Friday, 23 December 2011


Julia Child once said ‘You don't have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces - just good food from fresh ingredients.’ By virtue of the three best meals I’ve eaten this year the following restaurants reflect Ms Child’s quote unwaveringly. They are 500, Malina and Medlar.

I can’t exactly remember how Medlar caught my attention but it must’ve been a fleeting glance at the menu a couple of months ago when grouse was featured. But thankfully this proved to be well-noted tick from the wish list.

Medlar’s location on Kings Road is hardly a place that encourages any welcoming of hoi polloi and if a certain part of London was to be given a go-ahead with being entirely walled or gated then the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea would be a prime contender. Keeping out the great unwashed in this part of town was decreed a long time ago.

Medlar belongs to the ‘informal’ fine dining category. It’s gratifying not to have to hush-speak or be clinically phlebotomised by the stuffiness that’s rife in most upmarket eateries. As dictated by consent, abattoir* or shabby chic is a no-no;
Medlar's dining room is properly done, properly kitted out, properly comfy and thus properly proper. The lunchers in their droves were mainly more mature than I am (and that’s saying something) and quite obviously not short of a bob or two. However I felt smug enough that I was allowed in wearing my back-to-front baseball cap moth-eaten beret, trademark distressed jeans and moon-stomped to the table with my pair of worn-out bovver boots.

The service was exemplary and never clingy. The Front-Of-House (was he Irish or from somewhere oop north?) was a total diamond geezer and he would’ve sorted Robert Dupea out in no time, diplomatically of course.

The concept at Medlar is simple enough, prix fixe for three courses only and if an aversion to puddings prevails on your behalf then auf wiedersehen, Pet…oh there’s always the cheese trolley that could soothe your soul instead!.

Most of the readers of my blog are non-foodies so I shall relief them of overused and poignant adjectives (but only for this post mind you). Therefore I shall only stick to one adjective and perhaps enhanced by the odd adverb of a numerical manner.

What my Dining Companion and I had-

DC’s starter of white onion soup with sautéed chanterelles, braised chicken wings and cheese straw.

It was delicious.

The chicken wing was memorable.

My braised tripe with soft polenta, tomato, fennel, paprika, bacon and gremolata.

This too was delicious.

I love tripe- so much so it was probably one of the reasons why my veggie GF and I are no longer an item.

DC’s second course of hake with a bacon and parsley crust, Jerusalem artichoke puree, rainbow chard and autumn truffle.

We both agreed the dish was doubly delicious (except for the odourless and pointless truffle).

Slight rant- the Spanish and Portuguese gobble up a substantial amount of hake landed by our fishing fleets, we should learn to embrace this fine-tasting fish more as it’s a viable alternative to cod and certainly a million times more tasty than the guilt-free but boring pollock.


My roast partridge with confit leg, pearl barley, foie gras and kale.

It was triply delicious.

This dish carried a three quid supplement but was not made aware on Medlar’s online menu. However the generous and delicious slice of foie gras more than made up for it.

The bird was probably hung longer than Hughie would’ve liked but I loved it and anyway he has morphed into a pseudo veggie, so good riddance to him.

The single confit leg also suggested that Medlar managed to pull off an exclusive by serving only one-legged partridges.

Tarte tatin with crème fraîche ice cream

A pudding course that was deemed quadruply delicious and possibly beyond.

The dessert was off-menu but my insistence acquired the better of me, the FOH gracefully relented and advised that discretion should be adopted when diving into the tart. Otherwise all hell would break loose if the other diners noticed we scoffing on something so enticing it would even sway the lotus-eaters.

Meanwhile the two ladies who were lunching next to us were enjoying their cheeses from the board noticed what appeared on our table. Thereafter a considerable ruckus occurred between them and the FOH. It was a case of ‘we want tarte tatin!’ to ‘sorry we’ve ran out of apples’ to ‘rubbish, they’re having it so we’ll have it as well!’ to ‘but they ordered it a day in advance’ to ‘but that gentleman wielding the camera noticed it on your menu online’ and to finally ‘Madame, that’s only a sample menu and we reserve the right to…ok (sigh), it’s only on this occasion we’ll serve you our last tarte tatin of the day but please I’m unable to fulfil the request in future’. The ladies thanked us for the heads up.

The tarte tatin at Medlar deserves to be a signature dish as it was undoubtedly better than the Maman version that I had at Raymond Blanc's Manoir many moons ago. You’ve never been to Medlar if you didn’t order the tarte.

Like kangcaneatnomore #sonottrue-

Medlar, bless its cotton socks, is my restaurant of 2011 as well.

* First coined by MsMarmitelover.

438 Kings Road
SW10 0LJ

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Monica Galetti

What is it about Monica Galetti? Well there’s no doubt she’s a talented and articulate professional but she also has a very intimidating aura of menace and mystery about her. I believe the fear she instils on the contestants of MasterChef: The Professionals is a positive one and it would be better if the young chefs didn’t fear her. In fact they should fear the lack of her presence instead. Which is also another way of saying one can learn an awful lot from this lady.

But then again not all iconic figureheads are perfect. This post illustrates some of Monica’s quirky moments from the 13th episode of MasterChef: The Professionals 2011.

Her annoying trademark of pop-eyes.
This usually happens whenever she’s startled by a contestant’s incompetence or stroke of genius.

She can be blatantly contradictory but thankfully not all the time (more to follow)-

Josh’s dessert.

Our Monica was disgusted.

Nevertheless she had to tuck in.

Oh, oh…

Eating food off a knife, slap on wrist girl!

A dejected looking Josh.

Oh hello it’s Monica’s boss, Mr Twinkly Eyes, he who absolutely hates the green left on strawberries!

And look what he’s concocted as well, a strawberry something or the other with the detestable ‘green’ attached.

Dear Monica, Josh deserves, at the very least, an apology.

All screen captures courtesy of BBC and Shine TV © 2011

Merry Christmas everyone and a Happy New Year!

Thursday, 8 December 2011


The following guest post is a review by MsMarmitelover-

" We aren't serving you burgers!" said the doorman (who turned out to be Mr @pubgeek) at 'Meat Liquor'.

I wondered for a minute if he'd read my tweets about being hog tied and hooked into coming to this place by Bellaphon. This is Fat Les' idea of a culinary joke: taking a non-meat eater to a burger joint.

It turned out the kitchen had stopped all new orders as something had gone wrong with the checks. They were, in kitchen parlance, seriously 'in the weeds'.

Three pm on a Friday afternoon, no burgers, but the place was still pretty full. Meat liquor, the permanent restaurant version of the pop up burger van 'Meat Easy', has an enviable location, just behind Debenhams near Bond Street.

I looked around at the elegant arches, no doubt inherited from the Italian restaurant they took over from. Meat Liquor had turned it into what I can only describe as abattoir chic: red and black paint splashed everywhere, blacked out windows, plastic curtains, cages, bare industrial lightbulbs swinging. Utilitarian tableware included prison trays, dixie cups, enamel bowls, jam jar glasses and kitchen roll to mop up the bloody juices. Real Heinz ketchup and French's mustard bottles were on every table.

The toilets had 'chicks' and 'dicks' scrawled in chalk on the doors.

It was part Hellraiser and part dive bar.

You blinked as you walked in, the dimness only relieved by winking red neon. Fast loud hillbilly music made you eat faster, I found myself grinding my teeth. It was not relaxing. Like many other establishments wanting to bridge the gap between fine dining and fast food, there were, my pet hate, bar stools but at least, unlike Spuntino*, there were some tables where short ladies prone to cankles could wedge themselves in.

Now to the food: pretty damn good bar the chips, sorry 'fries', which were a disappointment on a cardboard Maccie D scale.

Loved the fried pickles with a blue cheese dipping sauce. The waitress assured me that everything was fried in rapeseed oil and that the non-meat stuff was cooked a separate frier. Although disturbingly Les' chicken wings "good" were served on the same tray as my pickles, fortunately not touching.

But yes, vegetarians can eat here.

The halloumi burger was succulent, delicious even.

The onion rings looked like enormous stacks of doughnuts. The beer batter was the right combination of fluffy and crisp.

I didn't go for the 'rabbit food' salad but after some explanation of what it was to the Australian waitress, I did manage to get the root beer float, one of my favourite menu items in the states: I can report it was very good.

By now the kitchen had caught up and Les got a burger. He wasn't that impressed, said it wasn't seasoned enough and not medium rare. What the fuck do I know? I seem to remember people (Chris Pople?) going on about the buns but they seemed fairly ordinary to me.

We also shared a decently made Margarita with chilli salt on the rim. The wine list was amusingly written in fluent no bullshitese.

I liked the style: it reminded me of Break for the Border, the 80s hangout which introduced halfway decent Mexican and tequila slammers to London (where I also lost the enamel off my front teeth). Yet like a cow being led to the slaughter, I found it quite a stressful experience, the dark, the loudness of the music, the preponderance of bar stools. Usually you have to queue for at least an hour, funnelled single file? a sign of Meat Liquors popularity and all part of the meat packing experience. Maybe they need advice from Temple Grandin to make more humane.

I would return for the food, but restaurants like this are for those in their 20s to early 30s. You'd need a stun gun to get me back there.

(*Why don't they do what Macdonald's did when they first came to Britain and use tilted bar stools so that you couldn't even sit down properly. Hell, why stop there if you really want to turn tables? Use ejector seats, maybe via a painful anal butt plug, so you really don't hang about. )

74 Welbeck Street

All of the above photos were taken by Kerstin Rodgers

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Saturday, 3 December 2011

Union Jacks

For sometime now I’ve been aware that age has finally caught up with me and I simply cannot keep up with blogging about the endless stream of new openings in London. It’s actually quite a relief that the task is now eagerly undertaken by a nimiety of younger food bloggers who possess enough energy and fire to frantically race each other to the line with the first review. And when the plethora of reviews concerning a half-decent joint materialises- we’ll always expect the same positive and tiring outcome (endless aplomb, effusive gush, comped meals etc). These reviews invariably become so overly saturated that they simply put me off visiting or writing about places like Roganic, Jose in Battersea, or The Young Turks (MEATliquor being an exception and with post to come). Call me an old grumpy git if you like but I’ll stick to my own agenda and maintain a bit of that ‘contrarian rebel’ tag that has been bestowed upon me.

So if I’ve contradicted myself by posting this review, then so be it, because I needed to jump the gun and share the experience tout de suite. I actually admire Sir Jamie a great deal but I’ve never been to any of his restaurants until today. Saturdays mean lunch with feisty daughter and today was an exception; she had to meet her friends at their beloved hangout and our lunch-date venue had to be well within da hood. The piazza of Central St. Giles has somehow transformed itself into a cosmopolitan food courtyard and before you snigger Zizzi was unbelievably rammed whereas Cabana was deserted and the same kind of dead calm was also noted at Byron’s. The half-full Union Jacks was chosen because feisty daughter wanted fish and fish fingers were conveniently on the menu.

The lunch we had today was faultless and that’s saying something, as I’m not even that keen on pizzas. The architect responsible for Central St. Giles as a whole, Renzo Piano, is largely responsible for
the charming and comforting ambience of all the said restaurants. The service unlike most new openings was excellent and there was never an instance whereby a self-centred tattooed waitress would appraise the level of hoi polloi-ness within you before granting a smile.

with sweet tea cosy

We shared three starters of the following-


Nothing can replace Heinz Tomato Ketchup but our Jamie has managed topple Birds Eye with their fish fingers. Beautifully seasoned and fresh tasting, the by–catch fingers were outstanding
(breadcrumbs or not). The tartare sauce was also good enough on its own as a moreish sandwich spread.

The potted prawn and crab was equally impressive- it was sweet, nutmeg-gy, and luscious. But
Michel Roux Jnr would shriek at the shrapnels of crab shell I encountered. Serving this trio of fish at room temperature (it was after all fridge cold) with fresh wholemeal bread (instead of the Melba toast of granary bread) would’ve been immeasurably better.

The sausage or rather a coil of chipolata-sized Cumberland was obviously made by a ‘local’ food hero- it was peppery, herby and first-class. A few of my Eastern European friends have been pretty damning about Blighty sausages but they’ve yet to sample a true Cumberland, Lincolnshire or this one for that matter. And what little bacon that came with it was
smoky, sweet and crispy. One of my usual dislikes is grain mustard but the ale and sage mustard suggested otherwise.

If this place were to serve breakfast then I can expect a tremendous Full English on the menu.

And as far as small plates are concerned, the Riding House Café need to go back to the drawing board and follow Union Jacks’ take instead!

The OLD SPOT flat
Roast shoulder of pig, quince & Bramley sauce, Cropwell Bishop Stilton, crackling & watercress.

The pizza Taliban would flip at this...wot no effing mozzarella and toms? Obviously to save his bacon Jamie had to call his pizzas flats. Well f**k that because it’s still a bloody pizza and a bloody good one to boot. The thin crust faithfully complied with the hallowed Neapolitan doctrine. The sweetness of the quince and apple gracefully embraced the tender shreds of pulled Spot and the addition of the world’s greatest cheese was pure genius. Jamie Oliver, you bugger, you’ve just created a world class pizza and it’s British!

We ended our meal with a RETRO ARCTIC ROLL.
Another well researched and developed dish. It brought memories of an Abigail's Party moment and a lit sparkler to go with the pudding wouldn’t go amiss. The addition of the honeycomb chunks was a clever touch. Unashamedly lovely jubbly.

Union Jacks is seriously good and if this is to be the pilot of many more branches to come then I’ll be saddened if complacency begins to creep in. Recommended.

4 Central St. Giles Piazza