Murray Blake

London food blogger


Leave a comment

Wahaca

66 Chandos Place, WC2N 4HG
Nearest tube: Leicester Square
020 7240 1883

Wahaca on Urbanspoon
website; map

Wahaca is the brainchild of Masterchef 2005 winner Thomasina Miers: a former freelance food writer, she opened the first Wahaca in August 2007, a second the following year and now she has eleven branches.  Arguably the most successful of the new breed of Masterchef winners, she has also presented TV cookery shows including Wild Gourmet (C4), A Cook’s Tour of Spain (C4) and Mexican Food Made Simple (C5).  She is an expert on Mexican food having travelled extensively in the county and reviewed many restaurants in Mexico City.
IMG_0105
Wahaca serves on mainstream Mexican food, washed down with Tequila and Mezcal cocktails, as well as a selection of Mexican beers (Negra Modelo being my favourite – a dark and malty lager which was first brewed by Austrian immigrants).  I went along to the Soho branch on a Monday night – we were able to get a table without any problem but you might have to queue for a table on other nights (they do not take bookings).
Wahaca has an extensive menu and the dishes are all fairly small and designed for sharing.  We started with a black bean tostada £3.8 which centered on freshly prepared black beans paired with rich avocado and, oddly but pleasantly, finished with Lancashire cheddar.
IMG_0107
We then moved on to chicken mole tacos £4.1 which were essentially a Mexican style tomato and red chilli curry – the sauce was a tad mild, but the dish was still very tasty.
IMG_0108
Cod tacos £8.95 were the highlight of the meal for me – the fish was battered and served with a light, well dressed salad.
IMG_0109
The quality of meat in the steak tacos £4.85 was reasonable and it was served medium rare – however, we made the mistake of ordering the grilled cheese and salsa: the cheese was greasy and the salsa consisted mostly of raw onion – I would recommend ordering this dish without toppings.
IMG_0111
Verdict: good value, unchallenging but well prepared Mexican food.
Also see: chow and gent.


Leave a comment

Burger marathon

Shake Shack
24, Market Building, Covent Garden, WC2E 8RD
Nearest tube: Covent Garden
Shake Shack on Urbanspoon
website; map

Background: an American upmarket McDonalds which opened last year amid much hype

Setup: efficient counter service – when you pay you get a buzzer that summons you to a hatch to collect your food…….although expect a long queue

Burger: disappointing – very thin, underseasoned and overcooked

Bun and accompaniments: the bun was slightly sweet and sticky, the cheese tasteless and the gherkin overly salty

Chips: crinkle cut, cooked from frozen but nicely crisp

Verdict: over-hyped glorified McDonalds: not worth the wait – 4/10
IMG_0213

IMG-20131011-00703

Patty & Bun
54, James St, W1U 1HE
Nearest tube: Bond Street
Patty & Bun on Urbanspoon
website; map

Background: a pioneering pop-up that found its own home just north of Bond street in Autumn 2012

Setup: long, long queue, funky interior and hip waiting staff

Burger: soft, rich and cooked to order – thick and juicy

Bun and accompaniments: the brioche bun was light and sticky but strong enough to hold everything together; oily cheese and crisp bacon worked well together

Chips: skin-on maris piper – essentially good chip shop chips

Verdict: possibly the best burger in London – 9/10

IMG-20131012-00730

IMG-20131012-00733

CASK Pub and Kitchen
6 Charlwood St, SW1V 2EE
Nearest tube: Pimlico
Cask Pub and Kitchen on Urbanspoon
website; map

Background:  a fantastic craft beer pub in the middle of Pimlico wasteland

Setup: the pub has a franchise by forty burgers

Burger: a blend of 40 day aged rib eye ad 30 day aged rump – thick, nicely seasoned and served medium rare

Bun and accompaniments: a pretty conventional bun with a hint of sweetness, the cheese was rich cheddar and the gherkin firm and nicely vinegary

Chips: standard fries, freshly cooked

Verdict: well prepared, good quality meat: a fantastic partner to a malty porter or hoppy IPA – 7/10

IMG_0091

IMG_0093

The Ritzy
Brixton Oval, SW2 1JG
Nearest tube: Brixton
Ritzy Cafe on Urbanspoon
website; map

Background: the kitchen at Brixton’s independent cinema

Setup: the menu at Ritzy includes diverse dishes from goat curry to poached salmon

Burger: poor quality (burger van style) meat that had been severely overcooked

Bun and accompaniments: the bun might have been bought in bulk from Lidl; it was served with industrial relish and raw sliced onion

Chips: cheap and cheerful, cooked from frozen

Verdict: hard to believe that food like this is still served in London……simply terrible – 1/10

IMG_0134

IMG_0136

Gourmet Burger Kitchen
Unit 2A, Tower Place, EC3R5BU
Nearest tube: Tower Hill
Gourmet Burger Kitchen on Urbanspoon
website; map

Background: Kiwi pioneers of the London burger scene who have since bloated into a 60 restaurant empire

Setup: a choice of 13 beef burgers with some weird options like a Kiwiburger which comes topped with beetroot, pineapple and an egg

Burger: West Country Aberdeen Angus cooked to order: it had a nice texture but was a tad under-seasoned

Bun and accompaniments: I chose the Smokin’ Joe which was stuffed with tart dill pickle, sweet shallots and strong smoked cheddar, sandwiched within a sweet brioche bun

Chips: my thin cut rosemary fries would not set the heather on fire

Verdict: ubiquitous and slightly soulless, but still a decent burger – 6/10

IMG_0202

IMG_0205


Leave a comment

Lamberts

2, Station Parade, Balham High Rd, SW12 9AZ
020 8675 2233
Nearest tube: Balham
Lamberts on Urbanspoon
website; map

Lamberts is a little neighbourhood bistro in Balham, serving good quality French food at bargain prices.  They do a fantastic Tuesday to Thursday set dinner menu of £17 for 2 courses or £20 for 3.  The menu is refreshed weekly and aims to use local and seasonal produce.

IMG_0127

I started with a ham hock terrine with piccalilli – this was rustic and hearty; the tart, sharp piccalilli cut through the rich pork, creating a perfectly balanced dish.

IMG_0129

For main, I had squash ravioli – something I have made at home many times – but the Lamberts version was vastly superior to my efforts: the pasta had a wonderful yellow hue, was nicely elastic and the perfect thickness so that it retained bite and wasn’t stodgy.  The filling was slightly sweet but had been properly seasoned so that it wasn’t sickly.  Fried wild mushrooms and sage created an earthy accompaniment to the squash.  An extremely well executed dish.

IMG_0131

As is often the case with good bistros, the dessert was rather disappointing – we went for a custard tart with nutmeg ice cream: the pasty was soggy, the tart not sufficiently creamy and the ice cream bland.

Verdict: dessert aside, my meal at Lamberts was fantastic – well worth the trip out to zone 3.

Also see: LLLC and Chopstixtosteaknives.


Leave a comment

Fernandez & Wells

Somerset House, Strand, WC2R 1LA
Nearest tube: Temple
Fernandez & Wells on Urbanspoon
website; map

Ethos: great coffee and hearty lunch fayre in a relaxed atmosphere

Ambience: Scandinavian decor, lots of well dressed ladies who lunch

Ham: is a speciality, a whole Jamon sits pride of place on the countertop in the Somerset House branch

IMG_0089

My flat white: nice milk treatment atop a mild but decent espresso 6/10

My sandwich: a pulled pork muffin – the meat was rich and tender, the muffin firm yet light 7/10. Grilled chorizo and black pudding sandwich are house specialities

IMG_0088

Verdict: an understated cafe with decent coffee and sandwiches

Also see: London stuff.


Leave a comment >

Granary Building, 1 Granary Square, N1C 4AA
020 71017661
Nearest tube: King’s Cross
Caravan Kings Cross on Urbanspoon
website; map

Having had a great experience at Caravan Exmouth Market I thought I would try their King’s Cross outpost, which is in the refurbished Granary Square buildings near the station.  Caravan is an Aussie run cafe/restaurant which serves up well-treated house-roasted coffee and has a brunch menu with lots of antipodean favourites like baked eggs.

IMG-20130908-00633

Things didn’t start well – they don’t take bookings for weekend brunch and we had to wait about 45 minutes for a table, the front of house staff were a bit harassed and seemed very keen to turn people away with threat of an hour wait for a table. We were told that we couldn’t wait inside and have a coffee until our table was ready (in spite of the expanse of empty space in the back behind the servery), instead we were recommended to go to the bar next door for a drink until our table was ready.  Unfortunately, their neighbour is an unfriendly and pricey French place – if you need to wait for a table I would recommend having a wander round Central St. Martin’s Art College instead.

IMG-20130908-00638

I opted for a flat white (£2.6) which was pretty decent with dark chocolate notes and a slightly citrus finish (although it was served a bit cold).  For me, it was not as good as the equivalent at the Exmouth Market branch – the baristas seemed to be over loaded (I guess they have over 100 covers) and were working in a bit of a mess.  My girlfriend had a long black and unfortunately the Caravan house blend does not taste good without milk – it is overly bitter and doesn’t have enough depth in its aftertaste to stand up on its own.

IMG-20130908-00639

As in the Exmouth branch, the king of the brunch menu is the baked eggs with chorizo, yoghurt and a tomato ragu (£9.5) – the eggs had been perfectly poached with a wonderfully runny yolk and generous helpings of paprika loaded chorizo.  It came with beautifully crunchy sourdough which is great for mopping up the egg, yoghurt and chorizo oil.

IMG-20130908-00641

I also sampled the soutsouki (garlicky beef) sausage with aubergine puree, poached eggs and yoghurt (£9) – there were generous dollops of puree which was made from very ripe aubergines without a hint of bitterness.   The sausages were very rich and lean, the perfect complement to the slightly sweet melt in the mouth aubergine and the eggs were up to their usual standard.

Verdict: great brunch food, but be prepared to wait for a table at weekends and don’t drink their coffee black.

Also see: London Tastin, hungryporker and thefoodbook.


Leave a comment

Bar Tozino

Lassco Ropewalk, Maltby Street, SE1 3PA
Nearest tube: Bermondsey
Bar Tozino on Urbanspoon
website; map

Bar Tozino advertises itself as a Jamon bodega (literally “ham winery”) and focuses on Iberico ham and Sherry.   Iberico ham comes from black Iberico pigs which are large, very fat animals, meaning their meat can be cured for longer and it picks up a much more complex flavour.  Acorn-fed Iberico (Jamon Bellota) is the most expensive cut because the pigs really love acorns and it helps them really plump out.

IMG-20130907-00629

It is housed in a little dank railway arch on Lassco Ropewalk: I would recommend having a look at the funky antiques in the Lassco stores, which range from Prussian army uniforms to Victorian school tables and silver tea sets.  The ropewalk, bookended by the fantastic 40 Malty Street has a weekend market which includes a great array of stallholders including Craft Coffee, Little Bird Gin, Monty’s – a Jewish deli with killer salt beef – and a chap that specialises in Mexican chilli paste.

IMG-20130907-00626

Tozino isn’t just about ham though – they also serve some bog standard tapas  which is mostly meaty (eg slow cooked pork shoulder; chorizo and chickpea stew) as well as some Manchego-heavy cheese plates.  I enjoyed my squid ink risotto with chorizo – the rice was nicely cooked and the chorizo was good quality, not too chewy, with a slight paprika kick.  Baked eggs with chickpeas was a very rustic dish which didn’t make the heart race – I’m afraid that the small kitchen at Tozino won’t be producing any ground breaking tapas, you will be better to focus on the Iberico.

IMG-20130907-00632

And so to the main event: our Jamon, which was nutty, salty/sweet and melt in the mouth; as good as what I have eaten in Spain.  The ham needs to be treated with care and cut in a very particular way to avoid it becoming very chewy, but the staff at Tozino really know what they are doing.  They also have a great selection of Sherries and the bar staff are very generous at letting you have samples before you order.  I went for a medium dry  Amontillado which, despite its initial tartness, had a ripe sweet finish.

Verdict:  good value Iberico ham that deserves to be washed down with some crisp, dry Sherry.

Also see: Perfect Trough and TFF.


2 Comments

Tonkotsu

63 Dean Street, W1D 4QJ
020 7437 0071
Nearest tube: Leicester Square
Tonkotsu on Urbanspoon
website; map

Tonkotsu  has been the hot place for London bloggers since it opened last summer – it has received a whopping 51 reviews.  As is the trend these days, they take no reservations and have a stripped down menu that concentrates on ramen and gyoza (Japanese dumplings).  Ramen is a Japanese broth which uses pork stock as a base (Tonkotsu apparently means “pork bones” in Japanese) then adding noodles and lots of other bits and bobs like bamboo shoots, egg or pak choi.  There are 5 Ramen on the menu (£9-11) with one cold, chicken, tomato, pea and pea shoot based dish that can be transformed into a veggie dish on request.

IMG-20130720-00521

I opted for the Tonkotsu which included pork belly, egg, bamboo shoots and bean sprouts.  The pork belly was of varying quality and a bit too fatty, however the noodles were fantastic – light, sticky and certainly hand-pulled.  The quality of the stock has been discussed on quite a few blogs and I would tend to agree with most of the comments I have read: the stock was a tad thin and tasted as if it had been watered down with chicken stock.  Good pork stock should be thick and gelatinous, but the Tonkotsu broth was weak and runny.

IMG-20130720-00522

Service: The waiting staff were mostly antipodean on our visit; they were a tad brusque but generally efficient.

Atmosphere: It isn’t a very warm or comfortable setting and is not really a place to linger after your meal.

Verdict: Great noodles but their pork stock needs some work.

Also see: lisaeatsworld, foodgrid and londonpiggy.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 39 other followers