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

Monday, September 27, 2010


Well folks, it has been a while since the last DINE WITH DOS HERMANOS, a splendid meal at H.Forman & Son's way back when at the end of May.  But, now we are back with a bang.

I am delighted to be able to announce that the next event will be

DRINKS: 7:00pm
TO TABLE: 7.30pm
COST: £50 (All Inclusive of drinks + service - although as ever, we do take a extra collection for the waitstaff at the end of the meal)

I am particularly pleased to have this exciting new restaurant as the venue for the next in our series of popular dining events.  DH were, I believe, the first blog to write about Hawksmoor's original location back in June 2006 . At the time, although they were not even serving food, there was something about the place which made us keen to return, which we did again and again and again. Both HP and I have been staunch supporters of the restaurant which made steak hip again ever since and are thrilled to help support their new venture.

Will, Huw and all the team at the new location, are guaranteed to pull out all the stops to make this a truly memorable meat filled occasion and I am already counting the days before I stare down at an unfeasibly large slab of dead cow.

There are only 30 spaces for this extra special DINE WITH DH.  If you would like to attend, please email us via the website by FRIDAY OCTOBER 8th.  As we are limited for space, then please limit to + 1 requests only.  As before, I shall be pulling names out of a hat and will contact you shortly after that date if you are lucky enough to have a place. 

We look forward to seeing some of you on the 25th.  


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Thursday, September 23, 2010


I have actually been very well behaved in the last few weeks.

I have managed to drop 10lbs of unwanted blubber, thanks in part to regular sprint sessions on the treadmill and by moderating my diet a little.  Sybil and I have even invested in a juicing machine and can be found most evenings having earnest discussions about how much carrot we want to add to our orange juice.  It’s all terribly Californian, of course, and I can imagine many of you thinking, “can liposuction and Botox be more than a few months away in HS’s future?  

Well,  just in case any of you dear readers think that I have lost any of the Iron in my John, let me reassure you that some things are very much as they were and top of the list remains the love of a decent hamburger. 

Today, Sybil suggested sushi for lunch.  Normally, I would have leapt at the offer, the sushi in Los Angeles being so, well so bloody good.  However, the urge for a burger was just too close to the surface, it being nearly six weeks since I had indulged in America’s greatest contribution to world cuisine.  I pouted a bit, huffed a bit more and whined to the point where she gave in and suggested we head to Sepulveda and Santa Monica Boulevard to check out the Hole In The Wall Burger Joint.

The Hole In The Wall burger joint is, apparently, situated in the same space and run by the same people, who operated Dainties Cupcakes.  According to my beloved, Dainties served the best cupcakes in town.  My views on cupcakes are well expounded on this blog, so suffice to say, I am pleased that they came to their senses and changed tack.  Not only that, they appear to have changed tack with considerable success as the cheeseburger offered up at Hole in The Wall is one of the very best I have eaten in Los Angeles. The line for lunch, while we ate, grew by the minute, so others obviously agree.

As seems almost de rigueur right now at modern hamburger restaurants, much is made of the quality of the ingredients. There’s the obligatory reference to Angus beef, articsan bread and house made pickles etc. But, here at least they don’t shove the provenance of every last item on the menu down your throat until the whole thing becomes unpalatable.  Likewise, although I am always very wary of restaurants that allow the doltish public to construct their own menus, the choice here is limited so that people are not able to hurt themselves no matter how hard they try.

The ordering process is simple.  Pick up a Sharpie, add a few crosses to a printed list to indicate what kind of meat, bun, cheese and toppings you want, hand over your wedge, pick up some of those house made condiments and take a seat until your name is called.  Ten or so minutes later, after your name is bellowed through a Tannoy, your fresh to order hamburger is offered to you in a brown paper bag.

The end result, in my case, was a pleasingly juicy slab of medium cooked beef, with toppings of red onion, sharp pickles and apple wood smoked bacon (for an extra $1). Sybil chose a chicken burger with mushrooms and for an added $2.50 we shared a bag of fries.

The burger and toppings were excellent and the fries greaseless and crunchy.  I did think it more than a little odd that the strip of Swiss cheese I requested had been placed on the bottom of the burger and also thought that the whole wheat bun I chose could have done with a good toasting.  Those small points aside, the hamburger at The Hole In The Wall was a very good addition to an already impressive list of hamburger joints I have visited during my time in The City Of Angels. 

There are still lots more to go, of course, but I have another 10lbs and at least another 100 miles of running before you are going to hear about my next beef in a bun.

So there.

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Wednesday, September 22, 2010


To be honest I never thought that two and half years after visiting the execrable Tom's Place - Tom 'Pre-Pack' Aiken's take on Fish and Chips (yeah, right) where the fish proved to be more sustainable than the business model - I'd be back eating one of DH’s favourite platefuls of grub in exactly the same place. Now, though instead of a lame pun, the gaff is named after the venerable Geales, part of the proto-chain owned by the excitingly named Concept Venues.

The first branch of Geales in Notting Hill has been operating under its current owners for over three years which surprised me as when I visited it was a step down in enjoyment from the original incarnation. So they've either upped their game or maybe the Notting Hillbillies are not that fussed about the food they shove down their gobs. I suspect it's the latter especially as in an odd case of restaurant déjà vu I had an almost identical experience here compared to the one several years ago.

The staff obviously weren’t expecting a punter so early – though it was almost 12:30 – and the cogs weren’t so much whirring as grinding noisily. The FOH was doing a little on-the-spot staff training with young, posh lads who were doing the waiting and I had to ask for things several times. A tad irritating in an empty restaurant.

Nobody seemed to know exactly what the charmingly named Seaside Pick & Mix was. I offered marinated shellfishy bits which they seemed to think was a reasonable description. It was, in fact, shellfishy bits which had been lightly warmed through. It was under seasoned and pretty tasteless but for £3 was a harmless enough way to kill some time until my Whitebait pitched up.

Happily the kitchen’s deep-frying skills were well up to snuff and the lightly battered, little fish were excellent. The mayonnaise could have done with a bit of pepping up but I suppose they didn’t want to make things too exciting for the elderly locals who were gradually filling the restaurant up. (I had to have a little chuckle when one couple on a neighbouring table who had been visiting this spot since the fifties went on about how much they hated the last place. So you see – it’s not just me. Hah).

My main course of Haddock and Chips was technically spot on. The fish had a crisp coating which had allowed the fish to steam inside but not overcook – it flaked in a pleasing fashion. But, and it’s a big but, it didn’t taste of anything. Whether it was lack of seasoning or possibly the batter needing some beer in the mix I don’t know, but I do know it was all very, very bland and consequently a very dull eat.

Chips were fine. Mushy peas had been made (correctly) from marrowfat peas but had not been soaked or cooked long enough so there were hard bits still in. Perhaps it was the kitchen taking their lead from lazy TV chefs and keeping things “a bit rustic”.

The other accompaniments? Well, my last post on Geales probably tells you everything you need to know. And like that last visit the best thing I ate was the Ice Cream, which was a pleasant change after the rash of places serving up expensive, gummy Gelati.

Overall though it still is a truism that the gussying-up of the humble F&C supper had somehow robbed the dish of any heart or soul. Either that or the kitchen had never actually eaten or made proper fish and chips before but could execute a recipe very accurately. Certainly, the latter may be the case as I saw a cracking piece of grilled Plaice go out.

That said, much like its sister restaurant in Notting Hill, Geales is located in an area not known for it’s great restaurants and discerning clientele which probably means it’ll will do very well. Me, I’m off to find somewhere where the phrase “neutral oil” could get you a smack round the chops.

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Monday, September 20, 2010


It is rapidly approaching time for one of my favourite events of the year, The American Royal.

This will be my third visit to the world's biggest BBQ competition in Kansas City, MO and I am still as excited as I was when I first attended as part of the Eat My Globe trip. This time, however, there is a twist. This time, the members of my team, the estimable Burn Rate, decided that yours truly was to be put in charge of the sausage category.

That was quite a surprise as, to this point, I had never made a sausage in my life and had no intention of ever doing so. However, those of you who know me, know I am never one to shy away from a challenge. So I decided I better get some practice in first.

After extensive internet research, I came across the Back To Basics combination meat grinder and sausage stuffer and was soon handing over my credit card details not only for the machine, but also for 200ft of natural collagen sausage casings. After a few days of waiting eagerly by the front door for the postie, the package finally arrived and I set about making my very first batch of homemade sausages on Saturday afternoon.

I opted to use pork shoulder (butt) because of its natural fat content and coarsely ground the meat before adding my chosen seasonings, which in this case were garlic, fresh sage & rosemary, sweet paprika and cayenne. Stuffing the meat into the collagen casings took a bit of practice, as indeed did tying the results into neat links. My mishapen attempts wer not something that would ever pass muster in even the lowliest butcher's shop. However, for a first attempt, I was not too unhappy with my efforts.

What better way to try your first homemade sausage than to throw them on the grill? Sybil invited a couple of her friends around for an impromptu BBQ and along side some tandoori chicken, roasted corn and salads, my humble efforts took pride of place (well them and Sybil's rather delicious peach cobbler)

The sausages disappeared in pretty quick fashion, which suggests they were a bit of a hit. I am going to put in some more practice this week and fill up the freezer with links for Syb to enjoy while I am back in Blighty. Who knows? It could be the beginning of a new hobby. At the very least I hopefully wont make a fool of myself when I head to KCM.

Bring on The Royal

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Sunday, September 19, 2010


The traffic in Los Angeles is legendarily dreadful.

It doesn’t really affect me much. During the day, I have plenty of articles to write, which means I rarely stray too far from my couch, unless I have a meeting. In the evening, when Sybil returns home, a long day’s travail means she has neither the energy nor the inclination to drive much further than two blocks without kicking up a stink.

On Friday, however, the stars fashioned themselves in that all too rare configuration, which meant that I had finished all my writing for the week and Sybil had a day off work. After a wonderfully leisurely day of doing nothing in particular, we set off to meet our friends, Angel and Sebastian, across to the other side of the city in Rosemead, an area known for its large Asian population and high density of Asian restaurants.

Angel had been raised in this neighbourhood and suggested we meet at one of her favourite Chinese restaurants, JTYH, which specialised in Dao, Xiao Mian. These are the “knife shaved” noodles, which are a speciality of Northern China. As the name suggests, the noodles are shaved from a large block of dough straight into a pot of boiling water and are then served dry with a paste of sesame seeds, in soups or cooked in a wok with meat and seafood.

Despite the hideous traffic, we arrived a little early and soon found the unassuming little restaurant tucked next to a Mexican market and a Taco Bell. As we took in the menu and sipped on tea, we ordered a plate of cold pigs ear, sliced into thin strips and served with hot pepper oil to nibble on. They were not really to Syb’s tastes, which left me to pick away at the plate until our dinner companions walked through the door.

Once they arrived, I left most of the ordering in Angel’s hands. First to arrive was a large plate of “Three ingredient” Jiaozi or dumplings. These contained lamb, pork and beef and were being hand made in front of us by one of the staff. They had been fried until the bases were crisp and golden ready to be eaten after a quick bath in a vinegar dipping sauce.

Next up a pleasingly dense and savoury pancake studded with spring onions followed by a plate of cricket ball sized Goubuli baozi. These were the hit of the night. The dough casing had been steamed and then fried. They pulled apart easily with chopsticks to release a little cloud of savoury steam, which cleared to reveal the porky contents. Again, the dumplings benefited from a good slug of vinegar, to cut through the fat content of the filling and could easily have been an ample supper on their own.

Angel doesn’t roll like that, however and, just as we were about to tuck into our second dumpling each, the noodles which were the main reason for our visit, arrived. The first preparation came served in a broth flavoured with a little star anise and chunks of braised beef. The noodles were short and chewy, which is, Angel informed me, exactly how they are supposed to be and the final addition of chopped coriander added a pleasing crunch to each bite. The last dish to be placed in front of us, was more ordinary and although the knife cut noodles again offered a great texture, I soon left them alone and turned back to the beef broth for a second helping.

Portions, as the pictures show were bloody enormous and the bill came to around $45 for the four of us including service. Terrific value when you consider that the leftovers will also provide two of Sybil’s lunches at the beginning of next week.

Quite when the work and traffic gods will deign that a return visit can happen, I don’t know, but JTYH is definitely one to mark down the next time we can both face the drive East.

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Saturday, September 18, 2010


I awoke this morning to find an alarming mail in my inbox. It informed me that one of my favourite pubs, The Wenlock Arms, was under threat of demolition.

For those of you who don't know this place, just off The City Road, it has for many years been one of the premier real ale pubs in London and also a regular watering hole for Dos Hermanos. If you search through the well over 1000 blog posts on DH you will see many mentions of a few pints at The Wenlock Arms, often as Saturday early evening treat and, just as often as the first half of a double act, to be followed by a meat heavy meal at our beloved Angel Mangal.

To our dismay, The Angel Mangal closed in 2007 and now it appears that The Wenlock Arms may be following it down the path to becoming little more than a fond memory.

It is not a smart pub, the floors are sticky, the ceiling is still yellow with a thick coating of cigarette smoke and the only food on offer is limited to a handful of decent doorstop sandwiches. But, The Wenlock Arms is a real pub, delivering excellent real ales at good prices.

Over 2000 pubs a year are closing in the UK according to, er me, in a piece I wrote last year for The Guardian's Word of Mouth Column. I hope that by the time I return to the UK in October, The Wenlock Arms wont be one of them.

There is recent news of a potential sale, which could save the pub from the wrecking ball. So to find out more or offer your support, you can follow the "Save The Wenlock Campaign on Twitter @savethewenlock and follow the latest news on their blog

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Thursday, September 16, 2010


Walk into Morito and you might think you're in a nuevo tapas bar in Madrid or Barcelona: a clean, modern space filled with people sitting at the bar and at tables squeezed along the perimeters of the small room; a handwritten list of tapas, on a board; the chef, beavering away at the plancha turning out small plates, a buzzing atmosphere. But, you’re not in either of Spain’s two largest cities, you’re in Morito, a little tapas bar offshoot of parent and neighbour Moro, which stands on the site previously occupied by Spanish food wholesaler Brindisa.

Look closer though and there are plenty of clues that you are in fact in London's trendy Clerkenwell and not Madrid’s trendy Chueca. First off there's the smell or rather the lack of it: that unique mix of fag smoke, deep frying, cured hams and coffee I know and love from Spain’s finest. Then there’s the staff. They're not dressed in ill-fitting dark suits accessorised with wonky bowties and they are not nearly grumpy enough.

I like Moro. I’ve been going there since it first opened and although I don’t think it’s as good as it was (but then, where is?) from time to time I’ll still prop myself up at the large zinc and knock back a chilled half bottle of Manzanilla and a few cazuelas from their short tapas list.

The selection is larger at Morito and is written in an odd sort of Spanglish (and very irritating it is too). And the prices, well, they don’t seem too bad on first viewing but when you see the size of the dishes - and they really are tapa-sized - you might feel, like me, that they’re overpriced. The lack of seafood dishes too is a bit of a giveaway too. But overlook its cod-Hispanic affectations and like its big sister Morito is not a bad place to hang out for a bite and a glass or two.

The cooking is basically Spanish with a bit of Mahgreb thrown in - sumac and za'atar are available to sprinkle over one’s food. There’s plently of pimentón used as well. Sometimes too much, as in a dish of chiccarones (sic). They're advertised as being from Cadiz style although the last time I had them there they were a type of pressed pork rather than the usual cubes of belly pork served here. More importantly, all I could taste in the dish was the paprika.

Tortillitas de Camarones also hail from that ancient City. They’re a thin, crisp pancake made from chickpea batter with some shrimps mixed in, almost as another seasoning. Morito’s version was a bit oily but tasted authentic enough. There weren’t many shrimp but that could have been because the portion was so titchy.

An empanadilla of mussels and chorizo tasted took me back to visit to A Coruña although I found the pastry used here a bit leaden and reminiscent of something you'd find in the local health shop.

Croquetas de Jamón were disappointing. Instead of a creamy béchamel interior there was a tasteless semi-solid grey mush with very taste. The Croquetas de Bacalao, sorry Salt Cod, were much better. I also liked Morito’s preparation of Octopus which came sectioned and grilled in a perky and fresh-tasting salpicon .

The balance in a dish of Butifarra with white Navarran beans was all wrong and with a big splodge of garlic aioli the dish ended up being a bit too greasy and the taste of the Catalan sausage was lost. The beans were beautifully creamy though and cried out for a little bit of bread to mop things up.

Of the Montaditos (stuff on bread) the best was the little riff on brekkie: a couple of quail eggs with Jamón sitting on good Moro bread. Definitely something to be picked up and stuffed into one’s gob (which did what I did). The worst was the Birch Bolete where the taste of the mushroom was killed by the fried bread underneath.

Given that much of the preceding food hadn’t been bland, although oiliness was a general theme of the evening, a plate of seared rump was a bit of a shrug of the shoulders sort of dish. It hadn’t been seared enough, it hadn’t been seasoned enough and it hadn’t been rested enough. And (deep sigh) the beef hadn’t been hung for long enough.

There’s just the two desserts to choose from but for me it’s always going to be a scoop of Moro's Rum 'n' Raisin Ice Cream slathered in PX. It still hits the spot although the lack of any liqueur action meant I had to take a my espresso and Patxaran con hielo next door.

Although the evening may have seemed like more like a sequence of misses than hits the quality of the ingredients were decent and nothing left a bad taste in my mouth… well, maybe the prices did a little bit but to be honest that’s also the case at Moro and I still go back there quite happily. I can’t really explain it. I’ll probably return to Morito as well.

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