"It's not much but it's ours"

Thursday, August 30, 2007


So long hey thanks my friend
I guess I'll try my luck again

I visited One-O-One about a year ago with my late much missed dining companion Tony Finch. From memory the room was hideous, the service ok and the food confused, over-complicated and served on odd plates which meant you couldn’t see the food. Worst of all they overcooked my fish. Given that this place is predicated on the life aquatic it was quite a big flaw.

So here I am a year later chugging on a ludicrously large grappa and pondering on the changes after the restaurant’s big refurb. Well, they serve things on white plates now which is a definite improvement. Er…that’s it, Ed. The decor is now less Servisair more BA Club Class but it’s still pretty blah and you just know it cost loads and they will have to recoup their money somehow.

The menu takes the form of several petit plats - and they really are petit - priced at a very un-petit and scary level. So that’s the bill for the refurb taken care of. Not a problem if the food is spectacularly good. Unfortunately, though better than a lot of London fine dining restos the cooking fell somewhat short of somewhere like Rhodes W1.

There were some elements of a good dish to be found in each plate that I had but the tendency to over-elaborate spoiled things, So a fantastically sweet Norwegian scallop paired with some unctuous Pork Belly was let down by the addition of quail eggs, truffle potato moussleine and Citrus Jus Gras (phew) which served just to muddle and mute the flavours.

A good Nantua sauce was the base for some overcooked Halibut but there was also a swirl of some unidentifiable green sauce with yet some more liquid with the Coco beans.

The tendency to throw in the kitchen sink culminated in a car-crash of a dish of Lobster and Veal Sweetbread. The gland was a good size chunk with a pleasant honey glaze sitting in a bit of jus merging into a sea of Vanilla Emulsion washing up on a shore of Saffron Carrot Compote. And just for good measure some segments of citrus fruits thrown in. The microscopically small piece of lobster didn’t stand a chance.

Funnily enough the best part of the meal was the pudding where a sort of cherry soup was topped by ice cream and came with scrumptious, warm churros.

In spite of the failing of the food I still had a good time. The staff were very friendly (although if you do go on about the home-made foccaccia it’s probably not a good idea to serve rock-hard bought-in rolls alongside ). The wine pours were extremely generous especially the aforementioned grappa which was more like a quadruple and took me a good half-hour to finish.

I really wanted to like this gaff more than I actually did but ultimately it’s just another disappointing London expense account fine-dining experience. Everything was probably “just good enough”. I’d probably return if someone else was paying (unlikely) as I only ate a quarter of the menu and there may well be some better dishes in there. Although somehow I doubt it.

Anyway here’s to you Tony. Glug.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Maedah Grill

Throw back the little ones
And pan-fry the big ones

Ever since the loss of our (that’s how we like to think of it) beloved Angel Mangal Dos Hermanos have been scouring London for a decent Ocakbasi Restaurant. We’ve tried the rest and unfortunately they’ve not been the best. Compared to the magnificent Angel Mangal Special Mixed Grill (with quail) restaurants which have come highly recommended have failed to please. Oh yes, they’ve been pretty cheap but as we know cheap food is just that – cheap.

The latest in a long line of pretenders is the Maedah Grill which is located just before the justly famous Tayyabs. Could it be the real thing ? Not a chance. Just another in a long line of dispiriting meals I’ve had recently.

Nothing , apart from some very greasy Muska Boregi had been cooked to order. Lahmacun came from a job lot of the stuff that been sitting around too long it was tough and tasteless. No sooner had I finished the starters than my main course arrived suspiciously soon. I’m not sure what the chap at the grill was employed for as he hardly seemed to do any grilling in my short time there. The mixed grill was, unfortunately, not much better than the starters . Some lamb chops and chicken shish were ok but an Adana kebab was overcooked and the Shawarma was a pile of desiccated scraps. Not nice.

The salad component was risible. At AM one would get a large composed salad of fresh shredded vegetables, flat leaf parsley, radishes and grilled peppers all sprinkled with sumac. Simple, fresh and delicious. Here as at so many other Turkish joints it was a sad-looking melange of tomatoes, onions, cucumber and lettuce. They couldn’t even grill the tomatoes properly. A drink to console myself was out of the question as there’s a no alcohol policy.

In the past I may have stuck it out until the end and had a coffee and a dessert but these days I’m more inclined to cut my losses and ask for the bill. Which is exactly what I did. And only thirty-odd minutes after coming in. The night wasn’t a complete loss though. On my way back I ducked into StJB&W where a lovely Damson and Crème Fraiche ice cream put things in a much better light. Ice Cream. Is there nothing it can’t do ?

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Thursday, August 16, 2007

Pig's Pizzle and Buddha's Ears

As soon as I can get chance to catch up with my writing, you can read more (over on EAT MY GLOBE) about my few days in Yangshuo where, amongst other things, I have been attending one of the local cookery schools

In the meantime, I thought some people may be interested in a few of the other bits and bobs I have been shovelling down my throat on this part of the trip including Roast Dog , Cane Rat, some pig pizzle (my, er schnizzle) and some of the best dumplings I have tried.

Yangshuo is a thriving tourist town on the Li River and attracts large numbers of visitors from both the West and increasingly, now, from all parts of China primarily because of the stunning scenery of Karst mountains.

It is pretty easy access China with the main drag being littered with “Western” restaurants offering a strange hybrid of dishes from the local dish of carp cooked in beer and “egg drop” dumplings to full fry ups and apple pie for the long term traveller wanting a taste of home.

For all that, once you get off the main streets, the local stalls and store fronts offer up great food and prices that range from about 50p-£1.50 for a meal including bottles of the local Li Quan beer (for about 20p a bottle)

Hand pulled soup noodles for breakfast, fresh chicken dumplings for lunch and, despite the hot weather, even a rather splendid hot pot for supper.

The local people, given the large number of tourists, all have a bit of a hustle going on, but it is done with a degree of amiability you don’t see in many tourist towns and, outside of “Western St” there is little or no feeling that you are being ripped off with most people just pleased that you want to try the local dishes.

In six days here, I have spent about £60 with well over half of that going to pay for the tourist activities like cycling, rafting down the Yulong River and the unlikely sight of me caving deep below one of the hills in little more than a pair of swimming trunks ( at the strong request of my fellow travellers, I put away my urge to wear a tiny little pair of Speedo's and went for some big baggy shorts), flip flops and a Tonka Toy Helmet.

The Wankelong Shopping Centre is, obviously a source of endless amusement as is the wide use of Chinglish, my favourite of which (no photo unfortunately) is “ Please Fall Carefully” in the slippery environs of the caves.

The other wonderful thing is that, in a society where large ears are a sign of potential good fortune, closeness to The Buddha and longevity, I am obviously a god. I have had more than one person come up and start rubbing my lobes, something for which I normally have to pay good money.

Great fun and some great food

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Saturday, August 11, 2007

The Great British Beer Festival

I had a little birdy friend
By morning she was gone

It’s August and that can only mean one thing in the DH calendar - The Great British Beer Festival (or more accurately Beer Festivus). Unfortunately HS couldn’t make it as he’s in the Far East eating the extremities and unmentionables of small beasts so I roped in a couple of capable subs in the form sometimes drinking pal Paul and his long-time buddy Marius.

I arrived a bit before the others so I had a chance to sample the overall Champion Beer of the year before it ran out - Hobsons Mild. Quite a pleasant pint but really just a standard Mild. I’m really surprised that it won the overall Champion Beer. Much better was the Hooky Dark suggested by Paul and the TEA recommended by Marius. The Brains Dark was also pretty good. My call was for the ciders which if nothing else gave us a nice little mid-afternoon fillip. There were pies (of course there were) which had decent fillings but which were very salty. Paul said that this was to Northern tastes so I’ve obviously been down South too long. I also wear a coat in winter. The scratchings were pretty good though and weren’t those ‘lite’ version travesties I had at Wahaca the other day.

Whether it was the fact that it was the Festival’s 30th Anniversary or maybe the advertising had been particularly successful or even that it was a Friday and people were sagging off work early but it soon got pretty crowded. In a way this is great for the industry. Real Ale is one of the oldest and greatest artisanal products we have in this country and as a product of terroir and the fact it doesn’t travel well means you can’t get anything like this anywhere else in the world. Anything that makes people aware of our brewing heritage should be a good thing. The downside was that there were queues for everything, beers were going off, there was a claustrophobic atmosphere and by the time we left things were getting a bit lairy.

At past festivals DH have usually visited on a Thursday when things are not so hectic and there’s time and space to wander and appreciate things. There’s also more folk with funny hats which adds to the fun and emphasises the quirky nature of the event. On a Friday things felt a lot more serious. We still had a top time though and after a short tube journey and quick hop across the river finished the day with a meal at Masters Super Fish.

Great company, good ale and a slap-up supper of Fish and Chips. Sometimes things really don’t get much better.

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Thursday, August 09, 2007


It’s official, Anthony Bourdain is the new Ernest Hemmingway.

Now, before you all start leaping up and down, I am not putting the two on the same levels as writers, although I have no shame in admitting I am a fan of Mr B’s ebullient style. But, more the fact that, where as for years it was hard to find a place on the globe where EH had not slept, ate or fallen over blind drunk, the same is now true of Tony Bourdain.

Yesterday, on my last day in Hong Kong (more about this to appear soon on EAT MY GLOBE) I decided to head down to Lan Kwai Fon, the area of buzzy hills adjacent to the truly crazy area of Central, and find some interesting places to eat.

With full “where no man has gone before” hat on, I wandered into a shabby looking roast meat shop and sat down at a communal table and started sipping on the watery tea in the grimy cup they gave me with self satisfied thoughts of what a brave pioneering traveller I was. Even more smug did I become when I made myself understood and ordered an excellent plate of roast pork and goose on top of some piping hot rice.

HK$27(about £1.90 at current rates) later, I wandered out feeling pleasingly full and equally pleased with myself as I stood across the road to take a picture of the shop front to show you good folks, only to see the familiar lengthy fizog of Mr A Bourdain gurning at me from a newspaper article in the front of the restaurant. Apparently, Dragon Roast Meats (for that was its name) was a particular favourite of this cook on his tour.

So, pioneering gourmand credibility shot down and smashed to a million shards, I went off in search of some other backstreet joint and was drawn by the sight of angry looking men making noodles and fish balls in another tiny restaurant. After a long queue, I was seated at a table with four other hungry lunchers and ordered some “chutney pork with chewy noodles” Again, smug mode was engaged until one of the other diners moved his newspaper to reveal, under the glass of the table top, a copy of the same article declaring that this noodle place was another of AB’s favourites.

Well, he has excellent taste as both Dragon Roast Meats and Mac’s Noodle Shop were highlights of my trip, but I can’t hide a slight disappointment that my attempts to portray myself as a culinary Dr Livingstone lay shattered alongside my dreams to win the world heavyweight championship (it could happen) and to play Nankee- Poo in a West End version of The Mikado.

To make me feel better, my amazingly generous hosts, Francine and David, invited me to have dinner with them somewhere rather swish at the restaurant of one of HK’s most prestigious member’s clubs.

So, after a couple of cocktails at The Mandarin Oriental, we headed to The Derby Restaurant where we enjoyed a rather splendid tasting menu with accompanying wines. Highlights included a ravioli injected with egg yolk which poached in a pork knuckle broth, a lobster tail cooked sous vide and a “linguini” of squid.

At the end of the meal, I was feeling much better and went to have a chat with the chef, Donavan Cooke. He hails from Hull and it tells in his liberal hilarious use of rather fruity language. He worked at The Savoy, Harvey’s (where he took over from one Mr Ramsay as sous chef) and MPW at The Oriental as well as running numerous restaurants in Melbourne.

So, at last I had chance to tell folks about something new and someone of whom they may not otherwise have heard.

That is until I explained to him about EAT MY GLOBE and why I was in HK to which he replied “ oh, like my mate Anthony Bourdain”

My heart sank like a two year old’s first attempt at a soufflé as my dreams of a career as a food loving Magellan dwindled. He further stuck his 10 inch Global knife in by saying “ oh yeah, he was here not so long ago and I think I am mentioned in his new book”

So, as I said, its official, the epithet “ Bourdain Ate Here” is now to be produced on stickers and left anywhere the man licks a plate clean.

I am off to China now. I intend to walk into the smallest, dingiest most appalling looking home for rats and order the intestine of small local dogs and cats just for the hell of it. Although, I fully expect that, as I enter, I shall see a well known face looking into a camera aimed at his good side, chewing on a gizzard and going “ Man, that’s as good as it gets”


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