Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Five months off off

In the past five months since my last post I have had some incredibly experiences. I wouldn't say I have been too busy to write; I have just been doing other things. I have had some moments of great existential distress and some of great happiness. So I want to do a bit of a summary: Highlighting some of the better things I did and the impressions they left mostly months after they ended. 

It will probably take more than one post; but it's worthwhile writing towards now. And something great. Hopefully we will get all cought up to and take the writing somewhere new and improved. Always improved.

So since we visited CpH and Studio; a highlight, much has indeed happened. Firstly, I still dream about the biodynamic organic leek. It was incredible. I try to tell people that it was by far the best leek I ever had; but it's hard for people to fathom because they obviously do not have many memorable reference points. 

Secondly, I went to Cambridge in June. I didn't punt but we did attend the May Ball at Emmanuel College. This was an odd and frightfully cold event. Ultimately I found Cambridge to have a weird class dynamic in which the students are revered and us mere mortals disappear behind the looking glass. 

The highlight at this odd ball most certainly was chatting to one of the C Team, a weird Oxford Club which crashes the Cambridge Mayball. He was jittery and emphatically not enjoying himself. Enjoyment, however, was not the point, as he pointed out. The point was to break in. That was the point. Which to me sort of summed up my impression of the Cambridge students who also seemed to not really be enjoying anything other than the mere fact that they had managed to get in. 

That experience alone is probably what spiraled me into an existential quest for joy and purpose. Because the point is not to have a blog, but to write because we enjoy it. 

And so here we are; back. 

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Studio - CPH

Last weekend I had one of the best meals of my life. I was in Copenhagen with my friends and had casually made reservations at newly michelin starred restaurant Studio, in the Standard, in Copenhagen. My father had spent the day talking the place up, saying 'it is unlike anything you have ever tried '. While we all believed him I think none of us really wanted to get our hopes up too high. A meal unlike anything... that must really be something!

Just a bit of background, Torsten Vildegaard is head-chef and co-owner of Studio. He previously worked at what they call the world's best restuarant Noma for eight years, including four in the test kitchen, innovating and creating new dishes. Studio is his baby and the years of trying to make something new and fresh really reflects in the menu. Every meal was truly like a breath of fresh air, with subtle aromatic flavours that went straight to my heart.

Our view:


I was so excited to visit and it doesn't take long for us to settle on the full menu. There is no menu card, just a choice of five, seven or full-on. We obviously went for the full-on. This was after all a once in a lifetime opportunity. We had a gorgeous table, with a view, through the window, of the harbour. The style was contemporary clean, with a few ornaments; a lamp, a side table, that made the place feel thoughtfully constructed and ultimately beautiful. Our main waitress was casual yet incredibly professional. She made us laugh right off the bat when she explained how we had messed up our first 'pre-starter', a tea poured from the flower pot in the centre of the table, onto slush ice placed in small bowls. For some reason we thought we had to eat it with a sort of knife like spoon. In reality we had to warm it up with our hands, swirl it and then drink it. Oh well. No snobbery here, instead we got a good laugh and appropriate instructions with each subsequent dish.

There was nothing I distinctly dislike about Studio, but there were some things I enjoyed more than others. One of the things I found really outstanding was the crackers and bread. I know it sounds so simple, but Studio really perfects the 'cracker' and honestly should start a high end 'cracker' company - I would spend a fortune on these things! To explain, one of our first crackers was made from the bark of Jerusalem artichoke. It was perfectly crunchy and had a sweet barky taste of artichoke. This was followed later on by an 'ash' cracker, entirely black, like a serving platter, that honestly was perfect for any type of spread I could possibly think of. We also had sour-dough with whipped cream butter that was so fluffy and moist I really didnt even realise just sour-dough could be so paletable. My favorite 'bread' though was a sort of small choux pastry (gougeres) that had the most discerning taste of nutty cheese; parmesan? chedar? Who cares, I dipped it in it's roe and creme-fraiche and it was dreamy.

Artichoke and gougeres:


Another outstanding factor was the vegetables. One of my favorites was a plate with two leeks and a thin layer of parsilly and hay infused spread. We ran the leek over the shield of dressing and then bit off just the root. It was the best leek I ever had. I don't even know what that means. I don't know that I ever really thought about eating leek before. I don't know that it is something I will ever really eat again. I guess it doesn't matter. This leek was outstanding. Worthy of it's own plate.

Best leek I ever had:


On almost all the plates we had edible flowers, forage, and truly unbelievably crunchy and tasteful vegetables. For a veggie lover like me, it felt like a real find.

The third AMAZING thing about Studio was the seafood. As part of our pre-starters we had the most playful and enjoyably garnished oyster I have ever tried. It came served enclosed in the shell, but as we lifted the shell we found not just the oyster but also a bit of roe, edible flowers and a subtle sauce. I swollowed it whole and wow: salivating!

Best garnished oyster I ever had:


As part of the chef's menu we also had a seafood starter that I am serving a cheap version of for my next dinner party; caviar (yay caviar) in a shallow almond reduction - basically almond milk.I would not have thought of it, but the two together was outstanding. The bitterness of the caviar was entirely offset by the creamy almond milk. And the subdued nuttiness actually enhanced the delicate roe. I really loved the simplicity, but also the innovation of this dish.

Caviar with Almond Milk:


We had several mains, including an incredible sauteed squid dish. It came served with lots of forage and was so delicate, tender yet in a broth that was so warm and hearty. It made me feel all fussy on the inside and transported me simultaneously to a landscape of beautiful warm green meadows and the far depth of a deep blue sea. 

The squid:

This was followed by cod served hidden underneath a cabbage leaf. Not only was the cod so tender, in perfect burnt butter sauce, that really gave a hint of sour notes to the ensemble. Also might I remind you: These vegetables! The cabbage was crunchy and made me wonder how cabbage got such a bad name in the first place. We should be eating cabbage all the time. And in fact I would be, if it tasted this good.

Why did cabbage get such a bad name? 

As our last 'main' we had a a sous-vide lamb chop served with fresh asparagus and morrel. This was a perfect 'end' to our proper dishes. Mainly because it was a small and light main, and after all these dishes anything heavier would have killed my tummy.This was, like all the other dishes, understated, somehow, in it's presentation and even the nature of the fine flavours, and simultaneously bold not only in it's execution but in it's idea.

Sous-vide lamb chop:

This brings me to the last stand-out achievement of Studio; forcing us to not only try but also fall in-love with unlikely body parts. These included lamb's heart served as a starter with dip, to be eaten with tweezers (Yes Tweezers!), a pig's ear crisp (again; please start a 'cracker' company) hidden beneath the cabage with the cod, and as part of the desert, and the reason I only mention this now; blood-pudding!

The very last desert (of two) consisted of sweet peas, cocoa-nibs and black-pudding on a sourcream sorbet with some type of parsillie on top. It sounds like a starter, I know, but it was so sweet, the subtle hints of dark chocolate powering through and creating the perfect ending to the perfect foodie evening.

Blood-pudding and cacao-nib desert:


Going to bed that night I was over the moon. Studio is the most relaxed, fun and innovative dining experience I have ever had. Truly unlike anything else. Really something. What a welcomed competition to Noma (that you are actually looking down upon) across the Copenhagen waters.

Let's go back soon. And do it all again.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Kanal Cafeen - CPH

Over the long weekend I brought some friends back for a big tour of Copenhagen. Honestly, I know I grew up here but every time I visit these days I am taking a back by what a fun weekend destination this is. Even though Scandinavia is expensive, it is picturesque, of exceptionally high standards, clean, safe and functional. You don't have to worry about language barriers or when the next tram will finally come; it is just there ready for the taking. 

Well Saturday morning we set off for the Danish Jewish museum; which is tiny and honestly really underwhelming, focusing entirely on Danish Jewish Culture rather than the history and, specifically the experience during the holocaust. Luckily my grandma was there to help. She is Jewish herself and was generous in her explanation of various artefacts and specifically talking about her own time as a refugee in Sweden during the war. 

View from my seat of the Canal:


What more is that to get to the Jewish museum you have to walk through the Danish parliament Chrisitansborg and gardens. In early summer it is just stunning with all the flowers in full bloom.

From there we walked to Kanal Cafeen where we had reserved a table outside. This is literally on the canal with a fantastic view, right in the heart of the city. My grandma, who is usually very much on top of the going-ons of the nations capital, had never been and pointed out what an exceptional location it has. 

Danish style ordering of Danish sandwiches:


We ordered Danish open sandwiches, traditional style and then sat and waited what felt like forever for it to arrive on a huge and beautiful platter. What a feast! I ordered curried herring, and learned upon its arrival that I had to make it myself. For a foreigner this took a bit of explanation, but ultimately it wasn't that difficult. My friends at this point were excited that they got to have beer and schnapps with their lunch (that's the Danish way!). After the herring I had Gamle Ole, which is a dense and aged cheese that you eat with onions and fat and something the Danes call sky, which is like jellied gravy. I hadn't had it for years, but honestly really enjoyed it. I can still taste the pugnant bite of very smelly cheese. What a treat.

Curried herring:


After lunch we went down the road for coffee along Gammel Strand before we continued to lounge in the sun in the grass at Christiania, the local hippie commune, and then took a walk along the canals in Chrisitanshavn. 

Christiania:

We had a fantastic day. The weather was amazing for Copenhagen and everybody was out, lounging about and enjoying themselves. Open sandwiches, sun and long walks; what's not to love. 

Nopi - Lunch

Every Londoner I know swears by the Ottolenghi empire. "The cakes are from Ottolenghi" is a positive hallmark of the establishment, and cookbooks like Jerusalem and Plenty are a must for every DIY chef, steaming vegetables in their le creuset. I am one of the devotes. And so last friday I went with the girls for a lavishe, or should I say lovage, lunch. Be still my heart. We ordered numerous dishes, all sharing style; vegetable crudity, courgette and manouri fritters, burrata, octapus, pork belly, and Valdeon cheesecake. And that's all before desert.

My first world problem really was that I don't like sharing. I always feel too greedy and while I like tasting all the different things I hate that I can't just go for the one thing I really really love. Also you have to wait politely for someone else to dig in first and at the end of the day, when that one lonesome octapus ring is stairing back at me, I find myself still hungry. And of course I can't take it. Cause that too would be rude. I am just not good at sharing food. And here I am, and all my anxieties are turning into reality, right in front of my tummy. I tried to mitigate this disaster by testing a new strategy; I swoop in andprofessionally cut each dish into allocated portions (not rude), take my share, arranged the bits neatly on my plate, and only then do I glutionusly begin. 

Nopi:


I am glad I did it this way, because it was honestly all delicious, and I could not have waited politely for everyone else to stake their fork full.  The vegetables in the crudity were early summer, small and intense, like soemthing fresh from a hot and dry soiled garden. The dips were fantastic, all perfectly spiced and creamy. The fritters were like a savory, warm cake. The burrata itself was outstanding, but I personally thought the clementines were slightly too sweet and the coriander seeds too large. This dish felt in tone with the establishment, but ultimately underwhelmed when I think of a purely Italian style burrata with just aubergine or tomatoes. Sometimes, something simple and good, does not need to be fusinoed on. 

Vegetable Crudités:

The valdeon cheesecake was suprising, as it looked more like a really soft omelette. The taste too was really mellow and more flan like than creamy. I adored it.

Both the non-veggie dishes sort of paled in comparison to the vegetarian feast above. The octopus was unmemorable and the pork belly was all kinds of rich goodness, but at the same time a bit too heavy, both considering lunch and the deliciousness which had come before it. 

Non-veg Dishes:


We finished off with deserts. In addition to dips this is probably the area where the Ottolenghi team excels and I in every way  was mesmarized by the pudding before me. We had an assortment to share; flan, perfectly rose falvoured icecream, rich chocolate mess, and I had picked the plum and Marsala trifle with blackcurrant and liquorice sorbet. I don't even normally like trifle and I still don't understand why I ordered it. I supose curiousity overcame me. It was hands down the best trifle I ever had. The blackcurrant and liquorice came together, and the layered marsala soaked cake balanced without overpowering the dish with it's hints of tanning. Each part would have been outstanding on its own, but together it was truly a perfect lunch desert.

Trifle:

So off I went happy and wholesome and full. I can't recommend this place enough. Only don't go for the wine; their waiters don't know anything about it and the Slovenian one we tried was awful. I stuck to water. Which honestly given the awesome meal and LUNCH, was just fine.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

McQueen - Shoreditch

Last week I was invited to test the Designer Dining Menu at McQueens. When I got the invite I immediately jumped on the opportunity mainly because I walk past this place almost twice a day, on my way to and fro work and I have never been inside. The place is dark and musky and always made me think; what fun for a stag-do! Or after work drinks for the city crowd streaming North from Moorgate.  I am not sure my friends are really their target audience, but I invited a girlfriend of mine to come along, cause I imagined we would at the very least get some great eye-candy among the brown leather chairs and oversized black bar.

Well my friend and I arrive and even though we are the only people in the restaurant there is some confussion regarding our reservation. Odd to say the least. We are then seated in a Steven McQueen themed room, fully kitted out with aviator paraphenalia, 70's era posters and a screen subtly playing one of his movies. I dig it, forget about the reservation mishap, and settle for Steve McQueen as my guy-candy.

McQueen's:

We get a menu with a limited choice for starters, mains, and desert. First, we start off with the goat's cheese salad and green beens with crispy duck egg. These are served with two house cocktails. I had the Le Brock and my friend had the Butterfly Kiss. We both thought the beverages were very average. Honestly, for a central Shoreditch location I didn't realise one could find this poorly constructed cocktails. I felt like I was drinking soap and as a result I only had a few sips and let the rest go to waste. I guess I get it to the extent that you want a club/bar to serve up quick concoctions, light on the alcohol, to get the place buzzing. But with dinner it feels like you are being cheated when you end up drinking 2am club-cocktails. 

The Goat Cheese:


Meanwhile, our starters were really good. The crispy duck egg was perfectly cooked, just slightly yolkie on the inside, my friend really enjoyed the lavage salsa and we both thought green beans as a starter was sort of unusual, but in a good way. The goat's cheese salad, which granted is difficult to mess up, was also really delcious. It was not really anything out of the ordinary, but it was just well made, with a good crostini ciabatta to crunch into. I got the sense that the person who had put these dish together really cared, while trying to target a crowd that probably doesn't really care, stumbling in after a few too many pints in the bar. 

The Beans and Duck Egg:


For mains I had the Risotto and my friend had a steak. My Risotto was delicious. It was very simple, milanese style, with very understated but good flavours. Sadly, my friend did not love her steak. In McQueen's defence she grew up on a meat-loving farm and admitted she had gotten used to the lush lumps served at the prestigious grill-house around town. Perhaps, she suggested, a sauce would have softened her palette, but to our disappointment no sauce was offered. My friend, however, commented on her the tenderly cooked and lovingly roasted vegetables. She insisted I just had to try them. And I agreed; a well roasted potato!

My Risotto:


Last, but not least, we got a dense, moist browny with icecream. Like the Goat's Cheese Salad, it is difficult to mess this classic up; and they didn't. It was just another good dish.

Desert:

With our meal we also were served a glass of wine, that was easy on the palette, and that I personally really enjoyed.

Overall we had a really great evening. We both wished there had been more of a scene (Yes, more boys to look at!), and simultaneously, I think we both worried how our waitress would respond had it been busier. The food was good, without being outstanding and overall the place felt perfect for a celebratory work lunch or dinner, or a larger group.

It is worthwhile to remember that McQueen's has a large bar and a club that we imagine starts bouncing after 11pm on a Thursday where one can continue the party. I also, at the very least, genunelly think that for £30 this menu is very good value for money.

This experience was gifted by Lime & Tonic.
 
McQueen on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Marchesi @ Harrods

In the month of May Harrods had a pop-up collaboration with Prada; in which a part of the 5th floor was turned into a Pradasphere briming with Prada memorabilia. Even for a purely fashion appreciator, like myself, it is beatufiul. The better part for me however was the Marchesi pop-up along-side it.

In a portion of the 5th floor of harrods, unnoticable unless directed within the Pradasphere, is a beautiful lunch space. Green velvet benches, white table cloth and freshly polished silverwear, ceiling-high glass adorn the walls and give a great view of the chimneys of Knightsbridge. Meanwhile, glass jars filled with candy lined the wall, an ode to the original Milanese Marchesi, which has been making confectionary since 1824.

Marchesi:


The service was formal and professional and within moments I was seated and dipping bread in olive oil feeling quit pleased with myself. My order follows; barley soup with a side of artichoke and parmesan salad. I await with anticipation and when my food arrives I am only happier with my choices. They are HUGE; Italian size I supose one should call them. But holy moly so delicious.  The artichokes is fresh and crisp with thin wafers of smokey parmesan. The barley soup came in the tastiest broth, with lots of well cooked, still chewable veggies and of course tons of barley. 

Soup and salad:


I personally could not finish all the food, but tried hard, slurping down the soup well past my 'full'-point.

I read my Pradasphere booklet, while downing my espresso and lingered. I always knew I liked Prada, I just didn't know it would taste this good.

As I left, back through the 'sphere I felt so satisfied that I had come, I immediately tried to scheme my return before the end of the month. I know it's almost over, but you really must go.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Musselmen

I am so full! For the past week it has been full steam ahead on the eating front.

So to begin at the beginning; musselmen!  

Musselmen:

This is a now closed pop-up in Dalston that did a full bowl of mussels for £10, and cocktails, and oysters, and lobster, and a waffle desert with bacon icecream. 

On the Wednesday night that I visited the place was completely full. Everyone seemed to be having a great time; several embracing the sailor tattoo-stencil  theme of the restaurant to laugh a little harder and eat a little more marily. 

We were seated on long wooden tables and benches and the menu was laid out in front of us. A handful of items, which all sounded scrumptious.

I started with oysters three ways, which was a tasty appetizer with well crafter garnish. I downed then with proseco, once I realised this was a cutlery-optional establishment that didn't have oyster forks. 

2 of the 3 Oysters;

Next I had the lobster, which also came without tools and, suprisingly dressing. It was, however exceptionally well prepared to easily lift the meat out of the shell and the claw. I liked this simple, summary lobster. The claw specifically was remarkably delicate, a real treat - I almost asked my companion if I could have hers too, as I felt certain it would be wasted on her. She is a lobster novice, who I had to help de-shell the lobster, which as said was really really easy to de-shell! 

Lobster:

Last we shared the waffle, with bacon icecream and caramel-maple syrup. This desert was so fun. Waffles with ice-cream are obviously awesome, but what made this desert stand out was the totally bacon tasting icecream. I was suprised that something icecream would even be capable of tasting that much like bacon. Shock! But it did. And it was actually suprisingly tasty. Yum. 

I had a great time at Musselmen. The service was fast and sweet and the food was simple and delicious. I hope they open permanently sometime, somewhere.

UPDATE: Mussel Men will open permanently from 7th of June on 584 Kingsland Road
 
Mussel Men on Urbanspoon