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

Monday, June 27, 2011


It all started out as a vague thought in my head as I spent a lazy afternoon in Los Angeles wistfully pondering on all the things I missed most about living in London. There were enough things on the list to fill a sizeable pamphlet including a decent pint and a pork pie. However, very near the top of the pile were the words

“A proper Sunday lunch”

As they do for so many in the UK, a traditional Sunday lunch takes on an almost mythical status when it comes to the favourite dining experiences of Dos Hermanos. When I called London home, few weekends passed without one of DH slamming a large joint of meat in the oven to be accompanied when ready, with heaving plates of vegetables and serenaded by the music of plopping corks.

Lord how I missed a proper Sunday lunch.

My mind also turned to thoughts of “Dine With Dos Hermanos”, our now legendary series of dining events created for no other purpose than to bring large groups of people together to have a damn good time at damn good restaurants. In the five years since they were no more than a twinkle in our eye, they have grown from occasions involving a handful of people to ones that now attract hundreds of requests for tickets.

I knew I was due back in London for a week or so in June and decided, in an all too rare bout of genius, to combine one with the other. However, if we were going to put the DWDH moniker on the Sunday lunch, it could not just be any Sunday lunch, it had to be THE BEST SUNDAY LUNCH EVER.

It was a bold attempt and I knew it would take a special kind of restaurant to make it happen. I shot off an e-mail to the one person I knew would be up to the task, David Strauss of Goodman Steakhouse, without doubt the best GM in the capital. He responded immediately and positively, his only caveat being that if he was going to open the restaurant on a Sunday we would have to promise to fill it.

We were talking about 75+ places here folks and, although the previous events have been a success, this was a huge leap up both in ambition and numbers. But, faint heart never won a fair meal, so I set about using my limited social media skills and the latest DWDH was soon announced on Facebook, Twitter and the blog. I expected a strong response but, nowhere near the deluge of e-mails that began to flood in minutes after the event was announced.

In all we received nearly 750 requests for tickets. Easily the largest response we have ever experienced. There was only one thing for it and that was to write all the names down and pick them from a hat. It seemed the most fair way and I can only apologies to those whose names were not selected.

Between the announcement and the big day, David Strauss and John Cadieux of Goodman went to work talking to their suppliers. If you are going to have the best Sunday lunch, ever, you are going to need the best ingredients and they did not let me or the lucky attendees down.

When I arrived shortly before the event was due to start, the director of Wright Brothers was busy shucking fresh and meaty Maldon Oysters to welcome people as they arrived. Not a bad way to start the meal and even better with an accompanying glass of Prosecco or a strong Bloody Mary.

Next up, as we took our seats, the fantastic staff of Goodman, who had come in on a day when the restaurant is normally closed, began to place large plates of smoked salmon and smoked eel on each of the table. One glimpse at the picture of thick strips of densely coloured salmon will tell you that this is no ordinary fish and indeed as it was described to us by its producer, the incomparable Frank Herderman, the rich, creamy flesh with its light salt cure and subtle smoky flavour was even more appreciated.

Then it was on to the main event and John and his team of willing chefs carried up colossal joints of beef, legs of lamb and shoulders of pork to be received with awe by the crowd before being sliced up into huge chunks to be served family style. I have always loved the beef from O’Shea, but DH have long been telling people just how astonishingly good his piggy flesh is too, Well, those who were with us today will need no further convincing. The lamb too was described to me more than once as a “revelation” and all of the joints had been cooked to perfection in Goodman’s Josper Grills.

As large plates carrying slabs of meat were placed on each table, so too were bowls of creamy cauliflower cheese, roasted carrots, roast potatoes and of course, teetering mounds of glistening Yorkshire puddings. From the noises coming from each table it appeared as if the DH attempt to make this the best Sunday lunch ever might just be accomplished, particularly as the staff made sure that every glass was topped off every time it looked like someone had taken a sip.

After the main course, of course, comes pudding and special praise must go to whoever was in charge of the Sherry trifle making duties. There were no mere trifles, filled as they were with sharp, fresh berries and topped off with cream and toasted almonds. I heard more than one person (including, I believe Hermano Primero) utter the words “I don’t usually like trifle” before plunging the serving spoon deep into the bowls for yet one more helping.

Add this to a final gut busting plate of cheese and a snifter of Marsala wine and all I can say is that if this wasn’t the best Sunday lunch of all times, I bloody hope to be invited to the one that is.

Huge thanks must be shouted out from Dos Hermanos to everyone who made this remarkable event possible.

To David Strauss and John Cadieux for their efforts and good humour in the execution of this Herculean task.

To Dino Joannidies for suggesting I use Eventbrite to collect payment.

To all the team at Goodman, front and back of house, who confirmed why I believe these restaurants offers the best service in London.

To Wright Bros, Frank Herderman and Darragh O’Shea for proving on a daily basis that we have some of the best ingredients on the planet and should shout about them to foreigners whenever possible.

To James Day for most of the decent images in today's post.

And, last of all to everyone who came along to help me fulfill my one simple aim of enjoying “THE BEST SUNDAY LUNCH EVER”. Even if you think we didn’t quite get there, I hope the list below of what 75 of us managed to consume will at least support our claim to have got pretty damn close.

7 Bottles of Vodka
18 Bottles of Prosecco,
24 Bottles of Chardonnay
60 Bottles of Malbec
6 Bottles of Marsala
400 Maldon Oysters
30Kgs Smoked Salmon & Eel
90kgs Pork/Lamb & Beef
20kg Sherry Trifle
10kg of British Cheese

Roll on the next Dine With Dos Hermanos

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Wednesday, June 15, 2011


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Tuesday, June 14, 2011


When people realise you’re a bit more interested in food and restaurants than would be considered normal in polite company the first thing they do is ask you what your favourite restaurant is. To be honest I haven’t really got a favourite restaurant. Honest.

What I do like though, what really floats my boat and pulls my chain is propping up a Spanish bar. It’s probably in Madrid, on a cold day with that incandescent sunlight that you get in one of Europe’s highest capital cities. The barman would be of the grumpy tendency but the caña of Mahou he had just poured would be cold and have a thick, creamy head.

I would wait for my free tapa - a piece of tortilla or maybe a handful of cortezas de cerdo - before ordering un ración de jamón ibérico de bellota. He would cut the ham quickly and expertly, laying the slices in an outwardly radiating spiral, finally dropping some picos into the centre. I would take a sip of the cold, slightly bitter beer then pick up a slice of the jamón, oily from the melting fat, between thumb and forefinger. I would hold it up and briefly examine it against the light before shoving it down my gob.

At this point my interrogator would already be walking away, staring at the floor and shaking their head.

José in Bermondsey street is billed as a Sherry Bar but actually that description undersells it. For starters the wine list, whilst it has a good range of sherries has a lot of other good stuff on it (the list was put together by a couple of Masters of Wine). Also I can't think of many sherry bars that have open kitchens with several top chefs beavering away in them.

Decor is clean and functional and as in most places in Spain you have to find yourself a space at the bar or an upturned barrel to eat at - the idea of sitting at tables to eat any other than a proper is unknown in Spain (although that is changing).

Of course, all this would count for nada if the food wasn’t any good. Happily it is. José is an exemplar of the cliché of the best ingredients cooked simply. This is the stuff that all those Spanish Michelin chefs really want to eat on their day off. There will be a new restaurant opening later in the year where I suspect we may see more evolved dishes but for now José more than fits the bill.

A blackboard shows the daily market specials which is supplemented by a longer list on the menu. They're actually more akin to the Spanish media ración in size than tapas but whatever you want to call them the quality of the ingredients used is the key here.

Croquetas de jamón are sometimes a bit oily and over-fried which usually makes me a bit queasy but these were perfect: light, studded with jewel-like bits of ham, I could have eaten several more plates of these. The most fantastic Prawns cooked with a little chilli and garlic and were so good I did order another plate.

Jamón Ibérico is from Manuel Maldonado who is based not far from Jose’s hometown of Cáceres. With jamón it’s all about the cutting – you should be able to the read the maker’s name on the blade through the meat - and while it may sound xenophobic when you have the good stuff you don’t want a guiri wielding the knife. As well as being of exemplary quality this is the best cut jamón you’re going to get in London.

Razor Clams (from Scotland) come simply cooked on the plancha with a bit of chorizo and mint. Almejas are huge and meaty and you'll definitely want some bread to mop up the sherry broth.

Wonderfully fresh Sardines possibly could have done with a bit more char - they can take it - but were wonderfully fresh. Ditto some Mackerel in an escabeche which can be a bit iffy if the fish isn't up to snuff.

Pluma Ibérica (so named because of its resemblance to a feather) is one of those cuts of Pork like secreto and presa that the Spanish go nuts about but which are seldom seen over here. Well-marbled and with a lovely layer of fat it's cooked quickly so still rare inside and served with piquillo peppers. Combine some of the sweet pepper with the rich, rare pork to see what the fuss is about.

Puds are not really a Spanish forte and in lieu of helado mixta a glass of Victoria Ordoñez Malaga No. 2 and some Strawberries and Cherries more than passed muster.

Service is friendly and clued-up and really adds to the great atmosphere of the place – blimey, even a hard-hearted, old curmudgeon like me had a smile on my face (although that may have been the wine).

Three hours of a Saturday lunchtime had never passed more quickly and in a drunken, post-meal tweet I posited the fact that this was currently the best Spanish cooking in London. In the sober light of day I see no reason to retract that statement.

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