What I ate in September – a round-up

Butterbeer at Warner Bros Studio

IMG_2582

As a child, I was very fascinated by the food in Harry Potter because it all seemed so alien to me: the decadent stews, the soups, butter as a side, dense cakes made of dried fruit, the grand potatoey-ness of it all. For years I thought “watercress” was a kind of meat because its Italian name was so unfamiliar.

There is a cafe in the Studios, but it serves the most generic cafe food you can think of. It also serves Butterbeer and charges you an extra £3 for the pleasure of having your drink in a cheap-looking plastic tankard. The drink itself is a slightly sickly cream soda with an inoffensive whipped marshmallow fluff topping made to look like a shiny, unrealistic head.

As an adult, what I like the most about fictional Butterbeer is that it has inebriating powers – i.e., it was alcoholic and drunk by teens, in true British spirit. This version also could have used some whiskey.

Maltby Street Market

I love Maltby St Market; but I hate it, too. The absurd choice of dishes and cuisines throws me in a panic and I always order something I don’t really want and then second-guess my decision-making skills. This visit was no exception.

Tartiflette seemed like a good idea (mounts of potatoes, ham and Reblochon – what could go wrong) but it really doesn’t possess the magical comforting abilities I ached for when it’s 18 degrees on a grey September day. It needed snow to work.

My second choice, the fish finger sandwich at Shoal Food was a perfect concoction of crispy chunks of fish, all flaky and delicate inside, in a shiny, sturdy bun. I love any fish finger sandwich (yes, even the orange-coloured supermarket fish fingers with Lurpack spread and the whitest plastic bread) but this one was genuinely delicious, especially washed down with my favourite Negroni in the whole world at Little Bird Gin.

I could not part without trying an ice cream sandwich from Happy Endings, “the Malty One”; it was a wonderful little thing of creamy, nutty malt ice cream, snugly hugged by chewy oat cookies with a slightly salty edge. Chocolate was involved, too.

FullSizeRender[1]

Good Egg, Stoke Newington

IMG_2703

Stoke Newington is like this pretty village where everything looks boutiquey and made to be photogenic, and it maybe has the highest concentrations of restaurants you have to queue for (probably not true, but it feels like that when you’re hungry and will have to wait for forty endless minutes to get your hands on some labna).

The Good Egg serves Israeli food in a busy, buzzy restaurant. For breakfast, they serve smaller plates, or larger options (pittas, whitefish bagels and the likes). We had melty eggs with everything seasoning (onion, garlic, sesame, caraway seeds and probably something else, but the sesame really did most of the work); perfect, tangy, silky labna delicately dressed with tiny greens; fluffy pitta with olive oil; sharp, smoky aubergine marinated in nutty tahini; airy whipped feta with the ripest jammiest black fig on top. Everything is balanced, tangy, creamy, honey-sweet, feta-salty. By the time I was done, I was ready to queue all over again.

Mangal 2, Dalston

IMG_2770

When I moved to Berlin, Turkish restaurants were the biggest surprise for me. Before then, my only experience of Turkish food were late night Doner kebabs – deliciously fatty, salty, doused in chilli sauce. But in Berlin, Turkish restaurants were lovely places that offered generous portions of hummus, thin sheets of Turkish bread, grills piled high, diminutive glasses of fruity tea and wobbly baked rice pudding – they were something else entirely.

There’s a stretch of the A10 where the smell of car fumes is miraculously covered by the aroma of grilled meat from the many Turkish cafes and restaurants, mainly specialising in wood-fired food. Mangal 2, with its unassuming decor, is among them. Inside, Alex and I shared lamb kofte, our arms crossing while attempting to mop up the yoghurt dip, the sheer pleasure of conviviality in the interactiveness of a dip.

We had hummus, coarse and creamy, adorned by a single black olive, dark and sticky like a prune, and an aubergine dip which was a roller-coaster of smokiness, pungent garlic, and cooling mint. Then there was smoky charred lamb kofte on a pile of bread, tomato sauce and yoghurt, served with a generous amount of rice. All of this with Turkish bread, so reminiscent of pizza bianca to me, still warm from the oven and slightly charred in places. It’s the sort of place you’ll want to go time and time again – its reliability the perfect accompaniment to a date, a catch-up with a friend you haven’t seen in a while, meeting your parents. Or a takeaway to be eaten in front of the TV. Stranger Things is coming back soon, after all.

Advertisements

2016 food highlights, pt. 1

New Year’s day. Time to try out that new smoothie maker you got for Christmas. Have you been to the gym yet? Me neither. But yes, definitely tomorrow. Definitely. Kale juice?

Before I get into New Year’s resolutions, I have taken the chance to reflect on the food highlights of my year, every meal a part of a story, forever weaved with conversations, views, trips, IKEA furniture building sessions. If I ever wrote an autobiography, it would probably be a recipe book.

Here’s a list:

– Tea. I’ve always loved tea, but 2016 was the year in which I truly unlocked its powers. Something rather magical happens after a few years in Britain. Uttering the question “Tea?” becomes a sort of bizarre reflex and you find yourself repeating it whenever entering a room, sitting down on a sofa, or when trapped in an uncomfortable conversation or an awkward silence.

I’m referring to the English concept of tea here, the humble cuppa, a label-less bag of black tea dropped in hot water and then violently bashed around in the mug for a few seconds before being drowned by a generous helping of milk. Pale, weak, a lump of sugar to offset any residual bitterness – tea is a beverage that can comfort you beyond any other, and I am including wine in this statement. Tea is what you have when you get home after a long, bone-chilling winter day, the windows clouded and a pot bubbling on the hob. It’s what you sip on while you catch up on Gogglebox or flick through a glossy magazine. Tea is your rock when you wake up and cling to your duvet, dreading the very thought of leaving the house in the darkness. Amber-liquid courage. Also, great help for serial procrastinators. “Sure, I’ll do [insert task here]. Just going to make myself a tea first”.

– Tetote Factory‘s buns. I spent New Year’s Day eating my weight in these shiny Japanese buns and watching Mozart in the Jungle. It was probably my favourite day of the year.

img_5546

Sticks’n’sushi. Forever my celebration restaurant, forever a place that gives me bank statement-induced panic. Their scallops are just ridiculous. You can ready my review here.

img_4773

–  Scrambled eggs. 2016 is the year in which my boyfriend mastered scrambled eggs. I look away when he makes them to remain blissfully ignorant of the amount of butter that goes in them, but they are perfect.

img_4787

– Shackfuyu and its super instagrammable Kinako French toast with matcha soft serve. Damn you, Shackfuyu. You get me every time.

img_4817fullsizerender

– Roamers. In March, I flew to Berlin and my friend Hedda and I brunched our way to Berlin like there was no tomorrow, seamlessly knocking down smashed avocado and French toast in one fluid continuum. She showed me new corners of a city that, to me, is the one that got away. I taught her that if you wake up before 10, you may not have to queue for brunch. It was an enlighting trip but also, brunch at Roamers has me dreaming about it almost a year later.

– Pane frattau at Tiramisu. If comfort was a crispbread based egg dish, it would be this one.

img_5456

Beigel Bake’s bagels in all its juicy, spicy, starchy glory. Need I say more. Daytime friend, late-night friend, find-that-extra-bagel-in-your-bag-the-following-day friend.

img_5625

Takeaway Temakinho eaten in the sun. Man, I don’t know what it is about Temakinho, but its perfect blend of Japanese simplicity and unlikely flavour pairings which miraculously work make it so much fun. Salmon tartare and almonds. Bright lime and coriander on scallops. Even crushed nachos make it in there somehow. Fun.

It’s also opening in Soho which is very dangerous.

img_5870

– Maltby Street  Market, destination of many Saturday morning trips.

– The Athenian. In March, I moved. Their souvlakis fuelled many IKEA furniture-building sessions.

img_6232

  • Silk Road. Simple, unassuming, reliable Silk Road. Always there with its deliciously fatty lamb skewers, laced with cumin, gigantic chewy belt noodles swimming in savoury broth, simple long tables, cold beer. Kind of perfect for a bigger group (5-6 people) but if you’re not fussed abut sitting next to strangers, go. Now.

img_7155

Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

A perfect trip to Maltby Street Market

It all starts before twelve, just before most Londoners will show up, sluggish from too many drinks the night before and seeing the early hours of the day, and crowd the narrow ropewalk.

My perfect trip to the market starts when it’s still relatively quiet, so I can grab a thin, somewhat fragile jamon sandwich from the Tozino stall, a gentle reminder that the simplest food can be the most perfect, the bread crusty but soft and chewy; salty, marbled slices of jamon iberico, so thin they’re translucent, and a fresh, bright tomato puree. I could choose to sit inside, a sultry Spanish bar, and pick at plump green olives while sipping on sweet, thick sherry, but when it’s too nice a day to that, I eat the small sandwich standing. I also get some jamon for later, and on that note, I pop into St John’s to buy a perfectly round sourdough loaf, and of course a a couple of doughnuts, the vanilla-speckled custard almost spilling out.

IMG_6684

IMG_6712

At this point, my mood normally decides the next stop: it could be a Stilton, Pear and Bacon Toastie, impossibly rich and decadent, sharp with blue cheese and sweet with pear chutney; I could have hearty tartiflette, cheese oozing on soft potatoes, especially on a cold day. Today, a warmer day, Hansen&Lydersen‘s jewel-hued smoked salmon on sourdough somehow hits the spot, again as uncomplicated as a Saturday afternoon. The small tamales stall also offers the most plain-looking, comforting little rectangles of warming corn husk and bright tomatillo chicken, spicy enough to keep things interesting.

FullSizeRender

It’s now past 1 o’ clock and I can just about squeeze through the crowd, and that’s how I know it’s time to grab a coconut coffee from the Asian coffee place, handcrafted, which I’m not entirely sure what it means as I normally tend to steer clear of coffee – but the deep richness of their take on it, spiked with coconut milk, creamy, sweet and somehow exotically scented makes it the perfect companion for a rainy day.

It’s a short walk to Druid Street market, much smaller and quieter. There’s a stall selling Japanese knives with a man proudly telling stories from his trips to Osaka. A girl is arranging painfully beautiful pottery, hand thrown bowls and mugs painted in muted hues of blue and grey.

A bearded man is char grilling oysters when someone from New Orleans approaches him to tell him of how he knows the family that invented the round barbecue he’s using. They discuss grilling techniques as he shucks the Oysters, with their marbled, knobbly shells. My favourite way to have them is still raw, their mineral taste reminiscent of sea water, childishly pretending to be at the seaside, but I’m in awe of the way he competently places them on the fire, a generous slab of butter on them, a spice rub, some bright red hot sauce. A squeeze of lemon and it’s time to go home.

IMG_6704IMG_6702

Maltby Street Market

Ropewalk, London SE1 3PA

Open Saturdays and Sundays

Maltby Street Market, London

In this day and age, where I often find myself buying food in a hurry on my way back to work, and everything comes from the aisles of a huge supermarket – from shiny apples to French cheese to fresh soup – I find food markets even more compelling. The thought of picking up nice sourdough bread here, and a little pastry for tomorrow there, and in the meantime mingle and soak the sun by wonky tables outside a pop-up gin bar, or have a quick, delicious bite while standing, is especially appealing at the weekend.

Maltby Street Market is a narrow street studded with colourful food stands and under-arch shops that serve burgers and Spanish tapas surrounded by timber. Originally a Borough market offshoot, the Matlby Street Ropewalk is less hectic and boasts a more laid-back, relaxed atmosphere while offering a good variety of food and drink stalls. The result is that you don’t have to elbow your way to the front of a never-ending queue, and you won’t feel like screaming after a few minutes. While lunchtime is especially busy, going around 2pm-3pm will make it a much for relaxing experience. Some of my favourite bites are:

Little bird gin

Little bird gin is a lovely gin distillery with a vintage feel and romantic decor. Their citrussy and refreshing gin is distilled in Peckham, and this pop-up bar on Malty Street is where they serve delicious gin-based cocktails. While the perfect-gin and tonic was bright and refreshing, with a beautifully pink slice of grapefruit in lieu of lemon that complemented perfectly the bitterness of tonic water, the jewel-hued negroni was the star of the show. You can also have drinks to go, served in candy-esque retro striped paper cups. IMG_20150314_164106 IMG_20150704_190405

Hansen & Lydersen

I adore smoked salmon and Hansen & Lydersen just know smoked salmon. This Stoke Newington smokehouse make beautifully pink, hand-filleted and hand-salted salmon, with a wonderful texture and a good balance of smokiness and savouriness that never feel overpowering. They also know how to serve smoked salmon. Their Scandinavian-inspired open sandwiches are delicious, simple enough to let the salmon shine, but complex enough to make the end result much greater than the sum of its parts. The jewel-hued salmon is served on a slice of crusty bread with a dash of sour cream and dill.IMG_20150314_151049 While St John’s bread and doughnuts are to die for and Bad Brownie make incredibly moist and fudgy brownies in a variery of creative flavours, a delicious recent addition to the market is Milo and Hector’s, a pastel blue ice cream sandwich truck serving delicious ice cream sandwiched between chewy, soft cookies.
IMG_20150704_213006

Finest Fayre

If it’s meat you’re after, you’re spoilt for choice: Herman ze German may have the juiciest German sausages in London, but I especially love a little stand that serves British meaty treats: pork pies and scotch eggs.

My love for scotch eggs was sparked by an illustrated English dictionary that I loved browsing when I was in school. I especially loved the food pages, of course, that featured meat pies oozing rich brown sauces and decadent glazed turkeys, all shiny, accompanied by soft mashed potatoes. Then came the scotch egg, encased in a layer of meat and then fried.

When I moved here, I was disappointed to find bland, rubbery scotch eggs in supermarket isles, but the recent trend of craft scotch eggs makes me very happy. Borough Market have a scotch egg stand with a never-ending queue and Brewdog serve them as a bar snack. Finest Fayre also have delicious ones, with bright orange yolks cooked to creamy perfection and beautifully crunchy crusts. I especially reccommend the chorizo one.

IMG_20150314_142258

40 Maltby Street

40 Maltby Street is a winery that specialises in organic, chemical-free wines and it’s opened for lunch and dinner at the weekend. Busy and bustling during the market’s trading hours, it’s much quieter after six – which also means you can get a seat. It’s a lovely, charming place with a laid-back atmosphere and very welcoming staff. It feels like a neighbourhood place but I’m happy to travel there for a bottle of wine and their incredibly accomplished food. The menu is ever-changing and focused around high-quality ingredients cooked in a simple and innovative manner, that complement the wines perfectly.

IMG_20150627_193814 IMG_20150627_203724 IMG_20150712_104448 IMG_20150712_113554

I loved their pea fritters, where the simple bright tarteness of fresh peas cut through the batter; and their creamy smoked roe with crunchy and peppery radishes and oatcakes was the perfect bite to accompany our bottle of red. It’s a great place to go for a date, or with a friend, where you can chat the night away with a bottle of wine and bar bites that just hit the spot.

African Volcano

A very meaty affair, this under-archstand serves Mozambique-style burgers with juicy, succulent meat, bespoke peri peri sauces and glazed buns. The pulled pork, pictured below, featured a healthy dose of crackling for added crunch. I mostly love its relaxed atmosphere, and the friendly chef distributing large smiles and bits of greasy bacon to the people in the queue. IMG_20150704_180901