculpture with a lamp shade on its head to delight customers’ eyes as they are walked to their tables. A bit Santa Monica. A bit Moscow. The setting, kind of, helped distract me from the fact that Yashin Ocean House isn’t really a Japanese restaurant but an inventive fish restaurant with few Japanese touches. No sushi (and still no soy sauce)..

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Andy Oliver & Thai Grill @ Bar Story

Andy Oliver

Andy Oliver is a chef with a substantive skill set and no PR boost. He was a semi-finalist of Masterchef when the show was far less a self-promoting bypass to UK restaurant industry. He spent years working, washing and wok-ing under David Thompson at Nahm London. He went on to travel in Southeast Asia and spent more than half a year in Thailand learning the language and continuing his training as a Thai cuisine chef at Bo.Lan Restaurant. (One of my most loved places in the world). Last year Andy returned to London and headed up the operation of Naamya Cafe with David Thompson and Alan Yau. Now he helps run the operation at The Begging Bowl (quite possibly the best Thai restaurant in London) and waits for the right opportunity to open his own restaurant.

According to my book, Andy’s name surfaced, during his time at Nahm, via the Loft Project, and I had the chance to try his cooking at a one-off pop-up in East London years ago. Then, for a *farang* cooking Thai food, he was promising. And it was that experience that brought me to Thai Grill @ Bar Story.

 

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Thai Grill @ Bar Story

Bar Story is housed at one of those railway arches behind Peckham Rye Station. The venue features an indoor cocktail bar and an outdoor drinking space. Very eclectic, with a lot buzz from cool South London crowd.

Thai Grill is a stall separate from the kitchen of Bar Story and stations at this venue on Mondays only. The menu scribbled across a few blackboards is concise and features what Thai blanket as Gai Yang + Som Tam (Grilled chicken + Papaya salad). Andy plays around with the Thai “Yang” category and extends the menu to encompass other favorite grilled items usually found at Som Tam carts in Thailand. There are grilled sea bass (£12), pork skewers (£4), chicken thighs and drumsticks (£5), prawns (£4), home-made fermented pork sausage (£5), and minced beef in betal leaf (£5). (If this isn’t easy to imagine, think Burnt Enz but Thai). £6 for a peanut-y Som Tam and £1 for a bag of sticky rice. You grab your drink from the bar.

 

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I ordered everything from the menu and it was SENSATIONAL. The perfectly steamed, sticky and fragrant Sticky Rice arrived, as it should in Thailand, in a flimsy plastic bag. I started off with salt-grilled seafood dishes. Goong Pao (Grilled prawns) was spot on. The prawns were marinated in a traditional concoction of coriander, garlic, pepper and turmeric and grilled at a controlled low heat for delicious springy-ness. I also enjoyed Plah Pao (Grilled fish) very much. The sea bass was gutted, cleaned and stuffed with a healthy dose of herbs (lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime leaves, etc.). It was first grilled at low heat and finished on higher heat for a crispy effect on the skin. The result was as I hoped for – soft and moist meat with peel-able, lightly crispy skin. (It could have been a little crispier). Both the prawns and the fish were served with freshly prepared seafood dipping sauce (garlic, coriander and green chilli). The latter boast great citric tang and herbal refreshment.

Som Tam (Papaya salad) was done peanut-y Central-style. (Thai call it Som Tam Thai, as opposed to Som Tam that are from the Northeastern and enjoy Laotian influences). The best way to get the Som Tam you want (anywhere in the world) is to tell the chef which flavors you prefer (one or two chilli? sour? salty?). I asked for sour and spicy and it tasted superbly authentic. Yum Taeng Kwa (Cucumber salad) appeared very much soft-core (food) porn. The dish featured a spicy salad of cucumber slivers with coriander, mint, shallot and ground dehydrated shrimps. The salad itself verged on being too spicy but the gooey soft-boiled egg was instrumental in balancing out the heat.

The eating continued with Nham Yang (Grilled fermented pork sausage). Andy has my respect for making his own sausage for Nham Yang. (Young generations of Thai rarely know what actually goes into it). The taste, however, was not spot on. That is, the taste of the sausage was saltiness leading to mild sourness from the fermentation process. It should have been the other way round, in my opinion. Correctness aside, the dish was yummy. The pork used for fermentation was much better in quality than you would find off a street cart in Thailand. The only non-Thai dish on the menu was Bo La Lot (Grilled minced beef in betal leaf). It was bigger and more protein-led than most Bo La Lot I have come across. I enjoyed the gradual release of herbal aroma in the minced beef. The home-made Nuoc Cham (Vietnamese dipping sauce) was elegant.

Moo Ping was sex pork on skewers. These were shoulders and loins marinated (coriander roots, pepper, garlic, fish sauce, palm sugar) and crisscrossed with fat pieces on skewers. When being grilled, the fat dripped into burning charcoal and created a burst of smokey perfume. And before finishing, they were brushed my coconut milk and left for the last sizzle. The taste – sweet, garlicky, porky, smokey – captured my nostalgia of Thailand. Eating with the sticky rice, I had my orgasm moment. Also peaking was Gai Yang (Grilled chicken), served with two kinds of home-made dipping sauce (sweet chilli sauce and “Jeaw” sauce). Here chicken thighs were grilled whole and then jointed. The turmeric based marinate was carefully applied only to the skin. Again, they were grilled at low heat for roughly 20 min (so be patient) and finished with a brushing of sweet and musty sauce. The result was another orgasm nostalgic moment. The chicken meat was juicy, had a good depth of taste and just fell off the bone. The special brushing sauce proved bloody special. (Andy has a special purveyor of organic and rare palm sugar from Thailand, and it makes his recipes quite extraordinary). My only criticism goes onto to the Jaew dipping sauce, which I found a little too sour. (You may see from the pile of paper dishes in the last photo. We had 3 portions for Moo Ping and 3 for Gai Yang).

Andy’s strength, from what I have tasted, lies not only in his cooking and understanding of Thai food, but also in knowing the limitation of cooking authentic Thai food in the UK. (Say, herbs suffer from jet lag and many other items aren’t allowed in according to Custom laws). Accordingly, he uses the very good produce that tastes and can be found in the UK to wisely construct his menu. Nothing is processed or comes from a tin. No MSG. The result is something simple but sublime, genuine and utterly zingy.

The team was also very helpful and friendly.

(Another criticism, though. If there is a bunch of Thai walking in, please provide spoons with forks).

Updates on menu and specials can be found here.

 

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RATING 5/5

THAI GRILL @ BAR STORY

213 Blenheim Grove
Peckham
London
SE15 4QL

www.barstory.co.uk

Bar Story on Urbanspoon

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Mayfield: The New Impression of Hackney

The emerging gastro-scene of Hackney..

I like the way the up-and-coming crowd of East London make it work by throwing random things together and strut with a cool smirk. A new restaurant in Mayfield in Hackney is a bit like that. The team behind Borough Wines (with chef Matthew Young) took over a site that was once a greengrocer’s shop on Wilton Way, kept the name (and the facade) but transformed the rest in tune with the changing vibe of East London. White veneered tables contrasted with black, repainted wooden chairs. Very pristine. The walls were robed with a wavy surface of wood and glowstick neon lights. It is, still, a neighborhood restaurant. It exudes that particularly friendly charm and bustle but also couples it all with a cool smirk. (I like it very much).

The menu reads an inventive deviation from Paris bistronomique – not as British as the Young Turks and leaning towards being European. There is no fixed price and no tasting menu. You order what you want, and as much as you want. The price for the savoury is between £5 – £14; for the desserts, £4.50 – £6.50. The portion is substantial. The taste, focusing on the natural, is light and with not much jus/dressing. My Peach, Mozzarella and Ham (£8.50) was quirky and predictably tasty. The mozzarella used was of good quality, and so was the olive oil. The torn purple basil added an extra touch of aroma. The peach, if just a little more ripe, would make the dish exquisite. Beef, Lettuce, Mint & Summer Truffle (£14) was a visual delight. The strips of beef, which seemed lightly blanched, were pleasantly chewy and slowly released a decent length of taste. This foiled nicely with the onion-y crunch of shredded and coyly vinegared lettuce. The unusual addition of mint left me with a familiar (Thai) note. The truffle did not taste or smell much. (But, I think it is an environmental problem and we have the bad weather to blame). Next was Octopus in Miso Broth with Broccoli and Slow-Cooked Egg (£12.80), which I highly recommend. The elasticity from the octopus was naturally toothsome and well-judged. The halved and charred broccoli was skillfully prepared. The silky miso broth (with chevril) boast a mild fermented saltiness that combined well with the leaking egg yolk. Pea Veloute (£6.50) – served with tart apricot foam, white sesame seed and samphire – was visually out of place from the rest we ordered and did not hit as high a note. Though the veloute was refreshingly pea-y and smooth, I would have liked it to be more liquid. I also found the seeds and the samphires redundant. Duck, Courgette and Raspberry (£11.50) was pretty and good. The duck breast (pink and tasty) could have held a little more moisture but the crispy skin (and the leak-y fat underneath) was sublime. I also liked the fresh tang of the raspberry, the juicy sweetness and dense texture of the grilled courgette. Brown Butter Ice Cream (£4.50) was stellar. The perfume was luscious and caramel-like. There was also gummy creaminess to the texture, too. The cherries served alongside were moreish. TOB didn’t let me eat his Peach Melba (£6.50).

 
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RATING 4/5

MAYFIELD

52 Wilton Way
London
E8 6GG

Tel. 020 7254 8311

www.mayfieldswiltonway.co.uk

Mayfields on Urbanspoon