Friday, 17 September 2010

London Fashion Week Munch: The Biscuit

It's London Fashion Week. Or, strictly speaking, London Fashion Five Days - a whirlwind of shows, the emergence of fashion editors armed with their pack of passes and very tall people.

I like Fashion Week - the papers get all excited and their supplements that little bit thicker. Glossy magazines get glossier, and London, already throbbing with shops, pulsates even more in anticipation.

But onto food - to celebrate LFW, as it's affectionately known, the Biscuiteers - online purveyors of beautiful hand-made iced biscuits - have developed a fashiony range. Fun tins packed full of edible killer heels, and handbags can be delivered straight to your desk. Click here to have a look.

It's difficult not to become unashamedly girly when a friend gives you this. Anything that comes in a box has occasion written all over it.

And I open only to reveal this gem of a thing:

Nice eh?

Quite frankly, if I can't have an Alexa, I'd rather have an Alexa biscuit.

They do biscuits for any occasion - births, marriages, being in love, being hungry. Yes, it's slightly twee, but there's nothing wrong with that if it gives you pure joy.

And the nice thing is, if it's your first order, you can get 5% off by entering 'bakelovex' in the discount code box.

The Culinary Tales: Featured Blog of the Week

I'm happy to announce that Voracious' Culinary Tales was last week's blog of the week in James Ramsden's rather excellent food news roundup.

As this title has previously been bequeathed to the likes of Hugh Wright and food hero Fuchsia Dunlop, I am a smiling wreck.

Hello to any new followers, and hope you enjoy the blog. Do drop me a line anytime, I'd love to hear from you. Hx

Thursday, 16 September 2010

How to impress your date: Gelupo in Soho has a lot to answer for. This website has claimed too many of my friends. A spate have lost successive evenings to serial dating and revealing what they do for a living. And though a few have found themselves embroiled in unlikely situations, I cannot knock it. One has already found love. Many, flagrant embrace.

For the not-so-lucky in those incipient stages of datehood (juggling five dates a week, perhaps even two a day), innovative thinking is required for each date.

My suggestion would be Gelupo, in Soho, as the place to take a date.

It’s an ice-cream parlour - but Italian. Which means it's actually a gelateria - less schmaltz, gaudy colours, and cherries on top than your average parlour. And ice-cream is a safe bet - take your date on the premise that everybody likes ice-cream.

Teetotal date? Chocolate sorbet it is. Loves booze? Chocolate and Grand Marnier then. Vegetarian, or dare I say it - vegan? Well, let’s just say there is a flavour for everyone. For, Gelupo’s sorbets are as rich as as egg custard and cream without them comprising of egg custard or cream.

And as if that wasn’t enough, it’s across the street from brilliant sister restaurant Bocca di Lupo, well-wishing your date with its name which fortuitously translates as ‘good luck’. 

Ask to taste. That’s the perk.

Gelupo, who make all gelati on the premises, are so proud of their flavours, they will urge you to try them. Chocolate sorbet sounds an anomaly - almost a paradox. The expectation is of something watery and one dimensional, but no. The sorbet is of a rich sort, made from 100% cocoa and sugar and is positively creamy. Their white peach sorbet will take you back to the heat of Venice (think Bellinis of ripe white peaches and Prosecco). The gelato of pear, cinnamon and ricotta is a sweet taste of autumn. Burnt almond granita, which I have to order on fellow tweeter Dinehard’s insistence, is a triumph. The raspberry sorbet is juicy and ripe, the ricotta and sour cherry ripple gelato is especially good fresh from the churn and in a huge waffle cone. My only regret is that I could not taste the naughty milk-infused fig-leaf ice cream as I'd not arrived in time.

In the case that you and your date get on well, the gelateria is open until 1am from Thursday to Saturday. If you do run out of things to say to each other, let me suggest a perusal of the amazing Italian produce on offer at the back of the shop. I defy anyone to lack conversation whilst looking at the refrigerated octopus.

And Gelupo have recently announced that they will be launching an online ordering service. Which means for true love there will be only one thing for it: home delivery of the fig-leaf variety. 

7 Archer Street, London, W1D 7AU

Gelupo on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

A Lesson in Superlative Service: Chez Bruce, Wandsworth

Chez Bruce is exquisite. I’ll tell you that now. There are no quites, nor almosts, nor rathers about it. That I should resist penning superlatives when I write about this Sunday lunch is torturous. But I should, else no one will believe me.

The service is only part of the whole lunch, of course, but it is worth dedicating a healthy chunk to this subject. There are simply two tips that I will give should you fancy a Chez Bruce jaunt.

The first, is to trust. Put yourself in their Chez Brucey hands completely. They know what they are doing. We ordered good G&Ts, expecting better-than-most G&Ts, and drank the best G&Ts. We went for Sunday lunch thinking ‘what a nice Sunday lunch we’ll have’ and received a full four hours of worthwhile attention and a spectacular Sunday lunch. We were so looked after that we emerged, blinkered and mole-like in the sunshine very happy indeed.

The second tip is from Must Drink’s Ruth Ford (who gives her general wine tips below). When choosing the wine - ask the sommelier. To quote:

‘Chez Bruce has one of the best* wine lists in, like, the world, and one of the best* sommeliers in the trade... So my recommendation is - ask the sommelier!’

So we did. And Ruth was right. Terry, a talented Canadian with an extraordinary palate, was woefully underused so we would frequently ask what he thought was the best accompaniment to our courses. Armed with a price, and the menu, he delivered wonders by the glass (wonders can be delivered by the carafe too).

The food is predominantly French, a nod to Larousse, with humour and personality. One bite of each dish was a remarkable evocation of both British and French familiarity - caramelised chicory made friends with traditional roast beef and yorkshire pud; shards of very English runner beans added depth to a coating of bisque and mussels. The textures were inspirational.

And so to the food:

Pigs trotter and calf's brain croquettes with sauce gribiche and dressed leaves
Wine: Terlaner Classico 2009, Cantina Terlano, Alto Adige

Affectionately referred to by the staff as ‘the brains’. The brain croquettes had a hot crunchy outside which couched the wibbly inside. This had the beautiful creamy consistency of chinese steamed egg and was slightly gelatinous. The gribiche - sharp with capers - was a great foil to the brains. The trotter croquette, though delicious, paled beside its wibbly cousin.

Tagliatelle of mussels with runner beans, bisque sauce, saffron and chives
Wine: Albariño 2009, Lagar de Costa, Rias Baixas

Simple. Not too rich, which was my fear. The seasonal runner bean - with that lovely gardeny taste - added an unusual freshness to the dish.

Slow roast belly of pork with glazed apple, onion breadcrumbs and cocotte potatoes
Wine: Barbera d’Alba 2009, Ettore Germano, Piemonte

Flecked with curls of crackling, the large slices of belly were meltingly soft. The belly sat on a burnished sweet buttery slice of apple. The onion breadcrumbs were just another layer of glorious texture and bursts of flavour. And the wine was absolutely stunning with this dish.

Roast Beef with Yorkshire pudding, roasties and red wine
Wine: Touriga Nacional/Tinta Roriz 2004, Quinta Lagoalva de Cima, Ribatejano

A classic which failed to disappoint.

Hot Chocolate pudding with praline parfait
The moat of chocolate sauce disappeared through mopping with fingers. The parfait was studded with the sharp crunch of nutty praline, and when scooped up with a wedge of chocolate was the perfect pudding.

From this cheeseboard we chose:

Roquefort - pungent and tangy.
Napoleon -
a hard sheep’s cheese from the Pyranees. Nutty and fruity and my favourite.
Tunworth -
a British Camembert which puddled into liquid. My second favourite.
Robiola delle langhe- from Italy - a mix of goat, cow and sheep

All the cheese, which was either from La Fromagerie, or Neal's Yard Dairy, was washed down with Taylors Tawny Port: 10 years old, and a child of the 90s. Just.

I thought the long afternoon would peak at the pork, but the cheese outsmarted us all. I can happily and unashamedly say this was one of the tastiest, most exquisite meals I’ve had in a very long time.

* Please excuse the superlatives. It can’t be helped.

Sunday Lunch: £35 for three courses, £5 extra for cheese

Chez Bruce
1 Michelin *
2 Bellevue Rd, London SW17 7EG
020 8672 011


Chez Bruce on Urbanspoon

Ruth Ford's Must Drink!
My advice if you are going to a halfway decent restaurant is use the sommelier. It's all part of the service. They know the wine list, and they will be able to help you find a bottle which will suit the food you have ordered, the occasion, and your taste. What's more, they will take pleasure in doing it. Tell them what you are eating and how much you want to spend and leave them to choose the wine - more often than not you will end up with something you would never have thought of trying. Exciting! Even better if your restaurant, like Chez Bruce, has a good list of wines by the glass and you can taste a different wine with every course...

Terlaner Classico 2009, Cantina Terlano, Alto Adige, Italy

Terlaner is a region in Alto Adige in the far North East of Italy. Wine called Terlaner is white, and based mostly on the Pinot Bianco grape, though some producers also use Chardonnay and/or Sauvignon Blanc in the blend. It is a dry, perfumed, fruity wine which can be beautifully soft and full-flavoured (rather like the brains!).

Albariño 2009, Lagar de Costa, Rias Baixas, Spain

A lovely aromatic wine from Galicia in North West Spain (Albariño is the name of the grape that makes the wine; Rias Baixas is the name of the wine-producing region it comes from). Typical flavours are peach and apricot, but the wine is clean and crisp and light, a perfect companion for Galician seafood, and also for the tagliatelle Helena ordered.

Barbera d’Alba 2009, Ettore Germano, Piemonte, Italy

Another wine from Northern Italy, this time the North West. Barbera is the grape and Alba the place the wine is made. (It is also made in Asti). This is Italy’s third most planted red grape and can vary hugely in quality – at the cheap end it is thin and mean and acidic, but if you spend a few more quid you can find a wine full of rich cherry flavours, soft and ripe in the mouth, finishing with a freshness when you swallow that leaves you wanting another sip immediately. Helena’s Barbera was ‘stunning’: full-bodied and rich enough to get along with the pork, without overpowering the dish.

Touriga Nacional/Tinta Roriz 2004, Quinta Lagoalva de Cima, Ribatejano, Portugal

Here’s a perfect example of a wine you might never think to buy for yourself, so it’s great to be able to try it in a restaurant. Touriga Nacional and Tinta Roriz are two of the grapes that go into making port, that rich, sweet, heady stuff usually consumed at the end of a meal with a stinky blue cheese. However they also make very good dry red wine. Tinta Roriz is the Portuguese name for Tempranillo, the grape that goes into Rioja. The two grapes blended together make a deep-coloured, intense wine tasting of black fruits and with quite a lot of tannin, which causes that drying sensation you get around your gums after drinking some red wines, and stewed tea. Tannins soften when you eat chewy meat, so eating roast beef with this wine is the perfect thing to do – then the intensity of the wine flavour can shine with the tastiness of the beefy meat.