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Crunchy Spicy Tangy Thai Salad

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Crunchy Spicy Tangy Thai Salad

At the centre of a party you have the brash, garishly dressed harpy in a spandex and lurex flesh-popping, bum-skirting bodycon dress. She’s swishing her long, over-straightened blonde hair in the hope that people, like magpies, will be drawn in by its glinting sheen. But she’s telling the story you’ve heard a hundred times.

The punchlines are obvious and overdone. It’s an opaque boast to show off her intellect and attractiveness. She’s hyperbolising, and the decibels are mounting, in order to suck more people in.

You draw near, but after a few superficial bites, you hit the bone. What appeared to be a sumptuous, resplendent, sticky chicken wing feast was just a scraggly bit of overhyped flesh, and you’re left with a sickly sweet taste, desperate for something more refreshing and with more interest.

That’s when you leave the centre of the room and go over to the quiet person in the corner: modestly dressed, elegant but not overstated, and initially slightly shy. But once you start talking, there’s no stopping - tantalising wit, layers of texture and depth, sweet enough but with refreshing zestiness that intrigues and keeps you going back for more. Guard this salad closely because when others' attention rapidly wanes they’ll be coming over here too. Food envy is not something to be treated lightly, so here’s the recipe:

 

 

Recipe

Ingredients (serves 4)

3 tbsp (60g) smooth peanut butter (unsalted preferably)

4 1/2 tsp (45g) honey

4 1/2 tsp sesame oil

4 1/2 tsp soy sauce 

3 tbsp lime juice

15g finely grated fresh ginger 

1 medium sized garlic clove, crushed

(optional) 1 small Thai red chilli, very finely chopped

 

230g red cabbage (approx 1 quarter of a cabbage)

1 red pepper

130g cucumber

3 spring onions

100g beansprouts

60g roasted and salted peanuts, crushed + 10g extra for serving

25g coriander, roughly chopped + 5g extra for serving

 

Method

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together all the dressing ingredients until smooth and emulsified.
  2. Finely slice the cabbage horizontally (so the average piece is about 4cm long). Remove the stalk and deseed the red pepper, then slice finely horizontally.
  3. Slice the cucumber in half lengthways and, with a teaspoon, scoop out the seeds. Then slice finely lengthways and then in half horizontally to create matchsticks.  Finely chop the spring onions.  Then in a large bowl mix together the cabbage, pepper, cucumber, spring onions, crushed peanuts & roughly chopped coriander.
  4. Pour the dressing over, and mix through. Scatter with extra crushed peanuts and then the chopped coriander, and serve.  If you are making in advance, prepare the salad ingredients and dressing separately, and pour the dressing on just before serving.

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Pollen Street Social Review

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Pollen Street Social Review

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& a glimpse inside the kitchen...Pollen Street Social Review

Last week I went to a blind wine-tasting in a stuffy carpeted room on the top floor of a Mayfair pub. On the table, columns of bottles were massed, awaiting palatal analysis and identification.  One of the sweaty, post-work crowd sidled up to me and refused to leave my side the entire evening.  Not for any flattering reason: he had arrived drunk at the alcohol imbibition.  The sole potential benefit of his presence was his vaunted knowledge of wines, gained from downing over fifty years’ worth of ethanol. Wine after wine he sipped, swirled, glugged, holding each up to the window despite the fading light. Glass after glass he swigged and squirted from one side of his mouth to the other, patting his lips, flipping his tongue up to his palette  in order “to catch the aftertaste”, sucking and squelching.  “Taste the vanilla in that”, “feel the syrupy smoothness of this”, he said, nodding sagely.  1/9 of his answers were correct…

Pollen Street Social Review

 

To me, this is all a manifestation of the emperor’s new clothes syndrome which may sometimes be applied to Michelin-starred restaurants. Do I really want to dine on fussy little squiggles of substance that I have to chase with another globule of something or other so that the perfect scientific reaction can effervesce at the back end of my tongue?  However, Jason Atherton’s soon to be double Michelin-starred flagship is not in this category.  An idyll amongst the raucous, tourist-ridden bustle of Regent Street, Pollen Street Social sits opposite its sister restaurant, Little Social (see review here). Its style is unfussy, open, and clean, with attention to detail: even our bags were given individual stools.

Pollen Street Social Review

 

Before we had even turned the page of the menu, a selection of amuse bouches materialised: dainty sweet corn muffins topped with delicate swirls of dill and cucumber cream, beetroot and blackberry filled tuiles that burst with sweet vinegary freshness, and my favourite, a Jerusalem artichoke crème.  These were followed by cups of mushroom consommé topped with delicate parmesan foam, salty and meaty while being vegetarian.

Pollen Street Social Review

To start, I chose the neeps and tatties in a mushroom ragout- a wonderful coil of tender turnip ribbons generously grated with umami Berkswell cheese.  I could have easily devoured my dining companions’ portions as well.

Pollen Street Social Review Pollen Street Social ReviewPollen Street Social ReviewOut of the whirr and buzz there then appeared the sprightly figure of Tiziano, the junior manager, who filled the room with his energy and excitable charm. He whisked me off to view the upstairs kitchen and the pass – a dark, orange- lit forge, tantalisingly situated behind glass.

Pollen Street Social Review

 

Pollen Street Social Review

Pollen Street Social Review

Pollen Street Social ReviewPollen Street Social ReviewIt was sprung with energy but, unlike the amped up drama so often portrayed on TV, it was at the same time controlled and calm. Whilst fixing plates, advising chefs on the pass, and approving the dishes that flowed past us on wooden board, Dale (Head Chef) talked me through the dishes.

Pollen Street Social Review

Our main courses were served as soon as I returned to my seat: the juiciest of chicken breast with a skin so crisp that even I (spurner of skin) couldn’t resist – its earthy savouriness was contrasted with the little pops of peas and broad beans, underpinned once more by the seasonal buttery, almost molten, girolles. The wild garlic flowers added to the dish with their fresh savouriness. My dining companions’ lamb and gnocchi dishes were also successes, although if there were any criticism it would be the mushroom theme that was developing throughout the vegetarian dishes – a non fungi fan would have had difficulty.  In addition, my companion found some of the mushrooms somewhat too heavily salted.

Pollen Street Social Review

 

Pollen Street Social ReviewPollen Street Social ReviewWe decamped to the dessert bar to watch the pastry chefs practising their craft. First, a palate cleanser which was one of the highlights of the meal, straddling the line between savoury and sweet, and without risking losing stomach room for dessert: light yogurt foam with fairy-thin shards of meringue and a verdant and astringent basil sorbet.

Pollen Street Social Review

Pollen Street Social ReviewPollen Street Social ReviewPollen Street Social ReviewWe watched as cylinders of tempered chocolate were filled with an aerated milk mousse and crumbled sticky and crunchy caramelised puffed rice.  A chocolate disc was delicately placed on top like a lid, and adorned with a gold leaf foil, and then accompanied by a rocher of honey ice cream.  My dining companions' poached berries with lime and cream cheese sorbet with honey sugar tuile were also a hit. These were chased by a velvety chocolate mousse, and an almond and cherry financier, and a passion fruit and blood orange pâté de fruit, as well as a hazelnut crème entremets for the road…just in case.

Pollen Street Social Review

Pollen Street Social ReviewPollen Street Social ReviewDelicious, unfussy, comfortable and exciting – this is one of the finest dining experiences I have had in the last few years.  And I can say that without any fear of an emperor’s new clothes diagnosis.

Food: 9.5/10

Ambience: 8/10

Service: 10/10

Price: ££££

Loos: 9/10

Pollen Street Social Review

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Cauliflower & Quinoa Superfood Salad

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Cauliflower & Quinoa Superfood Salad

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Cauliflower & Quinoa Superfood Salad  

Cauliflower & Quinoa Superfood SaladSuperfood

Line breaks: super|food

Pronunciation: /ˈsuːpəfuːd/

Culina definition: ‘superfoods’ – a marketing ploy term assigned to natural ingredients which have been neglected on shop shelves for a while and could do with a PR boost.  They have nutritional benefits similar to many other natural ingredients and have the potential to reduce the risk of disease if you consume at least your body weight in said superfood in under an hour.

Cauliflower & Quinoa Superfood Salad Cauliflower, pomegranate seeds, quinoa and walnuts have all ridden the calculated PR wave to health fame in the last few years, and indeed that is possibly why they have drifted on to my kitchen shelves.

Cauliflower & Quinoa Superfood Salad Ignoring their “superfood” status, they are particularly delicious when combined.

Cauliflower & Quinoa Superfood SaladThis salad sits at the other end of the spectrum from the straggly, limp green leaf type.

Cauliflower & Quinoa Superfood SaladIt is crunchy, sweet, umami, nutty, juicy, and looks resplendent studded with glistening pomegranate jewels.

Cauliflower & Quinoa Superfood SaladCauliflower & Quinoa Superfood Salad Cauliflower & Quinoa Superfood Salad Cauliflower & Quinoa Superfood SaladIt’s also ridiculously quick to whizz up and can be prepared up to a day in advance (sans dressing, and refrigerated).

Cauliflower & Quinoa Superfood Salad

Recipe

Ingredients

100g quinoa

220g cauliflower

180g pomegranate seeds (1 pomegranate approx.)

200g feta, crumbled

100g walnuts, toasted and roughly chopped

50g fresh coriander, finely chopped

 

Dressing

10g garlic, crushed

1 tsp salt

4 tbsp tahini

8 tbsp natural yogurt

6 tbsp lemon juice

 

Method

  1. In a medium sized pan boil 1 litre of water over a high heat. Pour in the quinoa and allow it to simmer for 10-15 minutes until the grains are translucent but still slightly al dente.  Drain the quinoa in a sieve and set it aside to cool.
  2. Chop the cauliflower roughly, and blitz in a blender, pulsing until it resembles coarse couscous. If you don’t have a blender, you can grate the cauliflower by hand to achieve a similar effect.
  3. In a large serving bowl, mix together the quinoa, cauliflower, pomegranate seeds, feta, walnuts and coriander.
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk together all the dressing ingredients to combine. Pour as much as desired of the dressing over the salad just before serving and mix it through.

Cauliflower & Quinoa Superfood Salad

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Honey & Co Review

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Honey & Co Review

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There is a particular trend that is permeating the London dining scene like a contagion.

In the flurry of new openings, and novel and exotic twists on traditional gastronomies, a number of restaurateurs have become smitten with Spanish tapas, and have decided to exploit this style of cuisine for all its worth. Tapas are traditionally displayed on a menu in a long list, and served all at once, so diners can delight in dipping in and out of them with a few drinks as they please.  Instead of serving a carefully structured plate of well-balanced complementary elements, the restaurants at fault are breaking the plates down into individual elements.

They call them “small plates”, and I detest them.

 

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You’ll know that you’ve found yourself in this “small plate” trap when the waiter suggests that each person orders three, despite the fact that one is the cost of a normal large plate.  Not only do they expand their profits substantially by doing this, but the effort required by the kitchen is significantly reduced. Chefs don’t need to bother about planning dishes when they can just make whatever the hell they like, call it another small plate and let the diner err when structuring their picky little meal.   Oh, and these small plates seem to have a life of their own: you see, they can arrive according to their own whim and in any combination.  At my most recent visit to a restaurant of this type, all vegetables were deemed unsuitable to be served with fish.

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My rage against small plates had been boiling for several weeks when I decided to return to Honey & Co, where I knew my craving for a large plate could be fulfilled.  Call me demanding, or even greedy, if you like. I’d been before and thoroughly enjoyed the experience, but sadly forgot to bring my camera.  This time, however, I was armed.  Itamar Srulovich and his wife Sarit Packer rule the roost at this tiny 30 cover Canaan.  He’s ex- Ottolenghi - an almost guarantee of success - and the Ottolenghi influence is strongly evident in the cuisine.  Décor is kept to a minimum, with stark white walls and patterned blue tiled floor forcing your eye greedily towards the focal countertop display of spiced and perfumed cakes.  Despite the minimalism, there is no lack of atmosphere.  Most people are so pleased to have acquired their 1.5 hour table slot that they exude an aura of excitement.

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The menu is divided into starters and mains (hallelujah) – I plumped for spring salad of peas, courgettes, and warm manouri cheese with a lemon and saffron sauce.  Crisp, and light with the nuttiness of the manouri and electric tang of citrus, the dish was very pleasant.

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One dining companion went down the more obvious but inevitably delicious route of falafel served with a tabbouleh and tahini sauce – one of the most popular on the menu (the chefs undoubtedly roll falafel in their sleep).

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The other opted for the braised artichoke with parsley za’atar and yoghurt dipping sauce.

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This was rather a tame option as there only so much you can do to a whole artichoke in terms of flavour(read: very little), and so no matter how delicious the sauce the eating becomes tiresome.  It resides alongside eating fish and quail on the bone in my list of things that I just don’t have time for.  I can’t be bothered to fuss around with scraping a half centimetre of blandish artichoke flesh against the back of my teeth.

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My main course was very good: a plate abounding with plump parcels (aka Menti) of burnt courgette and herb with olive oil braised broad beans and whipped feta, the latter  adding a kick of saltiness to draw out the sweetness from the  dumplings and green vegetables.

Despite the petit nature of the restaurant (even the waitresses are petite, needing to squeeze between the close-set tables), the kitchen at Honey & Co must go through roughly an entire field of mint every day.  It resides proudly on almost every plate, and nor is its presence irrelevant – it lifts the earthier flavours into more summery tones, like for example, the shawarma of slow cooked lamb shoulder burnt pitta and goat’s yoghurt with amba mint and pomegranate.  I’m not the greatest fan of lamb, but this dish convinced me that my prejudice was poorly founded.

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The lamb was succulent, tender and sweet, and lifted to higher planes with the addition of juicy gems of pomegranate and the ubiquitous mint.

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The only disappointment was my dining companion’s chicken makloobah with saffron rice and a lemon yoghurt sauce. Visually, the dish lacked the vibrant flair that every other possessed and was a little bland.

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One dining companion went on to order the pink grapefruit and raspberry granita with yoghurt mousse and honeyed oat crisp.  The flavours bounced nicely off each other but I found the granita a little too perfumed.

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I’m also more inclined to a substantial dessert: I don’t particularly care for palate cleansers.  If I’m going to sin, then I’ll sin properly. And there’s one vital way to do that at Honey & Co: the cheesecake with kadaif pastry and honey.  Perhaps not the most beautiful of desserts, but more than made up for in flavour – the cheesecake is well balanced, creamy and contrasts perfectly with the crunchy, sticky tangled nest of kadaif.

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Bold, well-balanced, vibrant, and generous, the food at Honey & Co is the perfect antidote to the small plate disease.

 

Food: 8.75/10

Ambience: 7/10

Service: 9/10

Price: ££££

Loos: N/A

Suitable for: buisness lunches, casual dates, family, friends, vegetarians

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Wholesome American Style Spelt Pancakes (Dairy-free) - Recipe

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Wholesome American Style Spelt Pancakes (Dairy-free) - Recipe

Khanom krok, crepes, blinis, dosas, tortillas, msemmen, ingera, beghrir, and both pandan and rice  pancakes - dense, spongy, fluffy, light,...  I've devoured them all.  But when it gets to Sunday, and brunch is obligatory, I always revert to American-style pancakes.   I want to whisk up something quick, easy and delicious.

The internet is currently riddled with recipes for "sugarless, 2-ingredient protein pancakes".  Warning: two ingredients = egg and banana, and there are many things I'd rather eat than a banana omelette.  So I came up with my own healthier version of American-style pancakes using wholegrain spelt and coconut oil.

They're fluffy, light and filling, and the wholemeal spelt flour adds a warming nuttiness as well as lowering the overall GI level.  They're also really  addictive - the photos are of the fourth batch I made on the day (as the first batch were consumed as a solo act, and the second and third were inhaled by my brothers).

I paired them with a very simple mixed berry compote, the recipe for which is below.

Ingredients

Wholesome American Style Spelt Pancakes

340g wholemeal spelt flour (can be substituted with plain flour, wholemeal wheat or white spelt)

4 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

3 large eggs

450ml unsweetened almond milk (can be substituted with any other kind)

1 tbsp vanilla extract

45g coconut oil, melted + extra to coat frying pan (can be substituted with butter)

Berry Compote

500g mixed frozen berries

3 tbsp maple syrup (optional)

1tbsp vanilla extract

Method

Pancakes

1.) In a blender, blitz together all the ingredients until smooth.

2.) Place shallow frying pan over a medium-high heat and melt 1tbsp of coconut butter (or butter, if using), swirling it around to coat the pan.

3) Pour batter into pan to desired pancake size and cook for a couple of minutes until bubbles begin to break through the surface.  Flip, and cook for a further couple of minutes until golden.

Mixed Berry Compote

1.) Place pan over high heat, pour in all ingredients, and stir to mix through.

2.) When the berries have melted and the mixture begins to simmer, reduce to a low heat and cook until berries are completely cooked through.

3.) Drench pancakes.

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Vanilla Bean & Cinnamon Bircher Muesli (Dairy-free, Sugar-free, Gluten-free) - Recipe

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Vanilla Bean & Cinnamon Bircher Muesli (Dairy-free, Sugar-free, Gluten-free) - Recipe

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Vanilla Bean & Cinnamon Bircher Muesli (Dairy-free, Sugar-free, Gluten-free) - Recipe Last year I spent a week in the middle of nowhere, in freezing cold, exercising over 6 hours a day in mud/gales/snow/hail,  under the supervision of ex-military trainers who pushed me physically beyond  my limits until every last droplet of sweat had been purged.  My fellow “bootcampers” included a fresh out of prison and rehab drug dealer/addict, a morbidly obese woman who refused to communicate with anyone, a creepy London shop owner, a z-list celebrity from a certain Chelsea based reality TV show, whose ego was undeservedly overblown, and some poor guy whose father had told him he was going on a spa retreat in Spain but despatched him instead into gruelling and bleak middle England.

Vanilla Bean & Cinnamon Bircher Muesli (Dairy-free, Sugar-free, Gluten-free) - Recipe

 

Our diet was heavily regimented, too: no sugar, no caffeine, no alcohol, and nothing processed.  Despite its virtuousness, it was delicious - fresh, wholesome and innovative - all cooked by an ex-OXO Tower chef.  Admittedly, food is the first thing I think of when I wake up anyway, but this feeling became intensified at the camp, especially with a 6 o’clock alarm call, and two hours of torture before breakfast.   No, it wasn’t a prison camp: I did this out of choice.

 

Vanilla Bean & Cinnamon Bircher Muesli (Dairy-free, Sugar-free, Gluten-free) - RecipeVanilla Bean & Cinnamon Bircher Muesli (Dairy-free, Sugar-free, Gluten-free) - RecipeVanilla Bean & Cinnamon Bircher Muesli (Dairy-free, Sugar-free, Gluten-free) - Recipe

It was one of the only occasions when getting chummy with the chef didn’t reap any edible perks.  I did , however, manage to glean the recipe for the breakfast highlight of the week: Bircher muesli.  It traditionally has a fluid consistency and is made the night before to allow the oats to become plump with apple juice and yoghurt.   This one breaks all the rules but is more delicious, healthier and a hundred times more convenient – most people (excluding me) spare little thought for breakfast, let alone prepare for it the night before.

Vanilla Bean & Cinnamon Bircher Muesli (Dairy-free, Sugar-free, Gluten-free) - Recipe

This recipe is dairy-free and sugar-free simply because I think it’s delicious that way, but feel free to use dairy equivalents, and add some maple syrup if you’re that way inclined – it works equally well. It can also be made gluten-free  – just use the appropriate muesli brand.

Vanilla Bean & Cinnamon Bircher Muesli (Dairy-free, Sugar-free, Gluten-free) - Recipe

 

Ingredients (serves 2)

Muesli

2 cups sugar-free muesli

1 Braeburn apple, grated and sprinkled with 1 tsp lemon juice (this will prevent it oxidising and going brown)

¼ tsp vanilla bean paste

1 tsp cinnamon

¼ cup coconut yoghurt (or Greek yoghurt)

3 tbsp coconut milk (or dairy)

2 tbsp apple juice

(1 tbsp maple syrup – optional)

 

Topping

¼ cup coconut yoghurt

100g raspberries

A handful of strawberries

2 tbsp flaked almonds, toasted in a dry pan over a medium heat for a few minutes until pale brown

 

 Method

  1. Stir together all topping ingredients. It should be of a thick consistency but feel free to add another splash of coconut milk if you prefer.  Leave for 10 minutes to allow the muesli to absorb the flavours.
  2. Top with yoghurt, and scatter with berries and flaked almonds. Drizzle with maple syrup if you like.

 

Vanilla Bean & Cinnamon Bircher Muesli (Dairy-free, Sugar-free, Gluten-free) - Recipe

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Grain Store - Restaurant Review

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Grain Store - Restaurant Review

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The Grain Store - Restaurant Review The child behind me was whining like a kid goat being dragged to slaughter.  The woman on my right was snoring so loudly that she was trapped in an ineluctable cycle of waking herself up before falling asleep again.  The man on my left had either forgotten that handkerchiefs exist, or rather enjoyed the sound/sensation of snorting every last drop of unconquerable mucus into the innermost depths of his Eustachian tube, only for it to creep back up again at ten second intervals.  My choir master couldn’t have conducted this orchestral animal pen better.  Before I’d even sat down, I’d already lost one armrest and some precious space to the woman overlapping my seat on the right.  Not prepared to cede the other armrest, I draped my left arm determinedly over it, only for the mucus snorter to pile his arm on top of mine.  I was forced to retreat after half an hour, having been worn down, too, by his second tier of offence: the occasional lifting of his arm to allow puffs of BO to corrupt my nostrils.  The last straw was when the trolley, preceded by the unmistakeable signature stale aeroplane scent, reached my row, only to deliver some form of unidentifiable swill. My only escape was to conjure up a memory of last week’s brunch at Grain Store, King’s Cross….

The Grain Store - Restaurant Review

An oasis in the desert that is the North London restaurant scene, Grain Store opened a year and half ago with others such as Caravan and Dishoom following suit.  Locating it in King’s Cross has afforded the restaurant an atmosphere unlike most central London restaurants: a sprawling high ceilinged airy haven, urban rustic in feel, with an open kitchen.  The cuisine is vegetarian-focused (very on trend for 2015) and excitingly innovative.

The Grain Store - Restaurant Review

To start we tried the beetroot, apple, celery and pomegranate molasses juice and the hibiscus and raspberry cocktail.  The beetroot was pleasant but, tastewise, the health benefits were a little too evident.  The latter, however, was very good.

Grain Store - Restaurant Review

Focaccia with olive oil followed – freshly baked, with the crunchy dukkah addition an innovative twist on the standard.

Grain Store - Restaurant Review

The Grain Store - Restaurant Review

I ordered the yoghurt and chickpea pancake with avocado, tomato and jalapeno salsa and merguez.  The pancake, laced with slices of merguez, was velvety and wonderfully savoury.  The salsa was well flavoured, but could have verged more dangerously on the side of spicy.

Grain Store - Restaurant Review

Grain Store - Restaurant Review

I’m a rather fierce food predator and so managed to steal a forkful of my dining companion’s Moroccan carrot salad, with spiced labneh and linseed flatbread.  Well-spiced, fresh, and visually and texturally vibrant, I was struck with all too familiar food envy (not in place of my dish but as well as).

 

Grain Store - Restaurant Review

Grain Store - Restaurant Review

The empanada was also a success. I didn’t manage to try it but heard satisfied mumbles coming from my other dining companion.

Grain Store - Restaurant Review

I did manage to try the Korean slaw, Kaffir lime chicken burger with a fried egg on a muffin.

Grain Store - Restaurant Review

Succulent, savoury, spicy, slightly sweet and citrusy, the Korean slaw is a reason in itself to visit Grain Store.  I shall dedicate some time attempting to replicate it.  The burger was also delicious, although there was not enough of it.

The Grain Store - Restaurant Review

Dessert was unavoidable.  The baked apple, rosemary crumble, and crème fraiche with caramel sauce possessed all the right textures as well as flavours: sweet, salty and slightly perfumed by the rosemary.  However, I am a crumble fiend and firmly believe there should be more crumble than fruit – much more – and this did not vaguely meet my crumble quantity requirements, nor those of my dining companion.

The Grain Store - Restaurant Review

The Grain Store - Restaurant Review

The special of the day was blueberry tart.  It was as you would expect a good blueberry tart to be – the pastry crisp, and the blueberries jammy, but I would have liked a touch of citrus to offset the sweetness.

Grain Store - Restaurant Review Grain Store - Restaurant Review

The Grain Store - Restaurant Review

Overall, it was a great experience - so much so that it managed, in recollection, to transport me away from the animal pen sights and sounds during my recent flight.  The atmosphere is informal yet chic, the service is fine, and the food strays into far more exciting and modern territory than many London restaurants dare to do, especially for brunch.

Food: 8/10

Ambience: 9/10

Service: 6.5/10

Loos: 7/10

Price: ££££

Suitable for: casual dates, friends, family, brunch, all-day dining, vegetarians, vegans

Grain Store on Urbanspoon

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Rabbit Restaurant Review

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Rabbit Restaurant Review

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Rabbit - Culina Restaurant Review Are you going on a ‘detox’?

Now that the last of the dregs of turkey/mince pie/stuffing/Christmas pudding/trimmings have finally disappeared, all that is left is a memory solidified in the form of a protuberant belly.  Guilty already, or made to feel guilty about not feeling guilty, the media are swooping in with various juice cleanse, carb-less, gluten-free ‘detoxes’ which guarantee a temporary weight loss by simply starving the body.  The word ‘detox’, however, means absolutely zero.  To quote Edzard Ernst, Emeritus Professor of Complementary Medicine at Exeter University: “there are two types of detox: one is respectable and the other isn’t. The respectable one is the medical treatment of people with life-threatening drug addictions. The other is the word being hijacked by entrepreneurs, quacks and charlatans to sell a bogus treatment that allegedly detoxifies your body of toxins you’re supposed to have accumulated”.

Rabbit - Culina Restaurant Review

So, if you’re minded to eat healthily after all the excess, then good quality, wholesome food is a much more sustainable way to go. Eating at Rabbit, the sister restaurant of The Shed, seems to fit in well with this philosophy. That’s not to say that I didn’t succumb to excess whilst there, and nor is it so worthy that eating there becomes an endurance test.

Rabbit - Culina Restaurant Review

Rather, the ethos behind the restaurant is creating interesting, innovative and tasty recipes using seasonal and fresh local produce.  The diner is reminded of this by the rustic outdoorsy interior, a bushy fox tail suspended above the open kitchen which brings you closer to nature whether you like it or not.

Rabbit - Culina Restaurant Review

Whilst deciding what to order for our degustation my dining companion and I ordered a couple of “mouthfuls”: beetroot crisp, goat’s cheese, with pear jam:

Rabbit - Culina Restaurant Review

And a mushroom marmite éclair.

Rabbit - Culina Restaurant Review

As I noted in my most recent recipe, I had been averse to goat’s cheese after I overdosed when I was seven - until Rabbit cured me with the beetroot crisp.  My dining companion was a marmite loather but it was incorporated so beautifully into the rich earthy truffleness of the éclair that he too overcame his dislike.

Still poring over the menu the couple at the adjacent table came to our aid, and very enthusiastically.  So enthusiastic, in fact, that they admitted to having worked their way through every dish and would happily do an encore.  They even donated the remainder of their butter with the instruction to slather it on whatever we could.  One we had paired it with the freshly baked wild yeast bread it we began to understand the couple’s eagerness to share the joy.  Freshly whipped, lightly salted and garlicky with finely chopped shallots:

Rabbit - Culina Restaurant Review

The menu is simply divided into slow cooking and fast cooking.  Although innovative in its layout, it was a little confusing regarding the size of the dishes, how many to order, and what the ideal dish pairings were.  Both of the waitresses were absolutely delightful: friendly, informative and attentive without being intrusive, they guided us through the menu.

Our fast cooking dishes arrived first:

Rabbit - Culina Restaurant Review

Brussels sprout, hazelnut, cheddar, and apple salad.  The cheddar, as a rather unusual ingredient, drew me to the salad.  It tied the ingredients together with its palate tickling savouriness.

Rabbit - Culina Restaurant Review

The quail with roasted barley, turnip, shallot, and chickweed was also a success flavour-wise in its succulent sweet stickiness.  I did, however, face an unwelcome surprise when I crunched down hard on a concealed bone…

Rabbit - Culina Restaurant Review

Next to arrive in the flurry of dishes was grilled venison, onion squash, honey, pumpkin seeds, and reindeer moss.

Rabbit - Culina Restaurant Review

Once again chef Oliver Gladwin’s creativity and sensitivity to ingredients shone through.  The venison was perfectly pink, tender and complemented both visually and in flavour by the smooth onion squash puree.

Rabbit - Culina Restaurant Review

The last of our main courses was the slow cooked black winter truffle, wild mushroom ragu with celeriac and sage oil.

Rabbit - Culina Restaurant Review

The deep rich narcotic aroma of truffle preceded the dish’s arrival.  Nor was its perfume illusory. The sage leaves were crisp to the point that they shattered against the other elements.  The wild mushrooms were comfortingly meaty, chewy and luscious, and the puree of celeriac, so often dismissed as an ingredient, was sumptuous and creamy with a subtle tang of lemon. This is a dish that would unite meat lovers and vegetarians in perfect ambrosial harmony, and so good my dining companion and I were left fighting over the last mushroom- definitely one of my top dishes in London.

Rabbit - Culina Restaurant Review

For dessert my dining companion ordered the magnum vienetta parfait: velvety ice cream rippled with layers of slated butterscotch and dark chocolate.  It was with great reluctance that he allowed me to try it.

Rabbit - Culina Restaurant Review

I was obliged by my maple syrup obsession to have maple syrup pudding, preserved plum, rum, and buttermilk.

Rabbit - Culina Restaurant Review

This was intelligently assembled with the sourness of the buttermilk ice cream slicing through the sweetness of the pudding element.  I would have liked a little more maple syrup on the plate, but as I’m an addict of the stuff it could just be me.  The plums were a little under-ripe, too, but I imagine when they’re in season this dessert really comes into its own.

Rabbit - Culina Restaurant Review

All in all, dining at Rabbit was a wonderful experience: great service, a tastefully playful rustic atmosphere, and innovative, fresh, flavourful, high quality cuisine.  Ignore the detox lies, simply eat well – Rabbit is a great place to do just that (unless you find yourself eating the whole menu as the couple adjacent to me did, clearly easily done).

Food: 9/10

Price: ££££

Ambience: 8.5/10

Service: 10/10

Loos: 7/10

Suitable for: casual dates, celebrations, brunch, dinner, family, friends, vegetarians, vegans

 

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