Category: Reviews

Review: Bangkok Kitchen, Union Street, Southwark

photo_1I don’t know about you, but for me the best part of any day at work is lunch time. It’s an opportunity  to spend the morning thinking about what you’re going to eat in that golden hour, before eating it and spending the rest of the day thinking about what you’re going to have for tea.

Sometimes my lunchtime quandary can be easy solved as I’m lucky enough to work next to South East London’s worst-kept weekday lunchtime secret, Bangkok Kitchen.

To sum up briefly Bangkok Kitchen is a slightly ramshackle duo of huts set off an industrial-looking back street in Southwark. A row of surly old ladies line up behind a row of hot plates, nonchalantly scooping your choice of  food into plastic trays. It’s cheap and it’s full of flavor and spice. 

I had the green curry, bravely (if I do say so myself) opting for the spicy version which skirted just on the right side of comfortable with regards to heat level.

Maybe the reason I love this place is that, even with the grey chilly skies and the crumbling red brick archways that surround it, there’s an underlying essence of an Asian street food experience.

Don’t forget to load up on the free spicy crackers lovingly served out of giant plastic storage boxes.  – Jodie

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Review: Patty & Bun, James St, Marylebone, London

The Food Boars enjoy a good burger pilgrimage as much as the next person and this week we journeyed to Marylebone to join fellow burger-lovers in the queue outside Patty & Bun.

Patty & bun Logo packed up burger burger chicken wings

What Jodie has to say:
By the time we arrived at 12:30 there was already a queue of 20 or so people. The last time I experienced this was the first (and only for that matter) time we visited MeatLiquor.  I knew then, an hour and three-quarters in, on that freezing cold night in January ’12, that no burger could ever be worth it. I was right. My really very delicious order had been over-seasoned with frost-bite and resentment.

As fate would have it, I could see MeatLiquor, in its  faded glory,  from my position outside P&B, queuelessly taunting me from across the road. The world of gourmet burgers is a fickle one indeed.

The queue in the case of Patty & Bun went pretty fast and we were in within half an hour. As is generally done after being made to wait for food, we ferociously over ordered; chicken wings, chips, burgers all round. ‘I’ll take them all on!’, my mind roared.

The burgers arrived and they looked immaculate, shiny and plump. The beef to bun ratio was quite something (the beef being the clear victor). The quality of the beef confidently leap out from the cheese, bacon, and burger sauce. The brioche was perfect. The first four bites were heaven.

Then the grease hit me.  By the time I’d finished the burger all I could do was sit back in my chair and contemplate my own mortality. This was way too much. In a fat-addled stupor I turned to the chicken wings. They offered no sanctuary. There was so much batter on them,  it far out-weighed the actual chicken.

There are clearly a lot of people out there who think this burger is a triumph, they are braver men than I.  Despite the clear emphasis on quality  ingredients,  it was just too much for me.  This is a good meal, and watching a burger implode in its own oiliness may be a joy to some, but my fatted heart lies with Honest Burger, and simpler times.

What Colleen has to say:
There’s nothing quite like a long queue in the rain, hungry and parched, to make you more determined to sink your teeth into a burger. Especially when you can clearly see said burger through the restaurant glass, in a stranger’s hand, about to be devoured by a stranger’s mouth.

When the wind picked up and nobody had left the restaurant for about twenty minutes, fellow food boar Jodie suggested that Meat Liquor was only round the corner and had no queue – it was then my stubbornness kicked in – NO, we are HERE, we are NOT leaving. Plus, we both already owned the “I queued for an hour and three-quarters and all I got was this DELICIOUS MEAT LIQUOR BURGER” t-shirt.

After waiting for what my stomach thought was 400 days we sat down at our table, and I chose the ‘Ari Gold’ with extra bacon, chips with rosemary salt and shared a ‘Winger Winger Chicken Dinner’. It arrived not long after and we tucked in to our gleaming burgers and fries.

The meat was absolutely top-notch, melting with softness –  I’d go as far to say the best patty I’ve ever had.

However, as Jodie mentions, the wall was not far away, it soon became difficult to eat.  Our table was in full view of a queueing audience who felt no qualms in ogling our every bite – were they judging me? Since I had been one of them just ten minutes earlier, I hid my slow-eating attempt behind the tomato sauce bottle and kept quiet. The chicken wings were delicious, but after one, the sweetness of the BBQ sauce became overpowering. The chips were also disappointing, I’d been too spoilt for rosemary chips in the past. I hoped that it had just been a bad batch –  after all – these things happen.

Since fellow Food Boar Jodie has mentioned her love for another burger restaurant, I would like to tell you my ideal burger meal:

Honest Burger House Chips & Rosemary Salt
Patty & Bun Patty with a Hawksmoor casing – bun, cheese et al
Meat Liquor Onion Rings
Byron Burger Courgette Fries

Now to the Acorn Scoring system. I have given it four is purely because of the patty. It was just that good. To the meat lovers, Patty & Bun is worth a visit – just make sure you go during off-peak!

4 acorns out of 5

4 acorns

Review: Polpo, Soho, London

The Food boars went to Polpo this week to try out some Soho-Venetian joy. We reckoned that any establishment with six different types of meatball on the menu is alright by us. 

 

What Colleen has to say:
The Polpo website is not to be perused when hungry. The background photo transition filled my 23 inch monitor with giant meatballs and cosy restaurant interiors and the menu  was packed with ingredients I love such as pancetta, balsamic and parmesan.

I didn’t know much about Polpo before visiting with fellow Food Boar Jodie and two friends, but I did know of their beautiful recipe book cover – the one with the hand drawn octopus.

The non-virtual-menu did not disappoint and I chose the Eggplant & Parmesan involtini to start and the Duck & green peppercorn ragu, pappardelle for main.

The food came out at different times, which meant three sets of hungry beady eyes staring at honorary Food Boar Julian’s Spicy pork & fennel meatballs. My involtinis soon arrived and proved fresh and tasty – though not as delicious as honorary Food Boar Will’s Potato & Parmesan crochette – I openly stole one. Left to my own devices I could devour at least four plates of the golden wonders. The Duck & green peppercorn ragu was rich but not overly spectacular.

Julian says “Enticing dishes were in abundance, but our party of four did not conquer all the Venetian’s tapas – decidedly boar by name not by nature. A second visit is probably in order. The stand out dish for me was the bruschetta, covered in a mountain of artichoke, prosciutto and ricotta. If I had the authority to cast such judgement, it would be a four acorn sort of place!”

Well he doesn’t, however…

Acorns out of 5:

What Jodie has to say:

As Julian rather theatrically informed us, the bruschetta was by far the best thing we ordered,  so much so that the following day I tried to recreate it…

Recipe: Ricotta, artichoke and pancetta bruschetta

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Perhaps more assembly instructions than recipe for this Polpo-inspired hors d’oeuvre, but it is an assembly I dare any dinner guest not to be impressed by. That’s right, a dare.

Ingredients…

1 loaf of nice bread

1 jar of artichokes in oil

1 tub of ricotta

3 tomatoes

4 garlic cloves

4 slices of thinly sliced cured Italian ham

Extra virgin olive oil

Utensils…

griddle pan

knife

Step by step…

Cut the bread into 1cm thick slices, drizzle in oil and place on the griddle pan. Meanwhile cut the tomatoes into small slices and place on the griddle pan with the bread.

Once the bread is lightly toasted on one side, turn over. While the other side is toasting cut the cloves of garlic in half and rub lightly into the bread. Check the tomatoes; we’re aiming for soft but still retaining their shape.

Once you have some nice lines on the bread and the tomatoes are cooked, take of the heat. Spread a generous layer of ricotta on each slice and sprinkle with black pepper, lay on the tomatoes and artichokes and then fold one the ham. Drizzle generously with olive oil and you’re done.

Simple, quick and horrifyingly tasty.

Review: Franco Manca, Northcote Road, London

I’d heard fantastic things about Franco Manca but never journeyed to their Brixton, Westfield or Chiswick branches. Yet when news spread that one was being assembled in Clapham Junction’s Northcote Road (only 10 minutes from my house), my laziness could no longer compete with my curiosity and I resolved find out what all the fuss was about.
Franco Manca Pizza & Menu

My two friends and I opted to share a tomato and cured organic chorizo pizza and one with tomato, mozzarella and basil accompanied by three Budvar Pilsner beers.

My seat proved the most exciting, with a clear view of the beautiful flaming brick oven and the mesmerizing actions of the three pizza creators, sliding pizzas into the oven and scattering fresh ingredients onto the pizza bases from a height. Franco Manca pizzas  are all made from slow-rising sour dough which gives them their distinctive flavour.

I saw a gigantic plastic tub of pizza dough expertly emptied one handful by another onto some scales – I’m a sucker for fairness with food so this pleased me greatly.

On at least three occasions, when asking people where to find the best pizza in London – Franco Manca was the answer. I didn’t want to think about this, as there’s nothing worse than a dish built up so much only to be unfulfilled, but when the cheerful and passionate waiter placed our pizza in the front of us my eyes and nose were not disappointed.

And neither was my mouth.

The sourdough base was delectable  and the high quality ingredients – organic cured chorizo from Brindisa and organic tomatoes from Italy – resulted in a top-notch mouthful.  The tomato, mozzarella and basil pizza (seasonal) was delicious also -my vegetarian friend was to speak about it for days afterwards.

In reference to my introduction and hearing ‘fantastic things’  about this pizza kitchen – this turned out to be an understatement. My chums and I have quickly joined the legions of people, who when asked where the best pizza in London can be found answer without falter ‘Franco Mancas!’.

Try it out for yourself – you won’t be disappointed.

-Colleen

Acorns out of 5:

Review: Brooklyn Bite, King’s Road, London

ImageLast weekend the Food Boars headed  down to Brooklyn Bite – the much hyped New York-style pizza place on London’s very own King’s Road. We were really excited about this one as our thoughts turned to massive foldable slices of  thin-crusted joy.

We arrived to some very welcoming staff and a rather sleek black tiled interior. Now I’ve sadly never eaten pizza in Brooklyn so I am slightly unqualified to judge how authentic the place looked. My knowledge of such things is largely framed by Hollywood films and The Sopranos,  incidentally they had soundtrack of the latter playing on loop throughout the entire duration of our meal,  leading me to believe they might expect such things from their visitors.

ImageThe menu looked pleasing, mainly pizzas and subs with fool-proof mob referencing names such as ‘Bugsy’ and ‘Fugetaboutit’- it was all starting to seem a bit like a theme park, albeit a stylish black-tiled one. We ordered three 15” pizzas between 7 of us: Benny Blanco from the Bronx, (ricotta, garlic mix, basil, mozzarella), FunGuy, (spinach, olives, mushroom, salami) and Sheikh Rattle ‘n Roll (pepperoni). Afterwards we sat back and inspected the condiments with impatient glee; Tabasco, chilli oil, Parmesan — all the big names you would expect and need for a New Yoik pizza.

ImageThe pizzas arrived on three metal plinths and I must say they looked ravishing, plenty of cheese, tomato and toppings with huge slices. I folded a slice of FunGuy in half and took a bite — delicious! Not extraordinary but enjoyable all the same. I merrily continued on with this process until I hit the rather sizable crust and all of a sudden I got very bored, it was dry and cardboardy and no amount of condiments were going to save it. We skipped desert and got the bill, which came in just on the right side of reasonable for what we had; £15 each for a share of the pizzas and a soft drink.

As we Imageleft I didn’t feel disappointed by my trip but I knew we hadn’t experienced anything to rave about. This was a shame because I genuinely though from the outset that it coulda had class. It coulda been a contender. It coulda been somebody.

Jodie

Acorns out of 5:

Review: Duck & Waffle, Bishopsgate, London

As soon as we saw a picture of those barbecued pigs ears in their brown paper bag, we went to unprecedented efforts to make sure we were there to try the food at Duck & Waffle as soon as we could. We booked half a day off work and headed on down to Heron Tower to try out London’s new and much raved about restaurant.

What Jodie has to say:

A part of why I was so excited about this place was because of its 40th floor panoramic views. I soon changed my tune as we were hurled up in a small glass lift, stomach in mouth, hands on rail. Once we were up there we were greeted with a clean unpretentious décor and a friendly waiter who instantly made me feel more at ease about turning up with a backpack and tattered trainers.

The menu was mainly modern European and we decided we were going to try as much of it as possible, ordering some small plates of  porchetta, rabbit rillettes, and some rather chivalrous sounding heritage tomatoes, to name a few. The rabbit rillettes were my favorite; soft and sweet pâté-like rabbit on some good warm toast. I’ll let Colleen tell you about the rather special barbecued pigs ears. (So special that the waiter almost giggled with delight when bringing them over.)

The large plates came after; Meatballs ‘n’ Tomato Sauce (£11), spiced lamb cutlets and, of course, the signature Duck and Waffle. The meatballs were fresh and delicious, lathered in a frothy and creamy ricotta, and Colleen will tell you all about the magnificent Duck and Waffle. My only gripe was with the lamb cutlets — although perfectly cooked they were a little under seasoned.

For desert my fellow boars had  brownies with peanut butter ice cream and I had the peach melba (£7). The peach melba was so good that I ate it in a daze of poached sugary delight and only now, whilst I collect my thoughts enough to write this review, has it truly dawned on me how splendid it was.

The bill came with no horrid shock considering the quality of the food, and as I plummeted back down to street level in that terrifying glass front lift, I was already thinking about my next trip up.

Acorns out of 5:

What Colleen has to say:

BBQ Spiced Pigs EarsI wasn’t expecting the terrifying glass-to-floor outside-the-building lift to propel me up into the skies at warp speed. I’m afraid of heights / flying and so I turned to face the building, only to be met with a shiny reflection of our capital hurtling past anyway.

For a lifetime supply of Duck & Waffle’s BBQ-Spiced Crispy Pig Ears (£4) I would happily live in that lift for a week. The shredded ears were delightfully crispy and showered in a BBQ powder that made them incredibly moreish and left me wondering how many bags I should take away at the end.

The Foie Gras ‘All Day Breakfast’ (£12) is a decadent dish which exploits the taste buds with an explosion of salty meaty morsels combined with a sweet homemade Nutella-style sauce.

The Duck and Waffle (£13) was a sight to behold and devour. A fried duck egg atop a crispy confit duck leg perched on a delicious Belgian waffle and accompanied by a mouth-watering Mustard Maple Syrup that you’ll want to sneak away and drench on everything you ever eat again.

Duck and Waffle

The service was top-notch and the friendly, helpful waiter never let my water-glass go empty. In restaurants serving such fine food you often feel you should be on your best behaviour – good posture and dainty knife-cutting – in the Duck & Waffle I felt completely at ease. On several occasions I left the table to take photographs of the spectacular view, looking down at The Gherkin and across to the Olympic Park.

For a tantalising tapas-style real-food experience The Duck & Waffle is the place to go. I’ve already recommended it to everyone at work and sung its many praises to friends and family. I’m already planning my next visit – at night, when London looks most beautiful.

Acorns out of 5: