Tuesday, 29 January 2013

The Diner Soho: Superbowl Burger Excess

The Diner kindly invited several burger enthusiasts for a tasting of a new monster burger they are rolling out for their Superbowl party. Now although they are sold out for that evening (see bottom of this post), for those that aren't fans of 'football', but are fans of burgers as big as your head, this beast will be rolled out for the week following the event, 4 - 10 February.

Its called the Stiff-arm burger (see this for explanation) and is one of those plates that actually get you a little worried when its brought to the table. That little flutter of "fuck, am I actually going to finish that?! How do i even start it?!" while people turn to stare from other tables. You'd be right to be worried. The Stiff-arm contains a 5oz beef patty, an 8oz Jucy Lucy (we'll come to that), jalapeno slaw and 'football' sauce all in cased in a poppy-seed Rinkoff bun. So that's 13oz of meat give or take. Its a fearsome plate of food.

The Stiff-Arm

Monday, 28 January 2013

A Little Slice of History: Ben Spalding @ John Salt

A lost post of 2012, a wonderful evening at John Salt with Ben Spalding at the helm. This is probably the most pointless post of the, still young, year. Why post about a restaurant, whose head chef was usually mentioned in the sentence before his employer's, when he there anymore? Well, two reasons. Firstly, for preservation: to carbonite the evening in space. To 'Han Solo' Ben's cooking if you will. The main reason however is to show people a glimpse of what Ben's cooking is about and that like his Stripped Back street food joint proved, a chef doesn't actually have to have some fancy digs to be a great cook. As I write, this Ben is publicising the first of a series of events on EventBrite.

As was announed late last year, Ben and John Salt parted ways pre-maturely, leaving those with bookings a bit miffed I'd imagine (although provided with a very reasonable 50% discount). That being said, Neil Rankin who best known for wearing the gloves at Pitt Cue, has taken up the rather large mantle and by the look of my twitter feed doing a damn fine job. I'll be going along as soon as I can and I'm as excited as I was the first time around. This post wont go into the reasons why Ben left and frankly, I do not care. That's only half true. I don't care why he left, he is talented enough to pop-up somewhere else soon enough. I do care that I have to wait for that. See, beneath all the crowing and beard-stroking about his techniques, passion, skill and obscene work ethic (he produced his own salt for gods sake), Ben does indeed understand why things should be on a plate. Sure there are some air-balls - kiwi scallops and caramel covered bricks were duds. But there are also some wonderful little gems in things as ridiculous to see on a menu as 'rotten mango juice'. His is a talent that could no more be ignored than that guy who insists on trying to continue the conversation inside a lift.

Weekday 9 Course Menu

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Battle of the Giants: Steak Wars

Prost - Senna, Ali - Frazier, Borg - McEnroe, Hendry - O'Sullivan. Since the first person to kick a rock into a cave opening, past an outstretched monkey, man has competed. And competition breeds rivalry. More enthralling than the rivalries and the heights they push themselves to be the best, are the spectators' intense love or hatred for one of the two. Great rivalries: the ones that last, are those where the two competitors are polar opposites. One cool, laid back and usually Nordic. The other an angry, brass young upstart, usually American. You can tell a lot about a person's character by whom they pick out of Ovett or Coe.

Sport and its competitive nature is a metaphor for many things in life. One of those mentioned less often is the rivalry within the food world. There are great examples: the American v Lafayette Coney hotdog war in Detroit, North Carolina v Kansas City for BBQ and the most famous the race-to-the-bottom: McDonalds v Burger King, to make the least edible burger (congratulations McDonalds, you just sneaked it with the McRib)

The reason I live (Note: Not a McRib)

Sunday, 20 January 2013

The Green Man and French Horn: Gem of St. Martins

London has always felt a great amount of envy towards its culinary superpower across the channel. While the French sipped their cafe au lait and nibbled warm buttery croissants; Brits shoveled down ham and cheese toasties washed down with milky tea. We have always been defensive about our traditional cooking, the French usually guffawing at our attempts at bold flavours and delicate desserts. London has been hit by the food revolution and it seems we have more French restaurants than Paris. Typically, the market is skewed towards Café Rouges and Chez Gerards - serving over-cooked, toughened steak frites and pre-made deserts straight from the fridge. The top of the market is well-catered for by the Rouxs, Ducasses and Koffmans. What has been missing is the simple, passionate cooking reminiscent of the brasseries and auberges. Recently there have been some strides in the right direction such as Brasserie Zedel dominating the Piccadilly area. 

The Green Man and the French Horn is nestled down in St Martin in the Lanes, a stones throw from J.Sheekeys and Asia de Cuba with Le Garrick just round the corner. It's somewhere I've had had my eye on ever since reading The Perfect Trough's review. The venue was formerly a pub and it has the usual narrow entrance which makes for a slightly awkward wasted space. The interior isn't too far off some of the auberges of the Loire region, each table is different design and the plates seemingly odds and ends. This is a deliberate design plan, not a lack of money (the owners are behind Terroirs and Soif), however it still has a sense of charm. The ambiance suffered due to it being midday on a wet and cold January, but when full during a dinner service, it would undoubtedly be a cozy bolt-hole busy with chatter.