How English of us to be embarrassed by the doggy bag. Sweeping up those bits we’ve chosen not to scoff, taking them home to reheat dodgy-style in a microwave.
How tight. How uncouth.
But surely it’s the second highest compliment a restaurant can receive: that the food was so fabulous and generous, we’d like to eat it again, thank you very much. The first compliment, of course, would have been to love it the first time round.
Well, the asking for the doggy bag needn’t be embarrassing nor confined to the back-street Chinese restaurant.
I’ve never been shy of asking (it’s my Chinese genes). My last doggy bag was from the impeccable Dean Street Townhouse in Soho. The Scottish porterhouse steak is a beast of a dish, all tender tenderloin fillet one side of the bone, and beefy sirloin on the other. Enriched with custardy yellow béarnaise and accompanied by thin-cut chips.
It wasn’t a cheap meal, this. In fact this beast will set you back a good £65, and it rather defeated us on the night. But it turned into a fantastic salad supper the day after (recipe below), and saved us having to pick up anything new.
Dean Street Townhouse was gracious enough to accept the compliment. In fact, they were prepared for it and as soon as we asked, packed us off with a fancy box and a bag. After our waiter informed us that many fail to finish the Porterhouse, I’d wager they’d not ask for the doggy bag, which to me seems a waste of prime steak.
Our waiter did wonder if we had a dog as we asked if he could pack the bone too.
“No dog”, we replied, “just us”.
Waitrose Food Illustrated’s William Sitwell started the campaign a couple of years back, and was taken on by Jay Rayner and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, but I wonder how mainstream doggy-bagging actually is.
Is it something that you’d be happy to do? Or is it just a bit too embarrassing?
Recipe: Leftover beef salad
There were heated discussions while waiting for the bill on what to do with the beef, which was to be used for the next day’s dinner. Stir fry? Pasta?
Fears that the beef would lose its already fantastic flavour cast those ideas aside. We decided to freshen up the steak with lots of vibrant herbs, and enhance rather than hide the flavour with a simple lime dressing.
1 garlic clove
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons fish sauce
1 heaped teaspoon palm sugar
Few drops sesame oil
Leftover rare steak from last night’s blowout
100g dried vermicelli noodles
Handful of herbs - anything like fresh mint leaves, coriander, thai basil or all three is great. I like mine with mint and coriander
Scatter of dry roasted peanuts - roughly crushed with a pestle
Half a cucumber, sliced
Juice from two limes
Fresh chilli or cheat with dollops of sweet chilli sauce
Using a pestle and mortar, crush the garlic, and then add the rest of the ingredients. Pour over the steak and marinate for at least an hour.
Cover the dried noodles with boiling water for ten minutes, then rinse under cold water
Flash fry the steak - you don’t want to cook that rareness out. If already sliced, then it’s a token heat through to take the edge off the marinade. If not, take out and leave to stand before slicing thinly.
Throw the noodles, sliced herbs, peanuts, cucumber, beef. Combine the lime juice and chilli, pour over, toss and serve.
Dean Street Townhouse
69 - 71 Dean Street
020 7434 1775
Thanks to Tom for the recipe