Monday, 16 March 2015

Morty & Bob's - Café Murano - Glenmorangie Unseen Bar

Wednesday 24th February - The term popup has been stretched pretty thin in London of late. We've currently got Bone Daddies' Shackfuyu popping up for a year in Soho, whilst the worst offender is still the Jamie Oliver "Popup Diner" eyesore near Piccadilly Circus which is halfway through its temporary three year stint. Ridiculous.

Hats (and Tuns) off then to Morty & Bob's (aka Charlie and Jesse) who are opting for a more conservative 11 day stay in The Hat and Tun pub in Clerkenwell, doing their bit to make Grilled Cheese Sandwiches more than a student hangover snack.

You may already have clocked them on Maltby Street, at Netil Market, or at Night Tales, but you can never have too many Morty & Bob's cheese toasties.  I pushed that statement to the limit on Wednesday, working through tasters of the menu at a preview event.  The popup itself is running from 18th March-27th March, so you can plan ahead.

The purists amongst you might want to go for the Straight Up (£5) with their special three-cheese blend, M&B cheese sauce and mixed onions, but you'd be a fool to miss out on The Hock (£7) - Grilled cheese with smoked ham hock, M&B relish and English Mustard. Delicious. Gourmet? Why not.  Portions are hearty with pickles and fresh salad slaw on the side - you won't leave hungry.  But to make absolutely certain, you should probably chuck some M&B Cheese Tots in there for good measure, and perhaps a Bloody Mary or two. Sorted.

If you can't make it to the popup, you can find them every Saturday from 11am-5pm at the wonderful Netil Market.  Read more here.


Saturday 28th February - Now for a quick look at Angela Hartnett's popular Northern Italian restaurant, Café Murano. I dropped in with Dad The List for an indulgent Saturday lunch - a well timed visit as Angela has just announced that a second Café Murano will be opening soon in Covent Garden.  Read more on Hot Dinners.

We started off with the delightful house bread and some serious Planeta D.O.P. Val di Mazara Extra Virgin Olive Oil (available to buy on site).  If the meal got stuck on a loop right there and then, there wouldn't be many complaints.  We washed this down with, well more olive oil, but also a fine Cafe Murano Spritz and a reasonably priced Analcolico 33 mocktail (raspberry, apple & lime combo).

Booze is no afterthought here.  There's a concise but appealing cocktail list, fine wines, and a strong selection of vermouths, bitters and amaro including the outstanding Vergano Chinato Americano which I only recently discovered at Original Sin.  On top of that, there's an intriguing Italian beer list, including Fellini-inspired brews from Birra Amarcord, and larger 75cl sharing bottles from Baladin.

The daunting list of Cicheti, Antipasti, Primi and Secondi plates lay before us.  We opted (sensibly) for a selection from the first three, including a large Primi pasta portion each, leaving just enough room for a dessert or two.

- Fritto Misto (Calamari, Whitebait, Seabass)
- Pasta Fritta with Culatello
- Halibut Crudo, Blood Orange, Hazelnuts
- Pickled Sardines, Golden Raisins, Sourdough
- Sausage Ragu, Radicchio, Hazelnuts, Tagliatelle (x2)

The first four all arrived at a similar time, allowing the ceviche-style Halibut & Blood Orange to cut through the deep fried goodies.  I seem to be eating Blood Oranges and Hazelnuts on a daily basis at the moment (John Doe do an excellent salad), and I couldn't be happier.  The former are only in season for a very short time, so make the most of them!

After a short pause, the much lauded Sausage Ragu arrived. More hazelnuts! Still not complaining. They raise the (already magnificent) dish to another level.  Order the large portion - you'll mourn the loss of every mouthful.

Pasta Fritta, Culatello

Halibut Crudo, Blood Orange, Hazelnuts

Sausage Ragu, Radicchio & Hazelnuts, Tagliatelle

To finish:

- Pistachio Meringue, Cherries, Prunes, Apricots
- Apple Torta, Marsala Ice Cream

When I'm dining with Dad The List, desserts usually get rated on how they compare to Mum The List's examples of the genre.  Crumbles never fare well.  In this case, the Meringue was subject to scrutiny as it was harder to deconstruct than we are used to.  Once we got over that though, DTL proclaimed it a success.  My seemingly simple Apple Torta was also a winner, perfectly paired with unusual but joyous Marsala Wine Ice Cream.  The Tart is in your court, Mum.

Pistachio Meringue, Cherries, Prunes, Apricots

Apple Torta, Marsala Ice Cream

A superb lunch, helped on its way by charming staff, well-chosen booze and some of the finest Olive Oil I have ever mopped up.  Bring on Cafe Murano Covent Garden.

Cafe Murano on Urbanspoon

Square Meal


Tuesday 17th March - To finish, I must briefly mention The Glenmorangie Unseen Bar popup which is only around (16 Batemen Street in Soho) until March 21st!

The popup is in town to highlight the unseen efforts that go in to creating their fine range of whiskies. Once you've made your way past the playful "Unseen" window installation, you'll arrive at the cocktail bar where Glenmorangie twists on classics are the way to go.  

The Tain-Fashioned (their take on an Old Fashioned) and Blood Related (inspired by Blood & Sand, Rob Roy, Bobby Burns) make great use of Glenmorangie Lasanta and Quinta Ruban expressions, with some clever touches that go the extra mile.  Top bartenders are on hand to talk you through the drinks.

After a cocktail or two, make your way through to the Vault at the back - a quiet, intimate room ideal for working your way through The Glenmorangie range, either dram by dram, in a tasting flight, or paired with well chosen food.  We sampled the impressive Lasanta and Nectar D'Or 12yo expressions, before moving on to their 25yo paired with Devonshire Blue Cheese and Signet paired with bespoke William Curley chocolates. We were expertly guided through our tasting by informative bartenders who knew when to sit down for a chat and when to step back to let the whisky speak for itself.

As I said, it's only open until March 21st, so cancel your plans and head over to Bateman Street in Soho!

More photos from The Glenmorangie Unseen Bar : Tumblr Set 1 / Tumblr Set 2 / Facebook

Friday, 13 March 2015

Blacklock - The Shed - The London Pignic

It's my birthday today (hooray!), so I think I can get away with a writing-light, photo-heavy post, don't you? I had two stonking meals in London last week that will still be in my mind in a year's time.

I'll start with Soho's buzziest new joint, but you can skip ahead for some farm-to-table dining at The Shed by clicking here.

And if you are just here to read about an upcoming popup involving TINY PIGS then click here.


Wednesday 4th March - First up though is Blacklock on Great Windmill Street, your one-stop shop for chops, cheesecake and cocktails on Great Windmill Street.  Despite only opening a couple of weeks ago, the queues are already forming up the stairs and down the street for this buzzy basement brothel hangout from Hawksmoor alumni.  

They aren't taking reservations at the moment, but this should be changing fairly soon.  The wait in the bar flies by when there is wine on tap and £5 cocktails, including a cracking Aperol Negroni and "Grandma's Spiked Lemonade".  You can even get yourself a £45 bottled cocktail for the table if you know you are in for the long haul.  A short but interesting beer list struggles to compete on prices.

You can order bits and bobs from the concise menu, but there's only really one option. ALL IN.

Pre-chop bites followed by Beef, Pork & Lamb chops piled on charcoal-grilled flat bread to share with a choice of side for £20 per person.  No brainer.

When a large group goes for this, the chop pile is truly a sight to behold.  The only slight issue is that you will find it difficult to choose one from a mouth-watering selection of sides:

- 10 hour ash roasted sweet potato
- Barbequed baby gems
- Charred courgettes, chicory and stilton
- Heritage carrots and meat radish
- Kale and parmesan

Anyway, I'm getting ahead of myself.  We started with the Cheese & Pickle and Filthy Ham pre-chop bites which shouldn't be overlooked.  These seemingly measly starters are in fact little mouthfuls of joy, packed with flavour.

Filthy Ham

Cheese & Pickle

They are soon a distant memory when the plate of chops piled on top of deliciously soggy flatbread arrives, surrounded by sides.  We opt in the end for the charred courgettes, chicory and stilton and 10 hour ash roasted sweet potato - both outrageoulsy good.  The glorious chops, cooked over charcoal, do not disappoint.  My partner in crime for the evening is usually defeated by her over-ordering and leaves the rest to me, but this was sadly not the case at Blacklock as she happily hoovered up her half of the table, save for a sliver of bread which I gratefully demolished.  

All The Chops.

All The Chops.

Charred Courgettes, Chicory & Stilton

10 Hour Ash Roasted Sweet Potato

All In.

No more chops

And to finish, if you have any space, the witty staff bring round a tub of their baked New York cheesecake with a hint of white chocolate, with a "say when" approach to portion sizes.  A teacup of rhubarb coulis is thrown in for good measure.  At £4 for a monstrous portion, you won't leave feeling short changed.

How much do you want?

White Chocolate & Vanilla Baked Cheesecake with Rhubarb Coulis

As long as you know what you are in for, Blacklock is an absolute triumph.  It could easily be a stressful experience, but the staff handle everything in style and keep everyone happy with a good dose of humour.  Go hungry and thirsty with a group of friends, and don't be in a rush.

If you like the like the look of Blacklock, you might also enjoy Soho's Smoking Goat

Blacklock on Urbanspoon

Square Meal

Saturday 7th March - I wrote about The Shed a loooooong time ago, but I thought I'd just post a few photos from a wonderful lunch there last week.  Any thoughts that The Shed might suffer as a result of opening their second restaurant Rabbit (also wonderful) were quickly dispelled as the outstanding small plates started to build up.

As you may know, both restaurants are run by two Gladwin brothers, one of whom was in the kitchen on our visit.  The majority of the food and wine is sourced from their Nutbourne farm (where a third brother earns a living), and the drinks menu shows off the best of British with the likes of Chase, Sipsmith, Sacred and Compass Box heavily featured.  The bar is worth visiting just for the booze.

It's an eye-catching little space, full of rustic charm, with mirrors at either end that cleverly extend the room. They still insist on a variety of uncomfortable chairs which could do with a rethink, but the food provides ample distraction, as does the occasional live music.  The staff do a very fine job, displaying solid knowledge of the menu, and being generally cheerful throughout a busy lunch period in a confined space.

We happily ate all of this:

- the shed malt star sourdough bread 2.0
- white bean hummus, cinnamon dukkah, heritage carrots 7.5
- stout smoked mackerel, pumpkin, kale, cranberry, linseeds 7.5
- rainbow beetroot salad, nutbourne feta, sunflower seeds, star anise 8.0
salsify, pear, walnut, endive, chanterelles 8.0
carrot, potato noodles, sesame seeds, coriander 7.5
venison cigars, shed mustard, tarragon 8.0
- spiced salt beef, barley, preserved lemon, shallot, lovage 9.50
pan fried goat’s cheese, hazelnut, honey, thyme 6.5
spring greens, field mushrooms, shallots, linseeds, sherry 7.0
nutbourne venison, smoked potato, artichoke, three cornered garlic 11.0
- cheese plate - tornegus, montgomery, mayfield swiss, finn 4.50
the shed magnum vienetta parfait 6.0
honeycomb crunchy, chocolate, mascarpone, tarragon sugar 6.0

The Shed Malt Star Sourdough Bread

White Bean Hummus, Cinnamon Dukkah, Heritage Carrots

Rainbow Beetroot Salad, Nutbourne Feta, Sunflower Seeds, Star Anise

Pan Fried Goat's Cheese, Hazelnut, Honey, Thyme

Carrot, Potato Noodles, Sesame Seeds, Coriander

Spring Greens, Field Mushrooms, Shallots, Linseeds, Sherry

Spiced Salt Beef, Barley, Preserved Lemon, Shallots, Lovage

Venison Cigars, Shed Mustard, Tarragon

Nutbourne Venison, Smoked Potato, Artichoke, Three Cornered Garlic

Honeycomb Crunchy, Chocolate, Mascarpone, Tarragon Sugar

Oustanding from start to finish - The Shed is another one to go for in a group to make the most of sharing a variety of small plates.

If you like the look of The Shed, you might also enjoy reading about Rabbit, their new restaurant.

Shed on Urbanspoon

Square Meal

I don't often do previews, but when TINY PIGS are involved, one must make an exception:

Yelp, Petpiggies and The Proud Archivist presents The London Pop-Up Pignic! 

When: May 21 - 22, Thursday and Friday, 6 to 10pm 
            May 23 - 25, Saturday, Sunday and Bank Holiday Monday, 2 to 6pm

Where: The Proud Archivist, 2-10 Hertford Road, London N1 5SH.  

What: This will not just be a sit-down experience but a multi-room, piggy educational evening. Yelp will be working with both animal charities and animal welfare groups to educate about Micro Pigs and Micro Pig Ownership. They want to make it clear that a potential journey towards pet pig ownership must start with realistic size expectations. This is where Yelp, Petpiggies and The Proud Archivist will work to educate the public with The Pignic in the hope that fewer pigs will end up being abandoned. 

Price: £30 per ticket, which will include the full evening, including food, a piggy themed cocktail, pig themed education and activities, and, above all, time with the most adorable litter of pigs you've ever seen. Money from every ticket will also go to their charity partner, Farms not Factories.

Learn more about the #LondonPignic here.  

Just a tiny pig.