Sunday, 20 November 2011


The last time I had a Polish meal was also my first and that was an inexcusable three and a half years ago! Judging by the guesstimates of between 500,000 to a million Poles working or residing in the UK, it’s rather sad to see that Polish cooking has made little or no impact on us. Our perceptions of Polish cuisine as being stodgy and heavy have undoubtedly dented the progress of its culinary heritage in Blighty. We also presumed the Poles only ate potatoes and pork- ‘Oh how bleeding grey and boring that sounds, gissa a chicken tikka masala any day!’ And admittedly if you’re on a low-carbohydrate diet or simply conforming to whatever religious constraints, then you might find this kind of food all too challenging. But its satisfying attributes of both fuss-free flavours and hearty cooking are reasons enough for us to reappraise our thoughts and reconsider Polish cooking as a vital contribution to decent eating in Europe. Let’s face it, it’s certainly more creative and inventive than let’s say the Scandinavians and very nearly on par with ours (coz we do pies and they don’t), and looking on the bright side, that spineless FROGue dissed nowt about kuchnia Polska! There’s more to Polish foods than the dried-out kabanos bought from Lidl.

I’m no authority on the authenticity of Polish cooking but the dinner I had at Malina was extraordinarily pleasant. Malina is located somewhere between Shepherd’s Bush and Hammersmith, and that ‘somewhere’ is apparently Brook Green (never heard of it either). The restaurant is the baby of two ladies who gained enough know-how from managing London’s oldest Polish Restaurant to carve out on their own. The dining room reflected a vague input of homely Swedish influence but abruptly restricted by the use of conventional wooden chairs and the lack of pretentious white tablecloths. Pretty motifs of raspberries are strewn on the walls towards the back of the restaurant and that can only be appropriate; malina is Polish for raspberry. The restaurant was very nearly full by the time we were tucking into our mains, the service was friendly, efficient and panic-free. The aforementioned ladies were simply indefatigable.

A shot of bison grass vodka got the ball rolling.

Now take note, Malina doesn’t surprise the diners with a needless cover charge but they’re prepared to make you smile with this gratis while-you-wait.

Rye bread and smalec. The bread was superbly fresh and fragrant, it was hardly dense and certainly not acquired in taste. The lard spread, despite its questionable contribution to do with coronary issues, was outstanding. The smoky bacon, the herbs, the onion…bloody thing was crack-like! This freebie belonged to the on-cloud-nine category of comfort eating.

Barszcz z uszka- Borscht and mushroom-stuffed tortellini.

Like my chum, I’ve never appreciated the humble beetroot but this clear broth managed to address a perfect balance of acidity and umami (bacon again?). My first spoonful of the soup provoked a road to Damascus moment- ‘beetroot I shall no longer persecute you for I’m now yours…’ It was excellent, but the addition of the bland tasting tortellini was sadly perfunctory.

Pierogi- Polish dumplings. However one of my dining companions, Pete, insisted as they were too pretty and dainty to be called dumplings they should instead be ravioli, he was of course right.

Five for £5.50 or ten for £9.90 and choose from any of the following (the flexibility of being able to mix and match was thankfully encouraged)-

Mięso - pork and beef
Ruskie- cheese and potato
Kapustą z grzybami- cabbage and mushroom
Kasza z boczkiem- buckwheat and bacon
Kasza z wątroba- buckwheat and chicken liver
Szpinak z zoltem serem- spinach and cheese

The pierogi came liberally lubricated with butter (or was it bacon fat, my memory’s failing me…) and topped with chives and fried onions. Each and every one of them was cooked to perfection and tasted delectable but an additional kudos goes to the morerish buckwheat and chicken liver filling.

NB pierogi are also available as a pudding course with the appropriate ‘sweet’ fillings.

Our main courses-

George’s Zrazy- rolled rump steaks filled with onion, gherkin and more bacon, served with gravy and
kopytka (heavy-going gnocchi shaped like hooves). George totally approved of his rich dish and quite rightly licked the platter clean.

Pete’s Grilled Chicken- the fillet was marinated in lemon and thyme, and served with garlic butter, green beans and mashed potatoes. Hardly Polish or let alone Eastern European you might indicate but Pete is my most unadventurous dining companion…he’s an MTV geezer. Apart from the mean rationing of green beans he too gave the thumbs-up for his mains and licked the platter clean.

And my Golonka...

...or pork knuckle by any other name. First thing that comes to mind was how the hell does one tackle a gargantuan monster like that! Easy, a majority of us love a bit of pork so starve yourself for 48 hours and piggy heaven eagerly awaits you. The golonka was roasted in beer and served with sauerkraut, roast potatoes, mustard and chrzan (a mild tasting Polish horseradish). This was basically a DIY pulled-pork dish and quite unsettlingly never-ending. As expected the dish was substantial but wholly satisfying; the rich layer of fat was sinfully sumptuous. Golonka is a dish of champions.

When defeat is inevitable, it is wisest to yield*…I failed to lick the platter clean. This dish has to be shared methinks. With hindsight I should’ve requested a doggy bag and make an ideal lunch of pork sandwiches the day after.

The desserts were unfortunately less successful-

Pete’s Tort Czekoladowy- chocolate cake. He thought it was ok but I thought it looked and tasted like plane food.

George’s Szarlotka- homemade apple pie and vanilla ice cream. The pie was an equivalent to a Grade C in GCSE Home Economics but the ice cream was rather good.

I abstained from the puddings because I was still recovering from being pork-knuckled. But if I’d had the opportunity I would've ordered the sweet pierogi or the off-piste Makowiec without fail.

Now what better way to end the evening than with some complimentary shots of moonshine home-concocted raspberry flavoured vodka. Especially so when the other two dining companions were hopelessly averse to spirits. Thank you Malina, you made my day.

Malina is a right little gem
and it's also impossible to leave this place still feeling hungry. It impressed us all with its honest cooking, inherent warmth and decent value for money. 500 Restaurant was a strong contender for my restaurant of 2011 but I think I may now be swayed instead by Malina taking the crown. I thus urge you, please go and enjoy.


166 Shepherd's Bush Road
London W6 7PB


Thursday, 10 November 2011

The Admiral Codrington

On settling the bill:

Fat Les- ‘Erm, what’s the cover charge for?’

Young Inexperienced But Obliging Waiter- ‘Bread’

FL and dining companion in unison- ‘But we didn’t have any bread!’

YIBOW- ‘Oh but no but there was the ketchup, sugar…’

FL- ‘What? You pulling my leg?’

YIBOW- ‘I don’t write the rules’

Gobsmacked, we paid and legged.

On re-inspecting the bill three hours later in my bath:

FL- F**K me! They actually charged me for a pint of Caledonian 80/- I never had!

Fat Les’ Imaginary Friend- You what?

FL- Well I did initially order a pint of the beer but was told they had ran out so I opted for a bottle of Michael Winner’s favourite instead.

FLIF- Pox on him.

FL- No, pox on the management for the lack of training and insight!

F**K!² x F**K!² x F**K!²

Ad Cod is located in a swanky part of London and so by default, its purposefulness of being an upmarket pub is understandably valid. In spite of the couple of hiccups, Ad Cod serves up seriously good no-nonsense food. My only reason for coming here was because of its praiseworthy burger mentioned by Tom at Honest Burgers. But the sheer number of positive reviews and gushing tweets surrounding Ad Cod’s burger have been alarmingly off-putting and as a result I could see my burger ambitions in SW3 thwarted in no time (think Bar Boulud). But I relented in the end and was rewarded with a damn fine meal.

The impression I got from Ad Cod’s homepage was it somewhat encourages all potential diners to book ahead or you’ll soon be sorry. This I duly did but it was all quite unnecessary (and embarrassing as well) as the restaurant was almost deserted on the Sunday evening we visited. The ambience had an air of stuffiness about it which unfortunately doesn’t bode well as a pub restaurant, in fact the dining room was more like a discarded wing from the nearby celebrity-haunt that’s Daphne’s. If talking with a normal voice approximate to a sound pressure level of 70 dB then the atmosphere at Ad Cod’s certainly suggested we should all utter at no louder than 65 dB. A good example of a pub serving top-notch food without any plaguey pretensions to do with interior design or hush-hush dining is The Harwood Arms.

However the service courtesy of YIBOW was polite and helpful. For wine connoisseurs you’ll be pleased to know that the restaurant possesses an enviable list of one of the greatest wines in the world. All the different vintages of Sassicaia available are priced at no more than £250.00 a bottle. The same wine at either Locanda Locatelli or L’Anima would set you back up to £800.00!

We started off with a snack of Scotch Egg.
Although it lacked the yielding and runny yolk that’s characteristic of most established standards like here and here, it was simply scrumptious. I believed the secret of Ad Cod’s effort was due to the sausage meat filling, in itself beyond compare. The next time I’m here, I would quite happily order three eggs and without an ounce of guilt or constraint, devour all of them in one go.

We shared a starter portion of Caesar Salad.
This came with crispy pancetta and a poached egg. Now I’m au fait with the latter for not being runny (yet again) as the dressing for the salad was probably made with raw yolks in the first place and to have more of it we’ll all panic and end up like Eggwina! I’ve always thought the best Caesar Salad I’ve eaten in London was at Le Caprice but I’m happy to report that Ad Cod’s version surpassed it. The relative formula of the crucial ingredients combined was spot-on but then again this could be down to the wonderful dressing. So whilst not the most purist of Caesars, Ad Cod managed to impress with their renditition, it was the best salad of its kind and done so without the addition of either chicken strips or anchovies. Brilliant.

The Dining Companion’s mains of Smoked Haddock and Salmon Fishcake with Steamed Spinach, Tomato Chutney and Sorrel Sauce.
For a dish that has been made with "leftover fish" and "cold potatoes"* I believe most of us have accepted and taken the ordinariness of fishcakes for granted. But not so at Ad Cod, like the Caesar Salad, the kitchen’s aptness in balancing the ingredients to create a standout dish shone through again. The smokiness of the haddock worked beautifully with the gentle sharpness of the sorrel and unlike most other fishcakes, the mashed potato within played an absolute second fiddle. This dish deserved to be put on the map.

The Ad Cod Burger

Or an 8oz cheeseburger served with pickles, lettuce, tomato, secret sauce and faultless chips. The burger was perfectly formed and proportioned. And it would be poncey to use cutlery to tackle the sandwich, so down on all fours please and get your paws dirty!

It was also the most medium rare of all medium rare requests. The burger nazis would balk about the brioche bun and the use of a non-American cheese, well they can ‘thcream and thcream and thcream 'till they’re thick’ because I’m having none of it, so-

...................../..../ /
..........''...\.......... _.·´

This was a kind of burger that no matter how hard I tried to nit-pick with every single bite, I failed. Everything about it was correct, precise and most importantly, delicious. The chap who conceived it must be a consummate master of burgers. I’ve decided to introduce tenths into my scores for the best burgers in London, the Ad Cod's version thus reigneths at 9.2. It would also be interesting to see how this scoring system pans out when I embark on my Hamburger Tour in 2013.

We ended our meal with a shared crumble of raspberries and summat.

It too was excellent, but too small to share; four spoonfuls later…absorbed.

The meal at The Admiral Codrington was by no means cheap, but both the execution and cooking of everything we ate that evening were consistently good enough to garner a must-visit endorsement. Let’s just hope you enjoy the home of London’s ace burger as much as I did.

* Mrs Beeton

17 Mossop Street
London SW3 2LY


Tuesday, 1 November 2011

The Rib Man

Brick Lane

A great deal has been blogged, tweeted, discussed and bantered about The Rib Man so I’ve decided to keep the post brief. Like here, here and of course here, The Rib Man has successfully marketed himself as a decent food hero by way of mandatory networking.

The Rib Man’s stall thrives on rib meat rolls or wraps and racks.

The meat is tediously pulled by hand. I suppose the relative ease of the meat coming off the bone is a testament to The Rib Man’s mastery of slow cooking baby back ribs.

As handed over by Mrs Rib Man and I gulped at the size of it!

Heavenly succulence and gratifyingly delicious. Melting, sweet, porky and gently chilli hot. The rib meat was so well concocted; it didn’t need further dousing of the BBQ or hot sauces on offer. The filling was way too generous and alas I couldn’t finish the sandwich. I declared to Mark and the Missus that I was a wimp after all. Nevertheless it was five quid well-spent.

The only annoying thing about The Rib Man is he’s forever blowing bubbles whereas I’m a trophy-starved gooner. Get on down and prepare to be blown away. Highly recommended.