Suvlaki is a little Athenian grill on Soho’s Bateman Street, run by Athenians (always helps) who manage to create a warm, friendly atmosphere while keeping it all casual. And completely delicious. It’s been open since July last year, and I’d had my eye on it for a while but hadn’t quite got round to it, saturated as the Soho eating out market is, and given my propensity to go for the same thing every bloody day – must stop this.
In the spirit of being over 30, we had a last-minute change of heart re attending a Halloween rave in Hackney last weekend, and instead decided to go for a country adventure in the New Forest. A random choice perhaps, but it’s near enough to London to go for one night and I’ve heard great things form various people – plus the weather looked great. So the bikes were chucked in the back of the car, we grabbed all manner of sweets and snacks and off we went.
On being invited to my old friend Mikala’s for afternoon tea a couple of weeks ago, I got all excited and offered to bring an element – I’m fairly useless at baking (don’t really like measuring things), not a huge fan of dainty sandwiches, already had Prosecco ready to go, so what else to contribute? Sausage rolls!
The Artworks is a little complex of offices and bars tucked away in an unsavoury part of Elephant & Castle (as if there is another part..) It’s part of the shipping container trend that’s surfaced of late, following Boxpark but predating Pop Brixton, and is part of the long overdue regeneration of the whole area. Saying that, if The Artworks is a preview of what E&C will be like when it’s finished, I’d be pretty happy to live there (£600,000 1-bed flats aside).
Meat. It’s all about meat. Not life (well, sometimes) but in this unassuming basement on the Piccadilly side of Soho it is most definitely all about meat. I remember when Blacklock launched early this year, to a flurry of social media activity from the most respected food bloggers and Instagram stars. Although the hype has died down (a bit, not completely) they’re still always busy and for good reason. I’ve been a few times and this is a kind of mash-up of the various visits.
The revamped Albany on Great Portland Street is definitely a pub of two halves. The street level bar is all newly decked out in blues and greys with huge chandeliers, and has a relaxing vibe with lots of after-work types enjoying one of the rotating guest beers on offer.
This is a great winter warmer with lots of protein from the pork, comfort-carbs (and more protein) from the chickpeas and a hit of vitamins from the kale – a simple, healthy dish that tastes great. I’ve added a few spices to up the warmth factor, which adds interest and makes it taste vaguely middle-Eastern.
You can buy pork mince or squeeze the meat out of a few sausages, but I got the lovely guys at Atlantic Meat Market in Brixton to mince some chops for me – if you do this tell them it’s for meatballs and they’ll include enough fat – essential for flavour!
You could replace the chickpeas with small pasta like orzo, and the kale with cavalo nero if you fancy mixing it up a bit.
(NB: the parmesan sounds odd but it’s really for seasoning rather than cheesiness)
For the meatballs:
- 500g pork mince
- 50g white breadcrumbs (stale bread is fine)
- 1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
- 50g grated parmesan
- Sprig fresh thyme
- Salt and pepper
- 10g butter
- 1 tablespoon sunflower oil
For the soup:
- 1 litre chicken or vegetable stock (homemade is ideal otherwise fresh not powdered)
- 1 x 400g can chickpeas
- 2-3 handfuls fresh kale
- 1 spring onion
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp turmeric
- handful fresh coriander, stalks reserved
- 1 green chilli (optional)
Put the chilled pork mince into a mixing bowl and add seasoning, parmesan, mustard, thyme and breadcrumbs. Shape into bite-sized balls and set aside in the fridge for 10 minutes.
Fry the garlic and spring onion on low heat for a couple of minutes. Add the stock, chopped kale, chilli, chickpeas and the chopped stalks of the coriander (the leaves go in at the end). Let it bubble away gently while you brown the meatballs in the oil and butter. You just want to get a crust all the way round the outside, it doesn’t matter if they’re not cooked through.
Once they’re brown, place the balls into the soup (they should stay together because you chilled them), put the lid on and leave it to simmer for 15 minutes.
Serve with some of the coriander leaves to garnish.
The ingredients for this dish were all bought at independent shops in Brixton so don’t forget to add your signature to the petition to save the Arches to keep local shopping in Brixton.
*This post first appeared on the brilliant Brixton Blog
On entering The Porchester in Bayswater, you’re mostly struck by the aroma – it’s like when you turn up at your mum’s on a Sunday; starving, hungover and itching for something warm and nourishing to sort you out, and the smell of a roast, or some gravy or fresh bread makes everything ok. So a good start for a cold, rainy Tuesday evening in West London.
Another of the newly made-over Young’s portfolio, The Porchester is situated on Bishop’s Bridge Road, between Royal Oak and Bayswater tubes, and is a fairly hefty site. It wasn’t overly busy on this occasion, but there was still a homely atmosphere, and as you may have gathered, some lovely cooking aromas.
We started off with the scallops, which are served with black pudding and pea puree – a no-brainer combination, but if it ain’t broke and all that. They were completely gorgeous, tender with a bit of texture on the outside, presumably from being fried in butter. The pea puree was perfect, with some pea bits still present, and the black pudding was soft and flavoursome.
Crab with pork crackling was good, it’s a paste rather than chunks of crab and the brown meat gave it lots of good strong flavour that went well with the salty meatiness of the crackling. It didn’t quite have the skull-jarring initial crunch that I love about good crackling, and there was too much crab and not enough to dip in it – best to order some bread on the side.
Pork belly (I seem to have a preoccupation with pork at the moment) with mash, apple sauce, greens and (more) black pudding was simple but very effective – spot-on comfort food with very creamy mash that I certainly could’ve eaten more of, and delicious meaty gravy. It was like a thick, rich pork soup – heaven.
The shepherd’s pie was the hero here though, with its chunks of lamb in minty gravy, and more of the lovely mash and a smidge of cheese. We ignored the bit of cabbage on the side and devoured the rest with unseemly speed. A moist, date-y sticky toffee pudding was the ideal round-off.
The Porchester’s a really good foody pub, with poshed-up comfort dishes in a nice atmosphere with sweet, attentive staff – they’re certainly ticking a whole lot of boxes and if I find myself that way again I’d definitely go back.
*Prices are very reasonable but our meal was courtesy of The Porchester
Having failed to get the pork cheeks required for the planned dish, and unwilling to spend any longer than necessary in a supermarket on a Saturday I grabbed a pork fillet, some Portobello mushrooms, asparagus and a trusty pinot noir and legged it as quickly as possible. Whilst it’s annoying when you specifically plan a certain dish and can’t get what you need, I quite enjoyed the little spread of ingredients (below), along with some fridge bits with which to create something passable, Ready Steady Cook style. (Although I doubt you can get more than 2 ingredients for a under fiver in London nowadays..) So I was aiming for tenderloin medallions with a Portobello, apple and bacon sauce. Too much already, so did away with the apple (will juice it later with my new juicer! Post to come). As it turned out the fridge was a bacon-free zone, but there was a bit of saucisson lurking at the back from a trip to Borough Market a couple of weeks back. In it goes.
I’m not one for noting intricate details when it comes to recipes (the reason I’ll never be a decent baker) so think of this a suggestion if you happen to have similar ingredients handy. I chopped the fillet into inch-wide medallions and fried them in butter (and a smidge of oil to stop the butter burning) on both sides until a little bit brown but still squidgy when poked.
Get them out, put the mushrooms and chopped saucisson into the juices, add a splash of red wine, another splash of chicken stock (I threw in half a cube and some boiled water), teaspoon of Dijon mustard, scrape of nutmeg and sprig of rosemary. Let it bubble for a minute then put the pork back in, cover and turn it down. Five minutes for the sauce to thicken a bit and that’s it!
I put some greens with it with a sliver of butter (it is Saturday after all), poured a fair bit more of the wine into a large glass et voila!
Not exactly Michelin worthy but pretty good for a ten minute job with mostly fridge leftovers. Probably also good with apples and cider instead of mushrooms and wine. Next time!
Finding myself in Earlsfield isn’t a common occurrence, I wouldn’t have a clue where to begin in terms of eating or drinking. Luckily, as soon as you come out of the station you are in spitting distance of the newly-refurbished Halfway House, a delightful pub with lots of quirky detailing, effusively friendly service and what quickly transpired to be a gorgeous menu.
Meeting my sister for a glass and a bite after work, we plumped for the Rioja (delicious) in the airy dining room area and went through the menu, which is packed with seasonal delights – lots of game, seafood, pork belly and pub classics.
The pigeon wasn’t overly tender (perhaps cooked a tiny bit too long?) but the flavour was incredible, so strong and meaty. The razor clams were the sea on a plate – really soft, salty and delicious with tender leeks and a touch of bacon-smokiness, and lots of pepper. I could’ve definitely polished them off twice, just needed a little piece of crusty bread to mop up the juice.
Despite Soph’s sadness at my wolfing down her childhood pets, I thoroughly enjoyed the rabbit haunch – the meat was juicy and easily came off the bones, and with golden beetroot, kale and pearl barley, the whole dish felt autumnal and somehow restorative.
The twice-cooked pork belly was perfect crunchy on the outside while the meat just melted. Black pudding complimented it perfectly.
Thoroughly stuffed we of course went for dessert – rich, creamy lemon posset with a home-made shortbread biscuit, and a chocolate ‘brookie’, or brownie/cookie hybrid with salted caramel ice cream. More brownie than cookie, the ice cream had sunk into the chocolate creating a soft, wet, caramel/chocolate mess. Heaven. So two fab desserts! (and the posset was actually not bad spread onto the brookie *sheepish*)
The brookie itself came with raspberry sauce. Now I really have an issue with fruit and chocolate (except oranges) so I left that bit alone, but am fully aware I’m being picky and that this was overall a fabulous dessert. We went further with an espresso martini and a glass of the muscat – both delicious and the perfect end to the meal.
The Halfway House is highly recommended – staff are lovely, there was a nice atmosphere (fairly busy on a rainy Tuesday) and the food is extremely good. Definitely worth a visit if you find yourself in Earlsfield!
*Food is very reasonable but we were guests of Halfway House.