Wednesday, 1 April 2015

HotBox, Spitalfields

When Sunday rolls around and its an awful rainy and miserable day, there is no better option that heading for a long brunch with bottomless prosecco. Right?

Luckily for us there is a new gem that is just a short walk up the road from our little house. HotBox What's better is that there was no queue or standing in the rain unlike our other close brunching options at the delightful The Breakfast Club

Starting as Street Food vendors with pitches at Street Feast's Hawker House and Dalston Yard, it has now put down permanent roots. 

Chloe and I nipped over from Notting Hill to join the rest of them who were already nestled inside Hotbox with steaming cups of coffee in front of them.   

After a quick look at the menu, Chloe Maddie and I plumped for the bottomless prosecco option, at £25 it seems a bit extravagant but after learning a single glass was £9, well who drinks less than 3 glasses... right? Thats some mathematical sense I can understand! Arione and Ian were feeling slightly more delicate and decided to stick with coffee.

Our cheery waiter popped our glasses down on the table and the brunching began! 

Arione, queen of eggs benni, knew her order straight away. This came on a slab of smokey pork belly and smothered in a rich hollandaise.

Look at those eggs, it did not disappoint! 

After umming and ahhhing and trying to persuade everyone to share with me, no one was playing ball today, I opted for the stack of pancakes and bacon and immediately dumped the pot of maple syrup over the lot. The only way to eat it.

The pancakes were deliciously light and fluffy and the streaky bacon cooked to, my, total perfection!

I also opted to add a little extra of poached egg and sourdough toast on the side. 

These guys can really poach an egg!

Maddie opted for the very american fried chicken and waffle. If I'm honest, a bit like the savoury pancake the idea of a savoury waffle confuses me. But there we go. Maddie did let me have a bite of the chicken and oh my, top marks. Very very tasty! 

She ordered a side of guacamole which was so good, Id happily just have eaten the pot alone or smeared on toast.

We got a couple of mac n cheeses for the table.

They had to goo factor but if I'm honest they were a little cold. In fact thats my one complaint about the place, everything could have been hotter. Maddie had to send back a hot chocolate that was stone cold and all of our food had the feel that it had been sitting there just perhaps a touch too long.

Having said that it certainly wont stop me from going back again. Especially after seeing a woman who was sat next to us order the ribs....

As you can see there wasn't much left on our plates and we certainly got our value for money on the prosecco. So much so that I will have to admit the rest of the Sunday spiralled some what into the best kind of fun.

Hotbox has an incredible relaxed atmosphere that is lovely to sit in, its perhaps not the comfiest of places with very high stools, or perhaps very low tables. We highly enjoyed ourselves and the service was really good, whats better as well then because there wasn't a massive queue at the door you felt like you could sit and enjoy your meal at your own pace. 

Its just on our doorstep on Commercial Road just a stones throw from Spitalfields Market. Im looking forward to venturing back for a nibble at their dinner menu! They are only open for dinner Monday - Saturday but the brunch begins at 11.30am on Sunday!

Square Meal

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Shackfuyu, Soho

Ive been dying to head to Shackfuyu after hearing so much about the latest venture from the guys behind Bone Daddies and Flesh and Buns. Finally I got my chance after a day of museum hopping with my favourite partner in crime, Tilly. 

After perusing the gross but fascinating specimens at the Hunterian Museum  (and almost fainting in the process) we wandered down through the sunny streets of London to Somerset House to get a peek at the Beard exhibition in its last few days.

A day of culture really makes one work up and appetite, and after a few seconds of running through the internal restaurant list I have in my head it was an easy decision to head to up to Soho and Shackfuyu.

Situated on the old site of the Made in Italy restaurant on Old Compton Road the vibrant green and red outside was hard to miss. We were so keen they weren't open for supper for another hour so we settled ourselves in the nearby Benefit Pop-up Curl's Best Friend for a sneaky glass of champagne. 

The advantage of the early supper was beating the rush and being able to sit down straight away. By 6.45pm the place already had a 45 min waiting list! However the food is speedy and the service snappy so I could imagine that the turn around is fairly quick! 

We started off with choosing the cocktails, which came in adorable Alice in Wonderland type bottles. 

Tilly opted for the BoneDaddies Punch and equally delicious mix of rum, fresh passionfruit and pineapple juice. 

Whilst I opted for I chose the Ringo Starr, a moreish mix of gin, apple and sake. We cheers'ed to our Tuesday and set about deciding what we wanted, which was everything.

The concept behind the pop-up is Japanese fusion using the old wood fired pizza oven from the sites Italian days.  

We finally whittled down what we wanted, I mean it wasn't that hard, the menu isn't gigantic and I think with 3 hungry people to 4 you could easily order the whole menu. It's all sharing dishes, perfect for being able to sample everything! 

The food appears as and when its ready, and first up were the Korean fried wings. Smothered in a sticky hot sauce, they were not a delicate affair but when are wings ever?

The miso and bubu arare marinated aubergine topped with seaweed was delicious. I honestly could have eaten a vat of these.

We ordered one of the specials, the miso cured duck, which came as thin slices of cold duck which surprised me but was delicious especially when eaten with the pickled kumquat. 

The star of the show arrived, the prawn toast. Everything Ive read about this place has beyond raved about this dish and no one has been lying. It was insanely good. Topped with dashi flakes and drizzled in sauces, that I forget the name of now. 

Heres another close up. After the first bite we already contemplating ordering a second round. This would have been highly greedy but totally worth it. 

The mac and cheese arrived and I have to say, that although this was nice and tasty I wish we had ordered something else as it fell flat against the other superior dishes. Topped with fish eggs and bacon and cock scratchings it was a melty pot of loveliness but like I say I wish we had chosen slightly better, I was lead by my obsession with mac and cheese. 

The final dish to the party was the beef picanha smothered in a kimchee tare butter and simply melted in your mouth. Once couple with the little pot of Japanese mayo that had been given to us, well I mean, we ate the entire meal in silence which is no mean feat for us. The only sound we made were mmmmm and ahhhh and nodding in agreement. 

We ordered the perfect amount of food and sat back at the empty dishes were cleared. We ordered another cocktail to sit and digest. 

Digesting meant only one thing, there was room for dessert and for once I was incredibly keen to order it. A huge slab of french toast with a big pile of soft serve green tea ice cream on the side. 

We nibbled our way slowly through it. It was excellent, the ice cream was a real winner for me. 

The pop-up is around for a year, and as it is still in its first month you have a while to get to it. I honestly cant wait to go back and it really deserves all the praise that its received so far. The dishes will be evolving as the year goes on so even more of a reason to go back again and again. 

One of the best meals I had in a long time and incredible value for money, all of the above plus 4 cocktails only came to about £40 each. Even if you get there and there is a massive queue I implore you to get on the waitlist and grab a seat at the downstairs bar for as long as in necessary because its so worth the wait! 

Square Meal

Monday, 2 March 2015

JinJuu, Kingly Court

Korean food is having a moment with different concepts popping up all over the place.

The latest on the scene is Jinjuu, the creation of celebrity Korean chef Judy Joo, the ex-head of the Playboy Club, who started her career in London with Gordon Ramsey and has appeared on a number of TV shows such as the Iron Chef and her own Korean food show.

The idea behind Jinjuu, is a Korean street food and small plates in a cocktail bar setting, which is right up my street! The upstairs focuses more on the nibbley street food whilst downstairs is more of a restaurant setting and you can have larger sharing platters, such as the Korean Fried Chicken. I love going anywhere you essentially have to share food, I just think there is no better way to eat, you get to sample lots of different items and it becomes a talking point as everyone can swap opinions on the dishes, not that I ever really need help with talking points...

I hadn't seen one of my dearest ladies, Ana, in quite some time and we were long over due a big catch up. Both being a huge lovers of asian food, there was only one place which made sense to try and get a table and we were in luck.

I was a touch late and the place was heaving! Pushing my way through the noisy and crowed top bar, I was relieved to find us down stairs (in a much more sedate atmosphere) and Ana nestled in a corner and over-joyed to find it was right in front of the open kitchen.

Simply decorated with exposed brick work I loved the feel of the place, a great atmosphere but not so noisy that we would spend all evening yelling at each other. I would much suspect that the top bar would be like that. Having said that this was at about 8pm on a Friday evening so I would be interested to see what it was like during the week.

After some insane high speed chatter, the waitress interrupted us to pick out some cocktails and suggested we might look at the menu. 

Ana had already forewarned me she wanted to try pretty much everything which is always a good sign!

I can't tell you how much I loved the crockery and utensils, in fact the decor of the place was spot on, it felt more New York than London and just added to the excitement of a new place! 

After a little bit of a wait, our cocktails finally arrived, a classic cosmo for Ana and a minty cucumbery gin affair for myself. 

These were closely followed by the highly anticipated Sae-Woo Pops (crispy prawn balls) with the most incredibly moorish gochujang mayonnaise.

I cant say these lasted long!

We nibbled, sipped and chatted away. I have to say I didn't really notice the fairly substantial gap between our starters due to our gossiping,  until the waitress apologised to us for the delay. It had been rather a while, but she came barely gifts in the form of complimentary dumplings. 

Well, Im hardly one to get cross over a free dumpling! They were the days special, fried dumplings filled with the softest slow cooked pork with a spicy dipping sauce.

These were closely followed by their steamed friends, which were pretty as a picture! 

The vegetarian ones...

and their meaty pork and beef counterparts, both with a soy dipping sauce.

Both of us were starving by this point, so there was slight lull in conversation as we munched.

Next to arrive were our more main dishes, the steak tartare...

which was heaven, spiked with pieces of pear and pine nuts, topped off with a quails yolk to mix in for richness. 

Ana wasn't too keen on this one, which was fantastic news for me and I hoovered the lot!

Finally we added a Bibimbap bowl. A large granite bowl filled with sticky rice, seasonable vegetables  including meaty chunks of shitake mushrooms, strips of marinated sliced beef and topped off with a fried egg. 

It came sizzling to our table where the waitress poured over the gochujang sauce and then preceded to mixed the whole lot together

Making sure the sauce and egg yolked covered everything.

Such a tasty bowl to pick at! The bowl is so hot that but the time you get to the bottom of the bowl the rice is lovely and crispy and a delight to peel off the bottom! Though I will confess it was my least favourite of our line up, it just lacked the depth of flavour our other dishes provided. 

We sat and chatted long over our 2 hour allotted time slot yet we weren't disturbed. It was the best kind of catch up meal. 

If you were in a rush I probably wouldn't suggest it as the service isn't the most speedy Ive ever known, but for us it was perfect. The only annoyance came at the end when we repeatedly had to ask to pay for our bill, but it hardly cast a dark cloud over the evening.

People were still arriving downstairs at about 10.30 and when we eventually made it up stairs closer to 11 it was no less busy than when I arrived with people still tucking into food. 

They had several large tables which would be ideal for large groups and there is still so much on the menu I wanted to try so I am very much looking forward to a return visit! 

Hit them up here Jinjuu to book a spot! 

Square Meal

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Mid-week Wonders - Herb Crusted Roasted Monkfish.

On Monday night I was invited to Siena's new flat. She's just moved into the most divine place in Fulham and it was time I made the epic journey down to see it. She promised me a bed for the night to soften the blow of venturing so far South West. After numerous emails back and forth discussing supper ideas we finally settled on going to her new fish mongers and seeing what he had to offer and then we would take it from there. 

Siena hosts dinner parties like no other. She is the queen of them! (I mean, I have yet to be invited to one but I'm not holding it against her, much) I'm always getting emails from her asking for new ideas or dishes and so this evening was no different for something easy she could whip up on a weeknight. 

After finally getting off the tube we headed to the fish mongers to see what he had to offer. He had all but packed up and was waiting to close but was happy to help up. He had some pollock and monkfish, immediately a recipe came to mind and we opted for the monkfish. 2 hearty fillets for £10, an end of the day bargain! 

We nipped to Sainsbury's to grab the last bits we needed. I can't remember exactly where I first saw this recipe but I have a sneaking suspicion it is a Nigella creation. Either way its super easy, can be prepared ahead of time and then whacked in the oven when it's time to eat. 

For 2 people you will need: 

2 monkfish fillets (around 150-200g each)
Fresh rosemary 
1 Lemon
4 slices of Parma ham 

We paired the fish with roasted baby new potatoes and a salad but really you could do any kind of side. Broccoli, mash, sweet potato, quinoa.... whatever takes your fancy really!

After a quick tour of the flat we headed to the kitchen to rustle up dinner. Siena popped a bottle of prosecco and I got to work.

Start by heating your oven to 220 degrees and if your having roast potatoes, pop them in the oven now as they take the longest.

Next pick your rosemary, say about 2 sprigs and chop it up finely and then grate the zest of one lemon over the top. Mix it together and et voila you have your crust!

Now grab your fish. The one thing with monkfish is that it comes with a membrane over the top of it that needs to be removed. If you don't, when it cooks it's as tough as anything! You cant really see it but it looks speckled grey. Its a bit annoying to take off but a necessity. Our fillets had been prepared by the monger and you can usually get them to do it for you.

Roll your fillets in the lemon rosemary combo, it should just stick straight to the damp fish.

Wrap the parma ham round the crusty fillets... 

and your done! 
You don't need to salt these guys as the parma ham is salty enough, plus lemon works as a flavour enhancer so essentially, the ingredients have seasoned themselves. 

Cut them in half and pop them in a roasting tin. Drizzle with a little olive oil and your set.

Now these bad boys only need 15 mins in a hot oven (220 degrees) so its time to knock up that quick salad.

Baby gem, cherry tomatoes, asparagus and mozzarella, drizzled over with a basil infused olive oil and balsamic. Done in a flash!

By the time this was knocked up and we had laid the table, the fish and potatoes were ready. 

From start to finish, including chatting time and waiting for the oven to heat up, this took us an hour.  

It really couldn't be simpler and perfect for a dinner party. You could prep all the fish the night before, and then when the evening comes around you don't have to spend any time in the kitchen and therefore more time with your guests.

We laid it out on a platter here because I love a good family style service, it means that everyone can help themselves to as little or as much as they want. Plus on this plate, it looked kinda great.

So there you have it, a simple and tasty recipe but something thats also bound to impress your guests! I think people are a bit scared of cooking fish as it is so easy to get wrong but this little recipe is almost fool proof as long as you have a timer!!