Raising a glass for English Wine

I know a little bit about wine… but not a lot… so I’m not an expert… nor an Oz Clarke for that matter… I get all the notes and the subtleness… but to me it simply comes down to ‘DO I LIKE IT OR NOT’. When it comes to white… I like dry wines. When it comes to Reds… it depends… I like the oaky ones or I like temparanillo type ones. I’m prefer my old world European wines as well as those from South America… I hate Aussie wines, unless drinking them in Australia at the wineries… and I detest, with passion, the junk that is Californian wines.

I was ambling through London’s Borough Market on my usual Saturday graze around town and I noticed a new shop, The Wine Pantry, just as you enter the market, opposite Brindisa, the tapas place… claiming to sell wine that apparently comes from England. :)

English wine??? come again???

The English… actually make wine???

I’d heard of this myth… once… though I couldn’t be sure whether I was imagining it or not… but YES its true.

The loud American guy talking with total passion and amazement for what he was sampling caused me to turn my head in curiousity… but what really got my attention was the lovely lady who runs the place who was even more passionate about what she is selling than the loud American was about trying it. She could probably talk about wine all day… and I would sit there and listen quite happily… like I was a child in school.

I’d all but gone off white wine… until I heard these guys talking and I thought this was something I had to try… and I have been converted back!

I asked to try a few of dry whites she recommended… eventually picking a glass of the lovely Bacchus bottled in Sandhurst, Kent to wander round the market with. It was pineappley, honey like and refreshingly dry. The taste lingered in my mouth…. I had to go and get a bottle.

One that really caught my attention was labelled Kenton, which had quite elder flowery / grassy notes… very very nice!

I also tried a sweeter late harvest one – I don’t know the name but it was delicious. Not to sweet, not too acidic.

I got so bored with the usual white wines you get here from the continent… so having something new, that actually tastes different and good… and importantly is from our great old land… was a real treat.

So… I thought I’d write a few words about it… hopefully bringing the place to more people’s attention… because 1) they’re so nice and 2) they sell great wine!

… and all of this left me wondering why aren’t we drinking more English wine?

… and why is it so difficult to find? a

… and why aren’t our supermarkets stocking some at least??

Anyway…. go check them out and have a glass… or two!

Their website is at http://www.winepantry.co.uk

 

 

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Navarro’s – Homely Tapas

My cravings for tapas and my love for Spanish food are growing day by day.  What is it about Spanish food that has got my mind thinking about it? In some ways there are some parallels with Japanese food; the quality and freshness of ingredients; doing very little with the ingredients  and still getting the most out of it; the passion of those cooking it. Spain I feel is sometimes overlooked in terms of its food… I’m glad I’m developing a thing for it…

Mrs. Foodie and I were out with a friend who suggested we go to Navarro’s. Being a Barrafina ‘resident’ I rarely go anywhere else for tapas as sometimes it doesn’t live up to expectation.

When you walk into Navarro’s its like you walked into someone’s home… with its Moorish influenced décor. We hadn’t booked and although they were fully booked that evening the lady kindly gave us a seat for an hour and a half, which was plenty of time.

Their menu is extensive and I was suddenly overwhelmed by indecision, as I wanted everything. Mrs. Foodie had never had Spanish food  so this was going to a revelation, well… hopefully, for her.

We eventually decided what we were going to have:

Patatas Bravas

Patatas Bravas

Patatas Bravas

Chunky potatoes with bravas sauce. Nothing exciting to say here other than good.

Chorizo con Cognac

Chorizo con Conac

Chorizo con Conac

Chorizo is good at any time, however chorizo cooked to crisp in cognac was even better. Also the oil that comes out is nice to mop up with bread.

Chiperones

Chiperones

Chiperones

Nice soft, oh so soft, baby squid. Simples!

Sardinas a la plancha

Sardinas

Sardinas

Nice crispy salty skin and juicy flesh. Very nice.

Gambas al ajillo

Gambas con Ajillo

Gambas con Ajillo

Soft juicy prawns. Not too oily like this dish sometimes is – perfect. Nice and garlicky too! mmmm…

Croquetas

Croquetas

Croquetas

These were ok, perhaps not my favourite out of everything we ate… but ok.

Gazpacho

I accidentally deleted the picture of this… but it was very refreshing, light and very tasty.

We also had the pimentos padron. One of them however had turned into a rogue chilli… I bit into the whole thing… and then turned bright red as my mouth was set on fire by this rogue one. It was so hot.. I was almost in tears.. and I can eat a lot of hot food!!! It was funny though :D

Overall it was really good… and homely, which I liked. I’d definitely go back there. It was also all the more better because Mrs. Foodie enjoyed it. Its also quite modestly priced which was nice surprise when the bill came.

Navarro’s is located at 67 Charlotte St, London. Tel: (020) 7637 7713

Web: www.navarros.co.uk

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AQUA Kyoto – Confessions of a Sushi Snob

“My name is Mr. Foodie and I’m a sushi snob and sushi chef groupie.” There I said it. Happy now?!!!

Life is too short for bad food. Life is too short for bad sushi. London has a LOT of bad to mediocre sushi so whilst I’m willing to try new places, I’m quite cautious when it comes to new sushi places. Price, quality, presentation, the uniqueness of the experience and the chef’s skill / passion for what they do all come into factor – as its so hard to find a good balance across all of these. Yes.. I’m a snob…

One chef, who’s creations I’ve been eating over the past few years, almost a few times a month… is one Keita Sato. Recently he joined AQUA Kyoto as sushi chef. On the part of AQUA’a owner that was a brilliant decision.

Q: What happens when you get a talented chef, and give him quality ingredients and a good team to work with.

A: You get outstanding sushi.

I only went to AQUA Kyoto to eat sushi, and specifically to eat Keita-san’s sushi. Nothing else. To be honest he could have been at some other restaurant and I would have gone there, and you’d be reading my musings about that place instead.

My friend went there to eat, and the other chef’s were taking pictures of what Keita-san was making!… so that should tell you something!

This write up is about sushi only. I cannot comment on the other dishes at AQUA Kyoto because I haven’t eaten any of them.. yet.

Lets face it, AQUA is expensive but to be honest I don’t mind paying a little bit more if what I’m getting is really good quality and the experience is different to the run of the mill places.

I ordered a few things:

Fatty Tuna Tartare with Caviar

Fatty Tuna Tartare with Caviar

Fatty Tuna Tartare with Caviar

Fatty Tuna Tartare topped with shiso, caviar and spring onion, with ponzu and some sort of Japanese fruit. This was nice, rich and balanced… and those sweet japanese fruits, that look like lychees but are nothing like lychees in any way were the perfect contrast to the flavour of this dish

On to the nigiri…

Various Nigiri Sushi

Various Nigiri Sushi - Sweet Prawn, King Fish, Wagyu, Squid, King Crab, Foie Gras, Seared Minced Wagyu with Quails Egg

Seared Wagyu Beef topped with Quails Egg

Seared Wagyu Beef topped with Quails Egg

Kingfish, Chilli Mentaiko and Fatty Eel

Kingfish, Chilli Mentaiko and Fatty Eel

Fatty Collar of Tuna (middle), Umeboshi in Honey (right)

Fatty Collar of Tuna (middle), Umeboshi in Honey (right)

I’m not saying much more about the nigiri as the pictures speak for themselves…

Of worthy mention is this special maki roll

Special Maki

Special Maki

I’ve never seen anything like it… nor do I have any idea how he made it..

Whilst I can’t afford to visit AQUA Kyoto, with the same frequency I used to visit Atari-Ya, I feel its nice to save up the visits and treat myself to something special less frequently.

My recommendation is you sit at the sushi counter and order the chef special selection… and let him work his magic.

I will try their other dishes in the future… but for now it’d be a crime not to eat Keita-san’s sushi…

AQUA Kyoto is located at 240 Regent Street, London.

Tel: 020 7478 0540(020)

Website: www.aqua-london.com

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The Regency Club – Quintessential Indian Food

I’ve been going to Regency, an Indian club, for many many years now. In North and North West London, Indian Clubs / Pubs are to the traditional local pub like what grey squirrels were to the native red squirrel and like what coffeeshops and supermarkets are to our high streets… like a cancer if you will. There are so many now… its hard to know which ones are good. People have their favourites. Sometimes these places have their good and bad days. Sometimes its down to the dish you order – some are good, some are bad.

With that in mind… there is a reason that The Regency Club is ranked in the top 50 restaurants on Urban Spoon. It was one of the first of its kind. It has a loyal following. And almost always its good.. though there are people who say it has gone downhill a little. To be honest, I disagree. I’ve always found it consistently good – though some dishes are better in other places, but only marginally.

The Regency Club is basically a converted J.D Wetherspoon pub.. still with the original decor. It has a proper pub feel to it… which is nice… none of this modern bar nonsense with purple / blue mood lighting. When you get there… you will need to buzz in before they let you in.

The food here is more East African influenced Indian than India Indian – I could be wrong so feel free to correct me. Like most of these places, its the starters people some to eat and fill themselves up on along with a few pints of beer. Starters include various grilled, curried or fried items of chicken, lamb along with lone dishes of fish or prawns. To be honest… I rarely eat fish or seafood here. Those I can eat at Japanese or Spanish restaurants… not to say its not good at Regency.. its just I’m a fuss pot. I come here to eat meat.. MEAT.. MEAT!!! Tandoori lamb chops, sheekh kebabs, jeera chicken on the bone (chicken legs cooked with cumin and pepper), tandoori chicken wings… along with a pint or two! These dishes are just fantastic! The lamb chops for me are sublime…

Regency: Tandoori Lamb Chops

Regency: Tandoori Lamb Chops

Regency: Jeera Chicken

Regency: Jeera Chicken

If you’re veggie… there is plenty of choice too from fried Mogo (or Cassava), served plain or in a dry garlic / chilli paste, the later being my favourite one to eat. Regency’s version is a generous portion… crispy and soft. They also do a decent chilli paneer, grilled paneer or various vegetables.

Chilli Garlic Mogo

Chilli Garlic Mogo

They also have a few curries on the menu… but I rarely get past the starters. If you do… I recommend the Egg Bhurji – which is like a spicy scrambled egg. They also do a leg of lamb, which you can pre-order with 24 hours notice. I’ve never had that… but will one day… but have it on good authority that it is great. The other item of legend is their mixed grill!

For all you Tayaabs fans, you should check out Regency. No reservations unfortunately… and its always busy… so go early or late! Its also reasonably priced too…

Regency is located at 19 – 21 Queensbury Station Parade Middlesex, HA8 5NR. Tel: 020 8952 6300

Web: www.regencyclub.co.uk

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Pollen Street Social – Mr.Foodie Unsocial

As I was going to be passing by I thought I would try my luck in getting a seat at lunch time given that apparently this place has been packed out since opening a few weeks back. I’ve never been to Maze or anywhere else Jason Atherton has been working. To be honest, I’d never heard of Maze until the other day (bad food blogger, bad foodie… holds head in shame… but I don’t really care that I don’t know any of that). I was looking forward to going to this place as I like some of the recipes I’ve seen him make on TV but more that I like his style and what comes across earthly personality, as opposed to the alien on of Gordon R. I heard there was a lot of hype and PR for this place… some people were disappointed because they had overinflated and perhaps unfair expecatations.. I didn’t really care.. I just wanted to eat something nice on my day off.

I have to note that was on my own this time. I don’t mind eating alone sometimes – for me its meditative as I get to fully revel in and explore my senses. Doing that at Social  may have been a little Unsocial on my part, hence the title of this post. However the Social staff, and there are a lot of them, made every effort to be sociable throughout my lunch. Nice guys.

The interior is cool, open, bright and clean. Is it me or do filament light bulbs seem to be the in thing at the moment in London’s restaurants!?? (Dishoom, Spuntino… ) I had a look over the menu… all of it sounded really good… had a think about what I wanted and watched in anticipation as other people’s plates came out… with my glass of pretty good Jason Atherton branded red wine to keep me company. So what did I have

Full English Breakfast

Pollen Street Social - Full English Breakfast

Pollen Street Social - Full English Breakfast

Slow cooked and soft oozing egg, on a mushroom puree topped with alsace bacon, croutons and sausage surrounded by a tomato sauce. This looked incredible. A nice re-interpretation of a favourite. The egg was silky / seductively soft and the croutons added a mini crunch. Sadly for me this is where it stopped. I was expecting a range of different textures and flavours. The tomato overpowered all of it. That was all I could taste. The only thing that really stood up to it was the sausage. It was ok. In hindsight… I should have had something that was perhaps less familiar.

Black Bream, Prawn Bisque, Gambas and Asparagus

Pollen Street Social - Black Bream

Pollen Street Social - Black Bream

Two fillets of impeccably cooked soft black bream topped with asparagus and gambas with a foam of prawn bisque added to the plate after being brought to the table. This was also served with mash potato. The mash was silky, velvety… luxurious to be cliche (forgive me..). The foam of prawn bisque was so yummy and worked exceptionally well with the fish and really brought out and rounded off its subtle flavour. The small sweet gambas prawns and asparagus served to add other dimensions and textures to the dish. This was a simple dish and perfectly executed. Nice.

To be honest I didn’t know what to expect, I wasn’t blown away… perhaps due to the starter… BUT I will say that overall I did enjoy it and would recommend it and would go back. Just a simple tasty and pleasant meal.

I’ll probably visit the bar and nibble through the tapas menu and pre-prohibition cocktails, next time. I really felt like I missed out with all of those.

Someone also told me after that I should have gone to the dessert bar… but if I’d done that without Mrs. Foodie it would not have been pretty… so another next time…

Oh and the little gift bag I received on leaving with afternoon tea and scones… nice touch! I like unexpected presents. :D

So… Pollen Street Social is at 8/10 Pollen Street London. Tel: 020 7290 7600

Go to www.pollenstreetsocial.com for online reservations.

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