Welcome to The London Foodie

Reviews of London's Restaurants, Supper Clubs and Hotels, Wine Tastings, Travel Writing, and Home to the Japanese and French Supper Clubs in Islington

For the latest food events, restaurant openings, product launches and other food and drink related news, visit the sister site The London Foodie News

Thursday 29 July 2010

Blowing My Own Trumpet: The London Foodie Goes Global!

A few weeks ago I was contacted by Natalie Ragus, a delightful Associated Press journalist who asked me to help her write a piece on the London underground food scene. I took her to a few London supper clubs and helped her with the story. Luckily it also coincided with our own Ottolenghi inspired London Cooking Club evening (run from our home in Islington) last Saturday when the AP photographer (Alistair Grant) joined us to take some pictures.

The piece was sold this weekend to dozens of American, Canadian and Asian news sites and other publications and whenever I google The London Foodie Supper Clubs (or Natalie Ragus + supper clubs), I get more and more new sites that are picking up on the AP story.

Needless to say I am over the moon, so I decided to blow my own trumpet and share the story with you!

Luiz @ The London Foodie

These are some of the links:







































Wednesday 28 July 2010

The Tapas Revolution

I was recently invited to El Pirata Detapas to meet 26-year old head chef Omar Allibhoy and his friend Danny before they embarked on their Tapas Revolution “mission” across England.

We tried some of the “tapitas” Omar and Danny will be cooking in their journeys and had a great time learning about their quest to teach the British public how to cook and enjoy tapas.

(Ajo Blanco - Chilled soup made of garlic, almonds, white bread and sherry vinegar)

(Marinated peppers on rustic bread)

Omar’s passion and enthusiasm for the cuisine of his home country are contagious and it wasn’t long until he was telling us about his giant “T” (for Tapas) plotted over a map of England, and pinpointing some of the locations where their 550-mile culinary crusade would take place.

(Omar and the "T" Trail)

The idea is to show to a cross-section of the country that tapas are a style of dish that can be easily recreated using local ingredients and in anyone’s kitchen. Omar and Danny will be offering a free Spanish cooking class and tapas to anyone who lives, works or just happens to find themselves at any of the locations on their “T” trail.

(Cooking rice with rabbit and sausages)

Omar’s 'T' for 'Tapas' joins together three places he is especially keen to visit:

1. The centre-spot of his beloved Anfield (home to Spanish super-striker, Fernando Torres)

2. Grimsby (the UK's capital of fish - a key ingredient in many of his dishes)

3. Cowes, Isle of Wight (where Omar will be cheering on the 'Spanish Armada' during race week)

(Piquillo peppers stuffed with salted cod on rustic bread)

To get a taste of Omar's lovely cooking, all would-be diners need do is suggest a place somewhere along the 'T' to meet him, providing crockery, cutlery and perhaps some liquid refreshment. Omar will do the rest. Anywhere on the 'T' will do. Locations intersected by it include Manchester University, The Peak District, Doncaster, Derby, various lay-bys carparks and public spaces, even Blenheim Palace.

If you would like to join Omar and Danny in their Tapas Revolution crusade, or to view the "Tapas T" map and follow Omar's journey, visit: http://www.tapasrevolution.com/.

To book a meal on the "Tapas T", email Omar on omar@tapasrevolution.com or send him a tweet @TapasRevolution.

El Pirata Detapas on Urbanspoon

Monday 26 July 2010

Little London Observationist - Interview by Stephanie Sadler

I was asked to collaborate in the Little London Observationist's "Listen to a Londoner" series this week. Stephanie Sadler's blog has been a constant source of inspiration for me, and her writing is also a great joy to read.

You can read the interview by clicking the link: here.

Luiz @ The London Foodie

Thursday 22 July 2010

London Supper Club – Lex Eat Supper Club

Lex Eat Supper Club

Lex Eat is special. Visiting Lex Eat is one of those experiences that truly reinforce my love for this amazing City. If the label “boutique supper club” could ever be used, they would most certainly be a very strong contender.

Started by the two gorgeous Aussie lawyers, Alexis and Yohanna, from their flat in Islington just over a year ago, Lex Eat has since then gained a huge following, and their evenings, much talked about in London’s supper club circuit, are well oversubscribed.

Unlike other popular London supper clubs, Lex Eat holds dinners monthly (or whenever they can or want to), and as they are not in this for the income, it is also one the best value supper clubs in London.

The Location

On my visit, the supper club was still located at Alexis and Yohanna’s beautiful loft apartment in Islington, but they have since then moved to another flat on Regent’s Canal in Hackney. I will be returning to their supper club at their new location on 14th November and will report back.

Alexis and Yohanna’s style and décor are casual but very stylish. From the colourful table arrangements to the beautiful ornaments and furniture scattered around their flat, they create an intimate, light and fun setting for their evenings.

While their former location could seat up to 16-18 people, their new flat will only accommodate 7-8 diners who will also have the pleasure to eat with both hosts at their table.

The Food

We kicked off with a delightful “Pea and Pancetta Risotto”. The rice had been perfectly cooked - the grains were still slightly al dente and had a delicious creaminess. A small dollop of mascarpone cheese, thinly sliced pancetta and fresh basil leaves helped to finish off a well executed dish.

For main course, Yohanna served us “Stuffed de-boned chicken, Dauphinoise of Sweet Potatoes and a medley of green beans, sugar snaps and asparagus”. This was a simple but delicious dish and, as the starter, the combination of flavours was excellent.

The chicken, stuffed with truffled mushrooms, was tender and juicy and tasted delicious. The Dauphinoise potatoes had been very thinly sliced with a mandolin and were beautifully cooked in plenty of cream. The greens were deliciously crunchy and combined well with the other elements of the dish.

Like all good supper clubs, seconds were offered to anyone wanting more chicken and potatoes. The main was accompanied by Alexis’ homemade bread, and a refreshing lemon sorbet was served as a palate cleanser prior to pudding.

The dessert was a delicious treacle and preserved fig tart served with vanilla ice cream. The pastry was light and crumbly as good homemade pastry should be. I enjoyed this dessert a great deal, and felt that the ice cream complemented the rich tart flavours really well. I also enjoyed the simple and elegant presentation of this dish.

The People

The supper club is run by Alexis and Yohanna; they are both Australian lawyers living in London for the last two years. Alexis does most of the cooking while Yohanna does front of house – Yohanna not only greets everyone in but also remembers the name of every single diner, I was totally impressed.

Alexis is passionate about cooking and decided to start their supper club to meet other foodies in their newly adopted country. Yohanna plays the trumpet and trombone in two different bands, and is now getting into food photography.

The Drinks

Lex Eat is BYO and no corkage is levied. A delightful cocktail was served as a welcoming drink, and to match our dessert, two half bottles of 2008 Brown Brothers, Orange Muscat and Flora Special Late Harvested, was offered free of charge by Alexis and Yohanna and shared among all diners.

Good quality cafetiere coffee and teas were also served after dessert.

Other Stuff

Alexis and Yohanna write the amazing blog “LexEat!” (see my “London Supper Clubs I Recommend” list).

Future dates for their supper club evenings are 7th and 14th August, 2nd October and 14th November.

Cost: minimum donation of £20 per person – the best value supper club in London.

Likes: great food, excellent value, and most charming hosts.

Dislikes: more dates please!

Verdict: A gem of a supper club, Lex Eat is special. Great food, charming hosts, intimate and stylish location, and now one of my favourite top three supper clubs in London. Very highly recommended.

Saturday 17 July 2010

London Cooking Club - Ottolenghi

Our next London Cooking Club evening will be on 24th July - "Ottolenghi". 

We will be cooking recipes from two of my favourite cookery books "Ottolenghi The Cookbook" and “Plenty” by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi.

It will be held at my home in Islington, and we may have space for one more person.  Each person will bring a dish and accompanying wine to share - I will coordinate the dishes each person should prepare. 

Please get in touch if you would like to take part, via our London Cooking ClubFacebook page or mail Luiz Hara through the contact page of thelondonfoodie.co.uk.

Tuesday 13 July 2010

The Cloudy Bay Shack featuring Tom Aikens – 24 and 25th July 2010

Not so long ago, I was one of the lucky food and wine bloggers to be invited for an evening of Cloudy Bay wine tasting and food matching at Tom’s Kitchen. The event was organised so that we could help the good people of Mission with the arduous task of selecting the best 5 dishes to be served at The Cloudy Bay Shack, in Parson’s Green on the 24th and 25th July.

Each tasting dish was specially created by Tom Aikens for the event to showcase the versatile portfolio of Cloudy Bay, as well as being a perfect match for the full flavours and vibrant aromatics of the wines. Better known for their famous Sauvignon Blanc (reputedly one the most sought after white wines in the UK), I was also delighted to have the opportunity to try their Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Riesling at the tasting.

The winery was founded as recently as 1985 in Marlborough (NZ), but has become one of the great wine marketing success stories of recent times. Whether this is due to their restrictive allocation policies from NZ, their brilliant marketing or the exceptional quality of their wines, Cloudy Bay produces the type of wine that will certainly not leave you indifferent.

Of the eight dishes we tried, five were chosen - each dish will be accompanied by a pre-selected glass of Cloudy Bay wine and will be priced at £8.50 (for both food and wine). The five best dishes were:

“Tomato salad with basil, watermelon, mint and crayfish tails”, paired with a classic 09 Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc. I enjoyed the combination of tropical fruit and herbal notes of the sauvignon with the tomato, watermelon and basil flavours in the salad, and felt these worked perfectly together.

“Deep fried paprika squid with lime”, paired with the 06 Cloudy Bay Te Koko. This dish was in my opinion the “weakest link” despite being served with a delicious aioli. There is only so much excitement I can feel over deep fried squid (as delicious as it may be – and this one certainly was). The Te Koko (another Sauvignon Blanc), had more intense floral and spicy undertones of orange blossom and ginger and was robust enough to stand up to the garlic and paprika aioli.

The “Dorset crab with chilli and ginger” was paired with the 06 Cloudy Bay Riesling. Riesling is one of my favourite white grape varietals and Cloudy Bay’s showed great depth of fruit and with a classic petroleum nose reminiscent of an aged Alsatian Riesling. It married well with the crab, ginger and chilli and was one of the best combinations of the evening.

The “Spicy crab cakes with tomato salsa or guacamole”, paired with Cloudy Bay Chardonnay, was another hit. The crab was fresh and delicately spiced and was a great match to the heady Chardonnay. The wine had citric characteristics with a touch of oak balancing the spiciness of the crab meat.

One of my favourite dishes was the “Seven hour lamb” which luckily made it to the final and was matched with Cloudy Bay’s Pinot Noir. The meat had been braised for 7 hours - it was sweet and melting in the mouth, and served with fluffy mashed potatoes. It was also an excellent partner to the delicately flavoured Pinot - showing characteristic red berry fruit flavours on the palate, with long but very soft tannins.

Other equally delicious dishes which did not quite make the mark were “Tomato gaspacho with crab” (my favourite). It was as creamy as bisque, and had a lovely sweetness from the basil.

“Salmon with chilli and lime, peanut crumbs and pickled radish” – I enjoyed the oriental flavours in this dish (peanuts, chilli and lime) and felt it went well with the fatty salmon and Chardonnay it was paired with.

“Marinated hand dived scallops with chilli, mint and lemon grass dressing”. I also greatly enjoyed this dish (similar to a “ceviche”) - the scallops had been seasoned in a delicious, tangy dressing with fresh vanilla seeds.

I can think of few more enjoyable ways of spending a weekend than picnicking with Tom Aiken’s delicious food, washed down by glasses of Cloudy Bay wine, with a live Jazz band in the background, and hopefully some sun! This should be an amazing event and one I will make sure to attend.

Tom's Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Saturday 10 July 2010

London Restaurant Reviews - Koya


A restaurant specialising in udon noodles, also known in Japan as an “Udon-ya” (“ya” translates as “shop”), Koya recently opened in Soho’s Frith Street to much acclaim. As in the Japanese Udon-ya (s), the noodles are freshly made on the premises with wheat flour imported from Japan, and traditional methods are used to produce the highly prized springy texture.

Such traditional methods are very laborious, taking up many hours and include various intricate steps in the process. At one stage called “ashibumi” the dough is kneaded by foot. Udon is thought to have originated in the Kagawa Prefecture (modern Sanuki Province) in the southern island of Shukoku in Japan. It is Japan’s thickest noodle, while somen is the thinnest. Soba and ramen noodles are more commonly known in the West; they fall between the two in thickness.

Owned by John Devitt, the restaurant has two Japanese head chefs who worked at Kunitoraya, another popular Udon-ya in Paris. All the staff (apart from John!) are Japanese , which helps to create a very authentic feel to the restaurant. The menu is printed on large wooden plaques on the wall, with the house speciality options being “Atsu-Atsu” (hot udon in hot broth), “Hiya-Atsu” (cold udon with hot broth) and “Hiya-Hiya” (cold udon with cold sauce to dip).

I liked the simple décor, the cream walls and the use of light wood throughout. On my visit, I was fortunate enough to be able to chat a little with John, who explained that the beautiful square floor tiles were found under a layer of carpet from the previous owners (Koya occupies the premises of Alistair Little’s former restaurant).

In Japan udon noodles are eaten mainly at lunch time by youngsters and students as a budget sustaining dish, while older diners tend to avoid it especially in the evenings as it is considered somewhat heavy. I love them in a hot broth in winter, but for the cold options (Hiya-Hiya) I would favour either somen or soba noodles like in “zaru-soba”. “Zaru” style noodles (served on a sieve-like bamboo tray – zaru), served with “mentsuyu” (dipping sauce) and a selection of “yakumi” (toppings) is one of my favourite Japanese summer dishes.

In Brazil, my Japanese grandmother (“O-baa-chan”) used to prepare her own “zaru somen” by quickly dipping them in iced water after cooking, draining and serving them with a mixture of soya sauce and freshly squeezed lime. It was an incredibly simple, light and refreshing dish and we all used to look forward to summer and to my “O-baa-chan’s” zaru somen.

To better appreciate the base stock (dashi broth) without interference from other ingredients, John suggested I should try one of his simplest menu items, and so I opted for Atsu-Atsu Kizame (hot udon with hot broth with toppings of fried tofu and spring onion) @ £7.50. The broth had an intense but gentle and clean flavour which I thoroughly enjoyed. The noodles were perfectly cooked, slightly chewy and with an excellent texture - a perfect bowl of dashi broth and homemade udon noodles.

Dr G decided to go for Hiya-Atsu Kamo (cold udon with hot broth and duck) @ £9.50. Again this was excellent, and beautifully presented. The duck was very tender and gave a deliciously meaty character to the dashi broth.

The “Buta Kakuni” (braised pork belly with cider) @ £6 was one of my favourite dishes, and one that I cook often at home. I first learnt how to cook this dish in Japan using chunky pieces of belly pork very slowly cooked in a mixture of dashi, brown sugar, ginger, sake and soya sauce among other ingredients. In contrast, Koya’s version was braised in English cider which gave a delicious tartness to the meat and balanced the sweetness of the dish.

The “Hitokuchi Tempura” (tempura of cod wrapped in shiso leaves) @ £6 was also delicious. Mainly used as an accompaniment to sashimi, shiso is a herb I adore, and use it whenever I can in my Japanese cooking (see post/recipe here Shiso Pesto and Soba Noodles) – it has a very particular flavour and adds an amazing freshness to any dish.

Koya’s drinks menu has higher than average prices with half bottles of house wine starting at £11.50 (or £23 for a full bottle). I also felt that both the sakes and shochu on offer were overpriced, and the 50ml of plum wine @ £4 a pop exorbitant. Dr G had a Kirin beer @ £3.50 while I opted for hot Japanese tea @ £2.20 per individual pot. The tea was of good quality although no hot water refill was offered.

I first heard about Koya from Jen of Dashi Dashi, one of my favourite London food bloggers. Jen specializes in Japanese cooking and restaurants and her writing is superb. I visited Koya soon after it opened; the restaurant was relatively unknown and was almost empty. Since then I hear the restaurant has become very popular and has massive queues. As it takes no reservations I would suggest going either early in the evening or at lunch time if you can. Also there is a small counter in the kitchen where up to 6 people can be seated, and is a good spot to watch the chefs in action.

Cost: £38.48 including 12.5% service added to the bill or £19 per person (See menu here).

Likes: excellent dashi broth and homemade udon noodles, good green tea, and delicious pork belly in cider (buta kakuni).

Dislikes: overpriced drinks menu, 12.5% service charge added to the bill (not in keep with Japanese dining etiquette).

Verdict: Excellent quality, authentic udon with prices to match. Delicious pork belly and tempura, harmonious decor, and central location. There is definitely a premium to be paid for aforementioned quality/authenticity of food and drinks, this is not a “budget” food destination. Highly Recommended.

Koya on Urbanspoon
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