Pitt Cue Co.

I know, I know, we are kinda late to the Pitt Cue party with this blog entry as everyone has already been and raved about this place but we did want to put pen to paper on this one since we eventually ate there this weekend.

After a heavy gym session we found ourselves wandering down Carnaby St in desperate need of some protein on Saturday afternoon, we felt if there was ever the time to try Pitt Cue, this was it. We luckily were able to sneak in at the back end of their lunchtime service [12:00 to 15:00].

Amazingly, there was not the lengthy queue that had greeted us several times before. In fact ,there was no queue at all! Were they closed? Well almost. However, a very pleasant lady advised that if we can make quick decision on what to eat we can sit outside [no room inside]. Luckily, the menu is pretty concise so we ordered two lots of pulled pork, one with green chilli slaw and the other with apple and fennel salad. We sat outside and enjoyed the last of the Autumnal sunshine.

The pulled pork did not disappoint; it was plentiful, moist and flavourful. Thankfully the green chilli slaw lacked the chilli hotness I feared it would and was instead subtle and well balanced with the rest of the slaw. Pickles completed the meal. This was a meal definitely worth waiting for and a prime example of simple food done exceptionally well, a growing trend it would seem in the London eating scene [although not everyone is getting it so right!]

We headed inside for a quick comfort break before we hit the road and can now appreciate why we have had always been advised of at least an hour waiting times previously: the place is tiny! However, I can image the small interior inside really adds to the Pitt Cue experience. What could be better on a cold evening than being huddled in a cosy downstairs restaurant with some amazing pulled pork.

Definitely worth a trip.

Pitt Cue Co / 1 Newburgh St / Soho / London W1F 7RB

Asian Beef / Pork Mince

Trying to stick to the Paleo diet, I needed to find more interesting recipes before the curse of food boredom ruins my determination.  I had some lemongrass leftover from the trip to the Real Food Festival, so I planned dinner around it. Picked up some shallots, lettuce and beef mince on the way home and got cooking as soon as I got in.  Already had some pork mince in the fridge so I thought I’d use that as well.

Here’s the list of ingredients:
500g beef mince
500g pork mince
3 stalks lemongrass
5 shallots
3 cloves garlic
juice of 1 lime
1 tbsp fish sauce
as much chilli as you can handle (I used cayenne)

To start, I browned the meat and really broke it up.  Mince has a tendency to clump together if not constantly stirred and tumbled. I normally cook mince until all the water has dried up and the fat renders out. Then I leave it to fry and brown in its own fat, and soak the excess fat away with a paper towel.  [Tip the pan at an angle until the fat gathers at the bottom, then let the paper towel do its work ;)]

While the meat is undergoing the Maillard reaction, chop the lemongrass stalks, garlic and shallots finely. Pretend to cry to add a bit of drama.

Once the meat is a little brown, add all the other ingredients and take off the heat. Adjust fish sauce / chilli / lime to taste. That’s it. Really simple.  Traditionally, dry roasted brown rice is added to the dish for a bit of a crunch. I left this out as this is supposed to be a Paleo dish 😉 You can add nuts if you wish!  Serve on little lettuce leaves and enjoy until satisfied.

[‘Fessing up: I forgot to add mint, so shred it and mix in if you fancy. About a handful will be enough.]

Nardulli

The sun is out and the Spring weather we have all been waiting for has finally arrived. 24C. Blue skies. Cool breeze. I’m going to keep this entry short.

On a warm day like this, nothing beats the refreshing treats at Nardulli.  A stone’s throw away from Clapham Common tube station, this ice cream parlour offers a wide array of Italian gelato: flavours of deep chocolate to fruity mango to an assortment of nuts.  It also offers coffee and pastries.

 The gelato is creamy and smooth, and king of these is the pistachio.  The best I have ever tasted. Ever. Combo’d with chocolate. Heaven.

Nardulli / 29 The Pavement / Clapham Common / SW4 0JE

Samphire

Should you find yourself in Whitstable searching for some brunch we urge you to seek out Samphire because you won’t be disappointed. We ate here last weekend on a recommendation and really loved the place. The staff were friendly and relaxed as they guided us to a large table at the front of the restaurant. The whole place has a rustic, airy feel about it, very fitting to the location just a minute or two from the Whitstable seafront.

The brunch menu ticks all the boxes with the traditional fare: eggs Benedict, eggs Florentine and a full English as well as the likes of lamb’s liver on toast.

G – My eggs Benedict was probably amongst the best I’ve tasted. The muffin was lightly toasted, the ham was “proper ham” thick cut and bursting with flavour – a refreshing change from the usual wafer thin reformed ham you sometimes have to tolerate. The eggs where perfectly poached with thick runny yolks and the hollandaise sauce not too rich and over-powering but packed enough flavour to bring the dish together.

B – My lamb’s liver on toast didn’t look a lot at first glance but served with field mushrooms and slithers of bacon on thick cut toast, it certainly filled the grumbling tummy. I would have preferred the liver to be slightly pinkish than what was served but in the end, it didn’t really matter much. The meaty, earthy dish left me feeling satisfied for a few hours until lunch.

There was also a great range of juices and coffees to wash down the food. One of our mates couldn’t just resist the cupcakes on display at the counter, too. He literally inhaled one in 10 seconds flat.

We like Whitstable and no doubt we will be visiting Samphire again soon although perhaps for lunch or dinner next time.Good quality food and at a reasonable price, throw in friendly, efficient service: what more could you ask for really?

Samphire / 4 High Street / Whitstable / CT5 1BQ

Honest Burgers

If you know me you know I like a good burger. I’m probably amongst the few who have endured an hour and a half wait for a table at Burger & Lobster to order the burger [promptly wish I’d ordered the Lobster, had serious food envy]. Luckily we’re not talking lengthy waiting times and £22 price tags at Honest Burgers but how does it fare against the competition.  Pretty, well I’d say!

The venue is typical Brixton Village, small and a bit cramped to be honest but the service is brisk and friendly so there really is no real need to linger.

Menu options are pretty simple, Chicken, Beef or Vegetable burgers. Quality is certainly top of the agenda here and it shows. The chickens are free range, the vegetables, market-sourced, and the beef 35-day dry aged. We both opted for beef; I have made a mental note to sample the menu more widely for future reviews!!

The cheese burger [£7.50] was served with a red onion relish and lettuce. There was a choice of mature cheddar, red leicester or stilton cheese; I opted for the mature cheddar. My dining partner ordered the “Honest” burger [£8.50] again served with red onion relish but also with smoked bacon, mature cheddar, pickled cucumber and lettuce. These burgers were slabs of seriously good meat.  Cooked medium, the beef was full of flavour and juice aplenty. The red onion relish was packed some real sweet flavour and the cheddar was super mature just the way it should be. All burgers come served in a glazed bun (gluten-free also available) and with house chips.

These house chips deserve a few words to themselves because these we these were no ordinary “token gesture here-are-the-chips-to-gowith-your-burger-chips”.  These chips were pretty epic! With a generous seasoning of rosemary salt they had a super crispy exterior and were light and fluffy inside, they must have been triple cooked. There were also plenty of those little tiny super-crispy bits that everyone goes crazy for. These were damn fine chips!

There were also a few quirky touches we really liked, traditional lemonade served in jam jars and the bill coming in a battered old metal box also added to Honest Burgers’ appeal.

Our total bill came to £20.50, pretty reasonable for the quality of the food and drinks.  We can see why this place has such a strong following. Definitely recommend.

Honest Burger / Unit 12 / Brixton Village Market / Coldharbour Lane / SW9 8PR

Chipotle Mexican Grill

Looking for fast food with a difference? Chipotle Mexican Grill claim to be pioneers in changing the way we think about and eat fast food. Their philosophy, and essentially their USP, is that all food served is the freshest, finest and most wholesome they can source from local and family farmers, each of which are committed to producing Higher Welfare and Farm Assured meats and vegetables.

A recent change in job has opened up a whole new world of lunching options for me to explore and it wasn’t long before Chipotle caught my eye. Offering a welcome light relief from the usual lunch break suspects such as Pret and Eat, I can see Chipotle featuring quite heavily in my weekday quick eats hit-list.

The concept is so simple, your first of many choices is whether you want Burrito [flour tortilla], Burrito Bowl [Burrito ingredients served in the bowl sans the tortilla] Taco or Salad. Then you move onto the meats, choices being Chicken [no ordinary chicken but Higher Welfare chicken, marinated in chipotle adobo then grilled] Steak [Farm Assured beef, again marinated in chipotle adobo and grilled], Carnitas [outdoor reared Pork, seared, braised and shredded], Barbocoa [Farm assured beef, seared, braised and shredded] and finally a vegetarian option.

Next is the choices of white or brown rice, mild or spicy sauce, guacamole, beans, peppers, cheese, lettuce…the list seems endless. The result [in my case] was a Burrito with chicken, brown rice, lettuce, peppers, sour cream and cheese.

The end result really is pretty damn good, the adobo marinade gives the moist chicken a real kick of flavour. The rice helped add texture, the peppers also packed a bit of spice which was cooled by the sour cream and lettuce. I was left feeling full, satisfied and healthy. Chipotle has evidently put a lot of thought and effort into their “fresh and wholesome” concept, it really shows, and most importantly it works. Slightly more expensive than maybe your average work lunch at £6.70 for a Burrito [surcharges apply for eating in], it is money well spent in my opinion.

The staff are exceptionally efficient and friendly. Please don’t be put off by a lengthy queue when you arrive, this moves pretty quickly. Should you choose to “eat-in” the interior is superior to other sandwich joints. Lengthy, communal metal topped tables run down the middle of the venue in a communal dining style. Alternatively, there are smaller tables for four if you are eating with friends or high tables for two with stool for a more intimate experience [I jest ofcourse!].

For a decent hearty bite at a reasonable price, I recommend checking Chipotle out. I know I’ll be going back to continue working my way through the menu options. 😉

Ben’s Canteen

A relative newcomer to Clapham Junction / St. John’s Hill, Ben’s Canteen manages to capture everything you’d want from a local eatery. We were able to book (via Twitter — how cool!) for Saturday brunch with two others.

Friendly and cheerful staff welcomed us and showed us our ample-sized round table. The oversized cutlery hung on the wall, the wooden floors and the mismatched tables and chairs provided a rustic informal dining environment.

With our coffees and drinks sorted, we started on the brunch menu. Ben’s Canteen specialises in British grub and the scotch eggs were decided early on. We ordered two (one for G and one for the table), burger for B, eggs Benedict for J, and Super Food Salad for C.

Served on wooden boards, the scotch eggs were a delight: bigger than a grown man’s fist, the coating was crispy, the sausage meat layer was tasty with pieces of black pudding, and the yolk was runny – perfect! It was a meal on its own.  On the side, G had toasted sourdough bread with baked beans. [B & G: It was in a rich, onion-y (almost spicy with a hint of sweetness) tomato sauce; it was good. Definitely a recommendation.]

J was quietly consuming the eggs Benedict. The bread was nice, the thick-sliced ham was quality, and the acidity of the sauce was just right to complement the richness of the runny yolk. In her words, they were fit and ‘ruddy amazing’.

The super food salad included lettuce leaves, red beetroot, and pickled white beetroot, several soft boiled quail’s eggs, goat’s cheese, and really moist chicken pieces.  C said she never thought she’d like pickled white beetroot, but there you go, she described the salad as ‘amazeballs’. It was a healthy, low-carb option to make room for dessert! She mentioned she wanted it five hours later after a session at the King’s Head. Haha.

The burger was served medium which meant that the patty was really moist. It was served with proper corned beef slices, smoked cheese, sliced tomato, lettuce and a mustard-y sauce. It was a meal and a half, but B downed it anyway. [B: It was arguably the best burger I’ve ever had.] The chips were cut thin lengthwise with the skin on. It was a good side-kick to the burger. 😉

We actually had a couple of additional surprises from the kitchen: calf’s liver with bacon pieces and breaded pork cheeks courtesy of the chef. The former was melt-in-the-mouth and B had about half of it! The pork cheeks were a novelty, and the acidic sauce actually went well with it.    [Apologies we did not finish all of it; we had to leave space for dessert.]

Moving on, three desserts were ordered to share: a rolo tart with peppermint ice cream, winterberry trifle and a white chocolate tart with chocolate ganache.  The rolo tart and peppermint ice cream was a very refreshing combination, like after-eight on a plate. The white chocolate tart with the ganache was as advertised, but I wish the tart base was crumblier.   The crowning glory, as we all agreed, was the trifle. It was served in a screw-cap jar, which drew ‘oohs’ from all of us. Quoting C, “I dug my spoon all the way down to the bottom so my first mouthful would have every layer – booze-soaked lady-fingers, clear jelly with redcurrants and raspberries, and that heaven-made cream – it is one the best deserts I’ve had the pleasure to eat.  The waitress naively brought me a smaller spoon, but deserts like this cannot be eaten quaintly. They need to be enjoyed, all layers in one go.  Refuse the small spoon people, and stick with the big one.”

Ben’s Canteen is a nice venue for catching up over brunch and all-day breakfast. The relaxed atmosphere is conducive for conversations with friends. It is spacious too, good for big groups. The staff members are friendly – the lady serving us was attentive and chatty without being intrusive. The bill came to about £25 each, which actually wasn’t too bad after the feast we’ve had.

Eight thumbs up!

Ben’s Canteen / 140 St John’s Hill / Battersea / London / SW11 1SL

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Franco Manca

A friend of ours pointed out this pizza place once after a Sunday lunch catch-up at the Brixton Village. Apparently, they serve one of the best pizza in London town. Curiosity was further piqued when a fellow blogger (@theswfoodblog) posted a review of Franco Manca. It seemed like we were missing out, so a plan to visit was quickly hatched.

Remembering there was a huge queue outside when we passed by Franco Manca before, we agreed to be there early and were rewarded with seats inside.  As soon as we sat, and lucky for us, the number of people waiting outside grew to about fifteen. No kidding.  Testament, perhaps, of how good the pizza actually are.

I ordered number 4 on the menu, with Old Spot ham, mozzarella, buffalo ricotta and wild mushrooms; G chose number 6, with tomato, organic chorizo (dry and semi-dry) and mozzarella. After about 10 minutes, two whole blistered pizzas (or pizze) were delivered. And the glory of the bases!

Franco Manca pizzas have sourdough crusts, characterised by a slightly more sour taste than the usual high-street / shop-bought / across-the-road versions.  [Technically, it has lactobacillus (think Yakult) in the leavening culture and the sour taste is due to the lactic acid by-product.]  The crust was chewy and moist and thin apart from the edge. These were indeed different from any pizza we have tried before. With rich, heavy, and I dare say, fatty toppings, the acid cuts through and helps to balance the dish.

B. This worked particularly well with pizza number 4, on which the tomato sauce was sparse (see photo). The toppings, too, were excellent.  The buffalo ricotta, in particular, was unlike any I have tried before. Call me crazy but it was intense but mellow at the same time. And the amount was apt – more of which I would have gagged at the richness. FM got the balance just right. I actually drizzled a bit of the chilli-infused olive oil on mine which gave it a kick and a potent kick it was!

G. I opted for the chorizo-topped pizza which had on it an assortment of chunky and thinly-sliced pieces. The chorizo itself was very flavourful and was used sparingly. I feel if there has been any more meat then it may have become slightly over-powering. They judged it just right and was served in a typical base of tomato sauce and mozerella cheese providing an excellent balance of flavours.

One gripe, however, was the one grumpy waitress (bordering on rude). Chill out, we just asked about the seating. We do not expect 3-star curtsey, but service with a smile would make a difference.  Kinda ruined the fun, buzzing atmosphere of the place.  (Last time I checked, smile and manners are still free, unless I missed the memo of the price increase??)  Kudos to the men though, fast, friendly and efficient.

Altogether, we agree that this is quality cheap eats. Most prices are actually cheaper than Strada or Pizza Express. Hard to beat that!!  If you want to try the place, get in there early.  Otherwise, you’ll be tortured in the waiting line by the aroma and sight of the food. Better bit: They DO takeaways. 😀

Franco Manca / Brixton Village Market / SW9 8LD / London

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Haché

(Reviewed by G. Holland, @holland_greg)

Haché is a family business established in late 2004 by Suzie and Berry Casey whose mission statement was to “produce the best and most innovative burgers to be found anywhere”. Rather a bold statement. With a branch recently opening on my local high street, I was keen to see if these burgers lived up to the hype.
 
With the majority of local high streets packed with the usual suspects – namely GBK and Nando’s – ,  I’d say Haché is a level above these in both appearance and service. I really liked the fact that Haché actually felt like a restaurant rather than the typical “burger joint”, the decoration was neutral and tasteful without being bland [I did rather like the chandelier style lighting] and the furniture comfortable, solid and of good quality.
 
The service was bright and breezey, no waiting in line at the till to place your order [don’t you just hate that?!]. Our waitress was well-informed about the extensive menu and happy to advise us on menu choices. We started by sharing a portion of Chicken Wings, our first pleasant surprise. Smothered in a light but fire-y sauce, these wings pack just enough kick to be pleasant without overpowering. The meat was moist, plentiful and tender, we were left wishing we’d ordered a portion each.  It was served with a minty yoghurt dip (if memory serves me well) to cool the tongue.

My dining partner, on a Lent driven no-carb diet, chose a monster of a Chicken and Avocado salad. Mounds of moist chicken, lashings of avocado with warm roasted peppers, roasted pine nuts and mixed leaves provided a hearty alternative to the burgers.

I followed up the wings with Haché Steak Milano Burger [burger topped with buffalo mozzarella, parmesan shavings and sun dried tomato tapenade]. I requested the burger be cooked medium and it was served – surprise surprise!!! – medium. Great, just the way I wanted it! The combination of mild mozzarella and mature parmesan sat really well together, throw in the deep savoury sun dried tomato tapenade, sandwiched between a brioche bun and I was pretty much in heaven. There is also decent choice of sides from onion rings to sweet potato frites. I opted for dirty fries.


 
There are several alternative burgers available aside from the typical beef including fish, chicken, lamb and crispy duck, as well as several vegetarian falafel burgers. This vast list surely caters for every taste.

And you get colourful candies with the bill 😀


 
So, does Haché really produce the best burgers in London? In my opinion they must be pretty damn close, great venue, great food and great service. I know I’ll be heading back soon to continue working my way through that menu.
 
Burgers priced £6.95 to £12.95
Sides priced £2.95 to £4.95

Haché / 153 Clapham High Street / London / SW4 7SS

Mama Lan

(Reviewed by Bazzimus and Greg. Follow us on twitter @barriowalterio and @holland_greg)

How annoying is it when you suddenly realise you live a mere 5 minutes down the road from such a fine collection local eateries? Having lived around the Clapham / Brixton border for the past 6 years, we were kicking ourselves at only just discovering Brixton Village Market.  Located behind Brixton tube station just off Electric Avenue, the market is home to 20+ cafes, restaurants and takeaways. So taken by this gem of a find we’ve been two weekends on the bounce and plan to continue making visits until we have systematically tried each and every option. 

On our first trip we ate at Mama Lan’s and immediately fell in love with this tiny family-run joint. The menu focuses on Beijing dumplings, popular street snacks and noodle soups. You can’t really go wrong with anything you chose. 

After a morning gym session, we started the tiresome job of refuelling with one of each flavour of the Beijing dumplings [beef & carrot, pork & Chinese leaf and dill & spiced tofu] all of which sported a lovely golden colour, crisp bottoms and were equally delicious. Served simply with pickled vegetables and variety of dipping sauces, these little treasures didn’t last long. It would be a tough to call a favourite but if pressed on the matter I think we’d have to opt for the beef & carrot (Greg) or the pork (baz).  All the dumplings are made right in front of you, which kind of added to Mama Lan’s charm.

Two servings of beef noodle soup quickly followed, the broth was rich in both colour and flavour, the beef was plentiful and perfectly tender and noodles cooked just right. The dish was simply garnished with coriander and chopped chilli (which lent some heat appropriate for a cold Sunday afternoon) without being over-powering. We were left feeling full and satisfied. Four thumbs up!

All in all, Mama Lan is good value with the dumplings priced at £4.00 for 5 pieces and the beef noodle soup priced £7.50. Uncomplicated menu, cheap eats, very straightforward. We would definitely recommend a visit should you find yourself in Brixton.  We know we’ll be returning very soon. 😉

Mama Lan / Brixton Village Market / Coldharbour Lane / SW9 8PR

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