A reader texted me recently to ask for my ‘London List’. Another asked “Any chance you’d do another piece on your favourite London eating places”. I realised that its quite some time since I devoted a column to my new finds. We’re so fortunate to be so close to London – a mere 50 minutes hassle free hop from Cork or Dublin.
For those of us who are connected to the restaurant scene it’s a big bonus to be so close to one of the most exciting food capitals in the entire world. I pop backwards and forwards regularly for meetings and events so I use each of these opportunities to try out new places. Hence I’m regularly asked for my list of favourite cafes, restaurants and cocktail bars.
One of my most unexpected discoveries is called The Other Naughty Piglet. The name is super cute, not normally a good sign and then there’s the location, right in the centre of the Theatre District. The restaurant is upstairs above the lobby in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Palace Theatre on Shaftsbury Avenue in The City of Westminster. While I was climbing the grim, blingy marble staircase I was convinced that what lay ahead would be disappointing. I couldn’t have been more mistaken.
The original, Naughty Piglet, co-owned by Joe and Margaux Aubry Sharratt is a Brixton hotspot that serves seasonal and creative small plates alongside a great list of natural wines. It ticks all my boxes and I particularly remember a Datterini tomato salad with frosted feta, micro greens and togarashi. The latter is a Japanese condiment also known as Shichimi made up of seven spices. A typical blend might contain red chilli pepper flakes, Japanese peppers, roast orange peel, both black and white sesame seeds, hemp and poppy seed, ground ginger and nori seaweed. If you haven’t already got it in your cupboard look out for it next time you go shopping. You’ll find yourself reaching for it regularly to add oomph to grilled meats and seafood, noodles, salad dishes and even soups. At The Other Naughty Piglet, the chef sprinkled it over the tomato salad but the other bit of magic was the frozen feta grated on, at the last minute, altogether a delicious combination. Burratta with chocolate mousse and vanilla ice cream, crumbled honey comb and salted caramel were also particularly good. Pop this place on your London list and also check out Over Under Coffee in 181A Earls Court Road, a local community focused café that serves exceptional coffee and nutritious, simple and delicious food. Over Under Coffee are getting ready to open a second branch in October in the Ham Yard in Soho. Check out the breakfast sandwiches and avocado toast.
Bao started life in Netil Market close to the Broadway Market in Hackney serving fluffy white steamed buns filled with braised pork, sprinkled with peanut powder – you can’t imagine how delicious this Twainese street food tastes, always a long queue for Londons’ equivalent of David Chang’s Korean version of Momofuko which became a cult food item in New York.
It’s not that easy for market traders to make the transition from street stall to bricks and mortar. They often lack the staffing and accounting skills. The founders teamed up with Trishna and Gymkhana (also add to your list) to launch the new establishment at 53 Lexington Street in Soho – can’t book but brave the queue and it can be an hour long but it’s worth it…..
In Shoreditch, out in Hackney, in East London there are several gems. Pidgin has been making waves serving a four course menu that changes every week, all the best places have an interesting natural wine list.
Many of the most exciting new restaurants are tiny – sometimes as few as 5 or 6 tables, owned by eager young chefs and cooks who are still fizzing with enthusiasm and hungry for success. These are the ones I seek out but I often lose interest when I hear they have opened their third or fourth place. Some succeed in keeping up the standard but they are few and far between. So you’ll need to travel out into the less gentrified suburbs where rents are lower to find the rising starts, check out Som Saa, Oklava, Kiln and Clipstone and another of my absolute favourites Padella.
Check out Legs– a tiny neighbourhood wine bar in Hackney, open just for dinner (and lunch on Saturday and Sunday) as I discovered after I’d schlepped the whole way out for lunch – simple beautiful British food, small plates, worth a detour and there’s more…..
Ballymaloe Garden Festival
Get Gardening and Seed Saving
Don’t miss the Garden Festival at Ballymaloe from 2nd and 3rd September 2017. There will be a variety of talks, demonstrations, entertainment and shopping offers a bumper crop for garden lovers, seasoned experts, late bloomers, families and foodies. Entry fee is €8 and children under 12, go free.
FEAST Supper with Rory O’Connell at Ballymaloe House
Thursday 7 September – €75 pp
Rory O’Connell is hosting a special 4 course seasonal supper at Ballymaloe House as part of FEAST: Midleton Food & Drink Festival 2017. The evening will start with a cocktail designed by Irish award winning mixologist Andy Ferreria served in the Ballymaloe walled garden.
Taste of West Cork Festival
Don’t forget the Taste of West Cork Festival from 8th-17th September 2017. Check out Guest Chef Danni Barry from EIPIC in Belfast. Danni will cook dinner using the freshest and most seasonal produce at Glebe Gardens in Baltimore on Monday 11th September. €70 including wine pairings. Booking Essential. Tel: 028 20579.
Pilgrims Restaurant and Doswell Gallery join forces….begin the night with aperitifs, drinks and art at Doswell Gallery, then move to Pilgrims Restaurant for a five course tasting menu. Thursday 14th September. Tel: 023 8831796, booking essential.
A Date for your Diary:- Guest Chef Gillian Hegarty, past student and teacher at the Ballymaloe Cookery School and most recently Head Chef at Ballymaloe House will host a demonstration at Fernhill House, Clonakilty on how to prepare and use fresh herbs in canapés and cocktails. There will be a three course seasonal menu (waiting to find out if Gillian is involved with the dinner). Thursday 14th September, 023 8833258, booking essential
Home Butchery, Charcuterie and Sausage Making Demonstration with Philip Dennhardt
There’s a growing interest among chefs and enthusiastic amateurs for home-curing and sausage-making , a subject we’ve become more and more absorbed by in the past few years as we continue to learn and explore the rich traditions of many countries including – France, Spain , Italy, Germany, Poland …..During this one day course you will learn how to butcher a side of pork from nose to tail, identify the cuts and learn about the technique involved to dry, curing…. and learn how to make four different types of sausage and salami, chorizo, frankfurters, beerfest sausages, brawn………taste and enjoy
Saturday September 9th 2017, 9.30am-5pm, www.cookingisfun.ie
Labneh with melted red peppers, garlic, anchovy and sumac
8 tablespoons labneh
4 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
3 tabs extra virgin olive oil garlic
2 large organic red peppers, seeded and sliced into 1/4 inch strips
Salt and freshly ground pepper
A fistful of fresh mint leaves,
Heat the oil in a wide sauté pan, add the sliced garlic, stir and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the sliced peppers, season with flaky sea salt and freshly cracked pepper. Stir to coat, cover and cook on a gentle heat until soft, 10 to 12 minutes. Taste, correct seasoning and transfer to a bowl. Fold in the halved and quartered anchovies if using,
To serve, Spoon two dollops of labneh into the centre of a medium sized plate to form a high mound, spoon a generous helping of the pepper mixture on top, sprinkle with fresh mint leaves and a generous dusting of sumac on top. Serve with grilled or fresh sourdough or a flatbread.
Datterini tomatoes with frosted feta, micro greens and torgorashi
A fresh and delicious inspired by a small plate I enjoyed at The other naughty piglet in London.
30 ripe but firm Datterini or other sweet cherry tomatoes,
Salt and freshly ground pepper
4ozs Feta cheese, frozen.
Extra virgin olive oil
Micro greens, both green and red,
Slice the tomatoes in half, both ways. Season with flakey sea salt and freshly cracked pepper,
Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and a squeeze of freshly squeezed lemon juice, toss gently. taste and add a little sugar or honey if necessary. Arrange a little mound of tomatoes on a plate. Grate some frozen feta over the top, add a sprinkling of gorashi and top with some snipped micro greens. Serve ASAP.
Vanilla and Chocolate Ice Cream with Crumbled Honeycomb
Vanilla Ice Cream (see recipe that appeared on Saturday August 19th or on the website http://www.irishexaminer.com/lifestyle/foodanddrink/darina-allen-homemade-frozen-treats-457305.html
Chocolate Ice Cream, see recipe
4 tablespoons sugar
8fl oz (225ml) water
4 free range-egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 pints (1.1L) whipped cream
4oz (110g) plain chocolate
2oz (50g) unsweetened chocolate
Makes about 500 g (1lb 2oz)
85g (3 1/4oz) Duchy (or good quality local) honey
180g (6 1/4oz) liquid glucose
400g (14oz/1 3/4 cups) castor sugar
100ml (3 1/2fl oz/scant 1/2 cup) water
15g (3/4oz) bicarbonate of soda
1 Swiss roll tin – 20 x 30cm (8 x 12 inch)
parchment paper or silpat mat
First make the ice cream. Dissolve the sugar in the water, bring slowly to the boil and simmer until the syrup reaches the ‘thread stage’ (it will look thick and syrupy and when a metal spoon is dipped in, the last drops will form thin threads). Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks until white and fluffy, when the syrup is at the correct stage pour the boiling syrup gradually onto the egg yolks, whisking all the time. Continue to whisk until the mixture is a thick white mousse – add the vanilla extract. Melt the two kinds of chocolate in a bowl over simmering water or in a very low oven. Cool slightly, add some of the mousse from one bowl to the chocolate and stir quickly, add more and then mix the two mixtures thoroughly, fold in the softly whipped cream. Pour into chocolate cases. Cover and freeze.
Next make the honeycomb. First loosen the honey and glucose syrup by dipping their containers in warm water, then weigh out into your saucepan. Then add the sugar and water and heat gently, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Gradually raise the temperature of the pan’s contents to 150°C (300°F).
Carefully sprinkle the bicarbonate of soda into the pan. The contents will fizz up like lava from the underworld, but don’t be alarmed, this is what puts the tiny air bubbles into the honeycomb. Stir the mixture to make sure all the powder is incorporated, then pour it out onto your silicone sheet (or baking tray). Leave to set for at least 30 minutes, then break the brittle mass into small pieces.
To serve:- remove the ice creams from the freezer at least 30 minutes ahead. Scoop out a quenelle of vanilla and another of chocolate ice cream and arrange side by side on a chilled plate. Crumble the honey comb over the top and serve immediately. Continue with the remainder of the plates.