La Perla Fiesta!

I am more and more a fan of a good Mexican – Casa Morita in Brixton (post to come!) is one of my favourite restaurants anywhere, and I’m always enthusiastic about sampling different ones, ideally authentic little places that are probably slightly rough round the edges but make you feel like you’ve found a hidden gem.

La Perla in Covent Garden is one of those. Long and thin, wedged into Maiden Lane amongst plenty of competition, the first thing you notice is the bar at the front, which on this occasion was absolutely packed with Thursday drinkers. Pushing through to the back there is a small open kitchen, and a few tables for dinner, all set up with a bowl of tortilla chips and a deliciously hot salsa. The ideal way to start. Embarrassingly I hoovered all these up almost immediately and they were discreetly replaced before my guest arrived. Brilliant.

A delicious pear and vanilla margharita kicked things off. I usually find tequila too harsh for a cocktail but the vanilla balanced it perfectly and was a great start.

La perla2

We decided to go with four small plates to share, which was more than enough.  Big juicy prawns were served in a spicy tequila and tomato sauce with salad and tortillas, baked pork shoulder falls apart and is heavenly with the salsa verde. Stuffed, fried jalapenos were hot with lots of crunch and an even hotter chipotle mayo.

La perla prawns

La Perla’s chicken wings are something else – I’m not normally a fan of fiddly bones with a tiny bit of meat but these are fat and juicy, and full of hot, smoky flavour from the marinade. Again, the tomartillo verde cream was spectacular. Sauces are definitely a high point, they’re all strong and lively, and set off the dishes perfectly.

The bill came to £35ish for 2 (only one cocktail each though) and we were stuffed. I do think £1.50 for an extra teeny pot of sour cream is a bit stingy, like charging for ketchup, but a minor point. A great choice for pre-theatre as service is quick, and probably great any other time to be honest. A potential new favourite perhaps..?

La perla4

Cheese heaven at Androuet

This was my second visit to French restaurant Androuet in Spitalfields Market – I had to see if the first time was a fluke, and I’m pleased to report that it wasn’t! After all, we’re talking about a cheese restaurant here with a cheese menu, create your own cheeseboard option and lovely little shop attached for good measure. Three guesses what they sell.

Androuet menu

The menu is varied considering it is based around one ingredient, and after much dithering we settled on an individual special fondue with charcuterie and crusty bread, a cheeseburger and double-baked gouda soufflé.

Androuet souffle

All the food was incredible; the burger was cooked rare (I wish more places would do this) and was juicy and perfectly sized, complimented by huge chips with crispy outsides and fluffy middles – not a soggy flop in sight, and punch-you-in-the-face garlic mayo. The soufflé was light and fluffy, very cheesy (needless to say) and surrounded by a delicate, sweet butternut squash puree, with pumpkin seeds and frisée  giving the perfect crunch to an otherwise fairly soft dish.

Androuet burger

Androuet fondueFondue always seems like the ultimate guilty pleasure; a bowl of hot cheese to dip things into feels like a dirty secret, something unseemly to be ashamed of, something that I might dream up and think about often but be too embarrassed to tell anyone about – but here we were, in public and everything! The cheese mixture at Androuet changes and this one was perfect. Creamy and rich but also sharp with the distinctive tang of blue. By the end of the meal it had become a dip for everything left on any of our plates – heaven.

Despite good intentions to create our own cheeseboard instead of dessert, by the time we got there eating another morsel was out of the question. But this remains on my list for the next Spitalfields outing.

The service at Androuet is by no means exemplary – it was pretty slow most of the time and a couple of things were forgotten. It was also extremely chilly – dinner buddy Alice had her coat on for most of the meal. It’s not cheap – £90 for three mains and one bottle of Prosecco, and they close the shop in the evenings which is a shame. But it’s still very much a keeper, anywhere that serves food beautiful and delicious enough to override these things always would be.

www.androuet.co.uk

To Market

I’d love to be one of those people who jumped up early on a Saturday, got dressed and headed down to the market, then spent the weekend creating delicious and nutritious meals with seasonal local produce, having spent a fraction of what your average hungover zombie spends in Sainsbury’s Local on half the food.

Sadly, for reasons such as laziness, this is not to be – so a visit to Borough Market at the weekend got me disproportionately excited. It really has transformed in recent years, and is now partly housed in a swanky new building selling anything and everything food-related imaginable.

borough market

We went to get ingredients for a roast to feed my fiancé’s family, but I ended up spending an additional ridiculous sum on goose fat, goat’s cheese and mushrooms among other things. Still, sitting on the bus home with my first mulled wine of the season left me very pleased with myself!

The mushrooms became this:

Mushrooms on toast borough market

A mixture of yellow chanterelles and oysters fried for a few minutes with a tiny bit of truffle oil on white buttered toast. Easy and delicious.

A couple of pumpkins became this:

Pumpkin soup borough market

I love pumpkin/squash soup, it’s so smooth and filling – cubes of a good stretchy cheese like Emmental (a la Delia) and some crispy smoked bacon  (a la my mum) absolutely makes it. I’ve made it previously with a swirl of cream but it’s a bit too much – a blob of sour cream instead really compliments the sweetness of the pumpkin.

We also splashed out on a huge joint from The Ginger Pig,  which was roasted medium rare and served with purple sprouting broccoli, cheesy leek gratin and huge Yorkshire puddings – heaven. Unfortunately I was so distracted by it I failed to take any pics.. but the in-laws were impressed so was all good.

So a successful trip overall! Must have wholesome Saturdays more often..

 

Bird is the word

I hate pickles. Horrible, sour, slimy, alien-looking monstrosities, on a constant mission to ruin burgers, fish and chips, the Pret salmon salad and a wealth of other perfectly good meals. The General Manager of Bird suggested I try one of the deep fried variety, and not only did I see off most of the bowl, it was actually a highlight of the meal – no mean feat seeing as Bird produced some of the best fried chicken I’ve ever had.

Nestled by a railway bridge on the Shoreditch end of Kingsland Road, Bird is a relatively new venture, working under the premise that the restaurant industry has elevated the burger to dizzy heights of quality and creativity, so why not do the same for chicken? And the result is delightful.

Their motto is ‘free range and fried’, and they source quality British ingredients that are delivered daily, so no stresses about what you’re actually putting in your mouth (unlike dubious battered anomalies at other chicken establishments I may have visited). I kept it simple with two fried chicken pieces, a mixture of light and dark meat (they give you the choice) and a couple of sides. Now the chicken is perfect, juicy and tender with very crunchy, flavoursome batter – but the sides are where Bird shines. Creamy, crisp coleslaw, aforementioned lovely pickles and jalapeno corn pudding, a creamy, yellow concoction of sweetcorn, chillies and cheese topped with breadcrumbs. Heaven.

Bird is definitley the word

We also had a huge chicken burger and a portion of seasoned fries – salty and slightly spicy, they were delicious.

Mix and match glazes and sauces are designed to complement each other so get advice on which ones to pick, staff are happy to make recommendations. The buffalo glaze and buttermilk ranch sauce were the perfect tangy, creamy combination. We rounded things off with an iced doughnut ice cream sandwich – totally unnecessary, but when in Rome and all that..

Having been firmly south of the river in recent years, I hadn’t ventured to Shoreditch in a while before Bird. With its top notch food, reasonable prices, nice relaxed atmosphere and great service, it’s a solid reason to cross the river. Roll on next time.

First published on Foodepedia

Comfort in Jamie

Jamie’s Comfort Food: AKA the best cookbook I’ve ever had. Going through it after tearing the wrapping paper open led to everything from delighted shrieks to actual drooling, and the general consensus that there is about 1 thing in the whole book that we don’t fancy.

These are the first few forays into Jamie’s latest, they are mainly pretty straightforward, and give spectacular results.

Lobster

Lobster macaroni cheese is pretty much my idea of heaven. Jamie has you pour the brains with all the picked meat into the cheese sauce, which true to form is rich and delicious. Served with a green salad and plenty of wine, it’s a winner.

Super Schnitzel

Super Schnitzel is super juicy, with crunchy breadcrumbs and nothing like the dry, grey versions I’ve had in the past. It’s served with an apple salad and blackberry jam – definitely too fruity in theory, but IT WORKS.

Jamie's balls

The pork and beef meatballs are huge and delicious, with creamy mash and fresh green kale – in the middle of each ball is a lump of melted cheese – never a bad idea in my book. They don’t necessarily photograph as well as other dishes (!) but are a great alternative to sausage and mash, and a general absolute winner.

 

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Welcome to the greedy business of feeding Franklin. Get in touch with any thoughts and enjoy the blog!