TT swears by Blumenthal's roasted chicken recipe. So what does she think of Le Coq?
It is interesting how a good restaurant seed and inspire others to set up in an area. A few years ago, I would never have associated the area around Highbury and Islington with good food. Then Trullo came along followed by the Fish and Chip Shop up the road and now Le Coq has joined the game.
Le Coq styles itself as a neighbourhood rotisserie restaurant. As is evident from its name it does mainly chicken but its Sunday menu includes other meats and sometimes even seafood done rotisserie style. Their Sunday menu changes weekly so you might find short ribs, sea bream and even octopus in addition to chicken on the Sunday menu. Who knows that octopus can be done rotisserie style? I am mighty piqued by the idea as from what I know about octopus it is at its best when fries quickly or braised slowly. However on the Sunday that I chose to pop by, it was not octopus day so that will be a tale for another day.
Le Coq occupies two floors. The main dining area and open kitchen are set on the first floor with their private dining room (or den as they term it) in the basement. The restaurant rocks an updated country chic look. I like how the restaurant is flooded with the golden autumn light as it filters through the stained glass panels at the top of the windows. Unsurprisingly, they have rooster references strewn around the restaurant including erm a very literal reference in the toilet.
The restaurant was packed when I arrived. I was prepared for that as Le Coq has a no reservations policy so I went for Plan B - takeaway. I placed my order at the take away counter which was right next to the kitchen and spent the 15 minutes or so waiting time watching the action. Three chefs were busy in front of the rotisserie slicing or plating up the food and asking for service. It was amazing to watch them work in such a co-ordinated manner in such a small space which seems no bigger than an office pantry. Is there a larger kitchen tucked away somewhere where the food gets prepared? I had high hopes for my chicken when I saw how effortlessly and cleanly the knife went through the meat as the chef carved a chicken up.
I wasn't disappointed. The chicken (half for £12)was indeed succulent and juicy. Even the breast meat which could be so easily overcooked was moist and tender. The key to such perfection was in the salt which permeated every pore of the chicken. The chicken had been brined before cooking and it was the salt which flavoured the bland white meat and gifted it the moisture which would otherwise elude it. A home cook could roast a chicken and achieve such tenderness with brining and slow cooking but even then one might not get the even cooking or the paper thin crispy skin that Le Coq has achieved with its rotating spit and the resulting even heat distribution. I finished off my meal with Le Coq's walnut rum and honey tart (£3) which was excellent. It was a perfect marriage between the sweet honey and the bitter walnut with the rum adding depth and richness.
I can imagine the food to taste even better fresh off the plate. Now if only Le Coq would do reservations it would be the perfect restaurant.
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Sunday, 17 November 2013
Thursday, 14 November 2013
The friendly service from the sole waiter cannot be more starkly contrasted with the hard grey concrete interior with metallic lights suspended from the exposed ceiling. To top it up, a single column juts through the main sitting area, creating an awkward setting in this new burger and cocktail bar just off Marylebone High Street.
SLABS London at New Cavendish Street is packed with after work crowd when we were there as guests on a weekday evening. With disco music thumping in the background and loud chattering amongst fellow diners, you can be forgiven if you thought that the lights would be dimmer.
Perhaps that is why I thought there is something incongruous about SLABS. Or it is the menu. It took pains to highlight that all chicken dishes are halal. I'd assume that is rather unnecessary in a cocktail bar one way or another. Also, unless you actually take some time to read the short write up on the menu, you probably would have missed the fact that the burger patties on your table are freshly handmade everyday in the restaurant, and are from cows fed with organic grains and grass.
With just four starters (one of them is olives), it wasn't a massive choice. I went for the salt and pepper chilli squid (£7.50). If you have been following LondonChow, you would have noticed that I seldom let up on an offer of squid, and never when the salt and pepper is involved.
Evidently, salt and pepper played second fiddle to chilli in this case. The chopped chilli still stung even with its seeds removed. That was short-lived however; the succulent sweet sauce (the spring roll dip variety) masked that almost immediately. Crunchy lettuce, which was a palate cleanser, added a nice touch.
My dinner mate opted for tiger prawns (£9). They came nicely laid out on a, well, slab. She promptly laid one on my plate. "Well, you are the one who need to write about this," she added. I thought the prawn was a bit tough. It could have spent too long on the grill or worse, too long in the fridge. I suspect it was the latter. That said, the accompanying dip was interesting - a cross between creamy soup and prawn shelled broth. Very subtle.
I never thought that I would hear it but when I did, it sounded as cheesy as I thought it would be. "If I tell you, I would have to kill you" was the answer when I asked about the SLABS burger sauce. It turned out to be a mix of mayonnaise and ketchup. I might have detected traces of barbecue sauce. Maybe not. You' have to fork out £1.50 to find out for yourself.
That aside, the same waiter told a chap on the table next to us about SLABS' Wagyu burger. "You will never ever want another burger again" were his exact words. While I wouldn't go so far to say that, the Wagyu burger (£15) was something to reckon with. I would have thought that the marbled meat would have made a very fatty patty. Turned out that fats that is interspersed in the lean meat remained so when coarsely minced. What resulted was a very satisfying treat. Even when extremely pink, it didn't taste raw at all. The shiitake mushroom that lined the patty's bottom gave it the extra meatiness.
I still can't quite fathom why they call it the gourmet slider selection (£12). Comprising of three mini burgers Spanish (chorizo, manchego and thin slice of ham), Wagyu and lobster tail. Perhaps calling them mini burgers just wouldn't cut it - instead of using downsized burger bap, the three mini burgers were essentially thirds cut from a single full size burger. One promptly toppled over the moment they arrived at the table. All that said, my dinner mate quite like them. That was all that matters, I suppose.
"The expresso is really good," my dinner mate declared. That coming from an Italian, whose way of life literally mandates expressos being the only coffee to be consumed in the afternoons (and standing over counters), is hardly trivial. There was no hint of bitter aftertaste in the coffee. A quick check with the waiter reveals that the free trade South African coffee beans are grounded in the restaurant itself.
SLABS London's setting suits gatherings more than dates. It even offers free wifi if you are looking for somewhere to chill. Go for the Wagyu burger and perhaps the onion rings over the all too dense and chunky triple cooked chips. And oh, an expresso to round it off nicely.
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Monday, 11 November 2013
Let's be honest, most of us spend more time trying to trim down our update to a maximum of 140 characters. Yes, that means being creative and resorting to online jargon - the likes of LOL, gr8, tt, IMHO ensure. It does get a tad tiring after a while. There are times when you wish to post more than a paragraph, a photo, check-in and even slap on a silly sticker that very much reflect your mood. And really, you would very much prefer not to have your mum share that with all her friends, thank you very much.
Enter Dayre, the newest online micro-blogging website that allows all the above in the comfort of your mobile devices. Accessing the site is easy - either go online to dayre.me or download a free app for iPhone or Andriod. If you fear neglecting your Facebook and Twitter accounts, fret not; Dayre allows simultaneous updates to both platforms as well.
I have the honour of being one of the 30 UK bloggers selected to start the ball rolling for Dayre's launch (with the very fancy name of Alpha Seeders). Naturally, that's the result of being eating too much and having the audacity of actually writing about it. The expanding waistline is worth it, I suppose. Anyway, you can find me at dayre.me/londonchow.
For the next six weeks or so, I'll be posting on a regular basis about what's going on in LondonChow's universe. You'll be surprised to find out what else went down the gut that is not committed to the world of Internet. Nothing gross I promise. And also I'll be sharing what went on in the kitchen on the days that I actually try to conjure up something. And of course, tons of non-food related stuff as I go about London.
Give it a go. Just download the Dayre app and start sharing your thoughts, insights, moments of inspirations, outfits, recipes, creative crafts, that mugshot of the cheeky guy who pretended to be asleep when he saw a Baby On Board badged lady.
Oh, while you are at it, also check out Dayre on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
Saturday, 9 November 2013
Reform Social and Grill (Marylebone) - the gentlemen's club, British menu with an interesting variation
TT checks out a hotel restaurant in Marylebone with a traditional British setting.
Never judge a book by its cover. Or in this case judge a restaurant by its name. Reform Social and Grill may have the ring of revolution to it but the restaurant of Mandeville Hotel in Marylebone has quite a traditional setting. Inspired by the classic gentlemen's clubs it is done up in a heritage look jazzed up with floral armchairs that would not go amiss in a country house.
We turned up as guests of the restaurant on a wintry weekdays evening and there was already a pleasant buzz in the bar area. Reform offers a traditional British menu with classics such as fish and chips and steak though occasionally there are interesting variations with dishes such as treacle cured salmon and smoked salmon scotched eggs.
The service staff said that the smoked salmon scotched eggs (£8.50) were the chef's specialty so I simply could not pass on that. I am not usually a fan of scotch eggs as I find the deep fried combination of pork and egg rather overwhelming. The salmon however provided a lighter touch and offered a silky finish to the egg and the egg yolk were on the right side of runny. The accompanying crisps of salmon skin were a rather clever spin on the usual pork crackling and were melt on the tongue heavenly.
My friend ordered the duck leg pressing (£7.50) and was just as delighted with his choice. The dish was accompanied by a duck liver mousse and little bits of orange which served to cut across the richness of the meat and liver mixture beautifully.
For mains, my friend had the lobster burger (£18) with Welsh rarebit and lobster mayonnaise , again on the service staff's recommendation while I played safe and had the sirloin steak. The lobster came in a patty coated in a tempura like batter but the texture was crumbly like fish and did not have the signature sweetness of lobster flesh.
I fared better with my sirloin steak (£24.50). The steak came with one large mushroom. I asked for the steak to be cooked medium rare and it was succulent while the mushroom provided a welcome earthy contrast. One can order peppercorn, bearnaise or smoked garlic sauce to go with the steak but really the steak was good enough on its own. We balanced up all that meat with a side order of chargrilled marrow in chilli butter. The marrow was the perfect blank canvass for the chilli butter and was all smoky perfection.
The portions were generous and we were stuffed but I find it difficult to say no to a pud! What better way to end a meal than to have to have the ultimate autumn pud, the apple crumble (£6.50). The sweet apple filling was beautifully set off by the crunchy topping which I washed down with a coffee.
I find Reform to be at its best with the classics. If you are next in Marylebone and fancy something traditional this is the place for you.
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Wednesday, 6 November 2013
Where to eat in Canary Wharf? A question that plagued every single soul at lunchtime toiling away at the Square Mile in London's east end. It's not like the place is lack of choices, it's just not easy to find a place where you have a relaxing meal that doesn't cost a limb.
I have written about Hazev when it first opened. Its lunchtime deals were quite good deals. Since then, the portions have shrunken considerably, their prices have jacked up and the staff's service less warm. If Hazev the restaurant isn't high on my lunchtime places in Canary Wharf, Hazev the delicatessen is.
Hazev Deli that connected to the restaurant itself is the perfect place for a no fuss lunch. While it serves breakfasts, cakes and pastries, the main draw is its meze bar. From humus to yogurt, chicken salad, eggplant, olives and roasted tomatoes, there is easily more than twenty meze dishes at any one time to choose from. Try to arrive a bit before 1pm to sample the entire spread.
Three meze dishes balanced on a serving plate go for £5.25. Throw in a small portion of Turkish bread served with every sit in meal and you got yourself a decent bite that actually tastses healthy. The only bummer is that you would have to brave the weather across a short bridge across the canal. Not something that I would look forward to at this time of the year. Then again, I would take that over joining the queue for a greasy overpriced sandwich anytime.
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