Monday, 29 August 2011

Review: The Anglers, Walton-on-Thames, Surrey

One issue I have found with Walton is that there is no restaurant in the town centre that has really grabbed my attention.  It has the usual chains in any new development; Giraffe, Pizza Express, Carluccio's but a limited selection of independents.  In addition I'm afraid that the town centre pubs are also typical of their kind up and down the country.

Luckily, less than half a mile from the town centre there are two great pubs literally next door to each other on the river towpath.  The Swan is a Young's pub with a fantastic beer garden and what looks like a good BBQ menu.  For this reason it is generally packed on a nice day.  The Anglers is a slightly different proposition being much more food-oriented and a definite destination for a nice meal.

Its a real shame but I don't think we've made it up to the riverfront this summer until earlier this week.  Its a good two mile walk away but that shouldn't have dissuaded us.  I think we have just been distracted by all the possibilities of finally owning a car!

With this in mind and remembering a couple of nice meals enjoyed in the past we waited for a brief lapse in the bank holiday showers and sauntered along the Thames from Cowey Sale to the The Anglers - along a section of the river that we have enjoyed walking along before.  For the history fans out there this is where Julius Caesar is said to have crossed the Thames during the initial Roman invasion of these isles.

The Anglers itself definitely looks like a riverside building, or perhaps something one would expect to find nestling beside a sleepy lake somewhere in the Deep South.  The interior downstairs is from the school of gastropub 101 but the upstairs room must be one of the great places to view the Thames - with rowers from the local clubs constantly zipping back and forth and the lucky owners of small boats enjoying the river.  Outside is what must be an exclusive terrace - exclusive in the respect that it is always full by the time I get there.

The Anglers - Walton-on-Thames

I believe The Anglers may have new menu - its certainly changed and upped its game since the last time we were here.  There were also 3 real ales on tap including an excellent Sharp's Own of which I sampled a couple as well as a selection of Lock Fyne Oysters that went down well with the provided shallot vinegar (£2 an oyster)

The Anglers menu

Sharp's Original

Bread selection at the Anglers

Loch Fyne oysters

My main course was the day's market special; a well-presented Bacon-wrapped Sea-Trout with Parsley Pesto, new potatoes and Samphire.  The Sea-trout was moist and flaked nicely and was set-off well by the piquant pesto.  I have to admit to loving Samphire when its paired with a nicely cooked piece of fish and this didn't disappoint.  

Sea-Trout from The Anglers.

Also tried by me was the pan-roasted chicken with potatoes, broad beans, chorizo crisps and tarragon cream.  Normally chorizo will dominate any dish but here it was tempered well by the tarragon cream laced with peppercorns to give a well-balanced flavour.  A good dish.

Pan-roasted chicken from The Anglers.

Spiced-pork chipolatas, fried potatoes, corn-on-the-cob and tomato and apple chutney did exactly what it said on the tin.  These may not be exciting flavours but it was a well-executed plate - just one that I would not order myself given the other options.

Spicy Pork Chipolatas at The Anglers

I do like the portion sizing for most of the dishes here which should allow most people to comfortably try 3 courses.  Given it was lunch we did skip starters but these look equally good.  There are more substantial options though including that tried by one member of our party.  Scotch eggs were substantial with a rich orangey yolk but the Deep Fried Potatoes would have fed an army.

Scoth Egg at The Anglers.
Deep-Fried potatoes at The Anglers

Desserts were very good.  First up was a deconstructed Sipsmith Gin-and-Tonic trifle; the custard was homemade and the gin-and-tonic jelly tasted potent.  The only thing we thought was odd is that of course the sponge wasn't soaked in booze like it normally is - all in all though it was a thought-provoking dessert well worth the purchase.  Well done to The Anglers on this one.

Sipsmith Gin-and-Tonic trifle.

The other dessert sampled by the table was an Eton Mess with Chocolate syrup.  I'm loathe to write too much about this as I know just how easy these are to make - however that does not take away from the interesting presentation and the quality of the dish.  Recommended.

Eton Mess at The Anglers

On balance I'd say that The Anglers is the best meal out I've had in the immediate area.  Putting this in context I mean that this is a very good example of a gastropub which is a definite local destination - however would I recommend someone travel for an hour across London to go to it?  Not quite - there are  other good examples of the kind in most affluent neighbourhoods and villages both in and outside the Capital.  This should in no way take-away from my view that The Anglers offers a quality meal out in a fantastic location - there should be only one choice if you find yourself in Walton-on-Thames or are enjoying the Thames Path walk from Hampton Court.  If you live locally it is an absolute no-brainer.  

A 2-course lunch for 2 people with drinks and service would be around the £50 mark.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Review: Brazil Flavour at Whitecross Street Market EC1

In many ways I wish I worked in our City office more despite the nightmare commute.  Shoreditch is right around the corner with its eclectic collection of bars and nightlife and the great Vietnamese places on Kingsland Road are not much further.

One of the main rewards of schlepping through the hordes of people is the opportunity to peruse the delights of Whitecross Street Market.   This is the kind of food market that anyone would want 100 yards from your office and given its location between Moorgate, Old Street and Barbican it can get rammed by 1pm with queues of around 20 minutes for the popular Burrito stall Luardos.

With that in mind you can imagine my horror at  having a 30 minute lunch window imposed by inconsiderate organisers of conference calls. I was compelled to seek out a stall that had little to no queue - not normally a good sign but in this case I will put it down to the inability of most people to pronounce what was being sold.

Brazil Flavour do sell sandwiches but I was there for the Feijoada - the national dish of Brazil.  Feijoada is a stew of black beans, and smoked meat - often served with rice and toasted cassava flour (farofa).  This is a culinary cousin of a cassoulet - cooked low and slow over several hours so the meat falls apart and the flavours intermingle into rich, smoky and porky comfort food.  

I can understand why the Portuguese-speaking world roll this out for weekend family lunches.  This example included Chorizo as its primary meat component however I think there may have been some pork hiding in there as well.

I've never eaten this in Brazil or Portugal but have sampled what I think is a good one at Canela in Covent Garden.  This compares very well and for £4.50 is an absolute bargain - albeit one I shouldn't have eaten on a steaming-hot day before a 2 hour meeting!

Feijoada from Brazil Flavour

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Review: Cyprus Mangal, Pimlico

I've worked in Pimlico for nearly 6 years and have seen a big change in the area - most likely driven by the two successful theatre shows in the area:  Wicked and Bill Elliot.  

Over time there have been a number of new restaurants and cafes open to cater towards the pre-theatre crowd.  Pimlico Fresh replaced an old greasy spoon, The Queens Arms provides the local gastropub fare and the fantastic Cask Pub and Kitchen replacing the old Pimlico Tram with one of the best beer selections in London.

For at least the first 3 years I worked in the area I consistently walked past Cyprus Mangal due to the fact that from the outside it looks like a bog-standard kebab shop with nothing to distinguish it from any other example on the average high-street.  One day I decided to step through the front door to see the fantastic grill and smell the glorious scent of the lamb kofte.  Its such a shame I didn't discover this place earlier.

Cyprus Mangal grill
Putting my cards on the table - this is the only Mangal restaurant i've ever frequented.  I'd love to go to the much loved FM Mangal in Camberwell but never really find myself in that part of town.  Anyway - here is the Karasic kebab in all its glory.

The Lamb Kofte here is particularly good - very highly spiced and flavoursome to the point where my regular dining companion is convinced there must be some pork in there somewhere. In all honesty the lamb and chicken shish can vary depending on each visit but most of the time it is grilled to near perfection.  This is the spicy, meaty hit that I really crave especially if I've been subsisting on vegetables for a few days - mopped up with the delicious side dishes.

Karasic Kebab

Accompaniments are a nice bowl of Turkish bread, rice, some garlic and chilli sauces and a salad of red cabbage, spiced-cucumber and tomato and carrot.  They all hit the spot - especially the chilli that I normally scoff in one bite to set the tone for the meat-fest to follow.

I've subsequently learned that this Mangal (which i understand means 'Grill' in Turkish), is well-known to London's hordes of Black Cab drivers.  Experience has told me that cabbies know their way around London's best cheap eats and I have to concur that this offers the best £10 meal in the area.  I've had most things on the menu but please, please order the Karasic kebab or mixed grill from the menu which includes lamb kofte, lamb shish and chicken shish.  I also really like their lamb chops.  If you're really hungry order the Cyprus Mangal speciality selection which is an even bigger mixed grill however this is almost certainly excessive for lunch!

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Review: Chula, Tachbrook Street Market, Pimlico

Tachbrook Street Market used to be a relatively poor lunch destination in a relatively poor area of town for food. Something miraculous has happened in 2011 though as Pimlico has seemingly embraced the street food revolution.  Initially the lineup was very changeable - I saw The Dogfather there once who is a darling of the food blogging scene but alas seems to have written Pimlico off for some reason (come back!).  There are a couple of Jerk Chicken places who never have any Jerk Chicken ready.

On the other hand there is a great Thai stall, a Falafel stall that does a roaring trade, an outpost of Gastronomica the local deli and a number of other stalls that seem to rotate around but provide a great meal for around a fiver.  No wonder that the local Subway is perpetually handing out vouchers at the entrance to the market.

Unfortunately I've just paid £5 for a rubbish lamb shish kebab from Tachbrook Street Market.  I really should have gone to Cyprus Mangal round the corner for a proper one.  Alternatively I should have done what I did yesterday and pay almost the same amount of money for an Indian Burrito from Chula (excuse the virtual dissection below but I had a tie on and didn't want to destroy it!)

Chula Lamb Burrito
Chula got a shout-out in The Guardian this week and I can already see that Vinod might be on to something with his Indian Burritos.  In many ways this is the culinary cousin to what is on offer at Moolis in Soho - however this definitely ticks all the Burrito boxes; saucy meat, beans, rice, salad in a tortilla wrap but with a twist from the sub-continent.

On arrival you have a choice between meat or vegetarian options.  When I went there was Chicken, Lamb or Paneer.

As a quick bite it hits all the right notes - we already know that curry and rice is a hit combo so the addition of  beans, carrot and coriander provide a great lift.  The Indian Burrito is an unqualified success as Street Food. These are the flavours that make me miss living in Tooting so if you're in the Pimlico or Victoria area be sure to check it out.  Here's Vinod striking a pose!

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Recipe: Corn Bread

I love Corn Bread - its that almost sweet, almost savoury delicious accompaniment that complements other comfort food so well.  Its definitely Soul Food!

Corn Bread isn't part of of the British gastronomic portfolio - its routes lie in the Americas where the Native Americans used Maize as their staple crop before introducing it to European colonists when their unsuitable crops failed.  

Unlike most bread its basically a semi-savoury cake - and can be put together very quickly to provide some hearty stodge for guests - usually involved in mopping up gravy or sauces or spread thickly with butter.  Here it is accompanying Helen Graves fantastic Pork Cheek Tacos

 I use a recipe from Cajun:  A Culinary Tour of Louisiana by Judith Bluysen which I think might be out of print.  If you can get hold of a copy of this book there are some fantastic recipes in it - the author has a Cajun/Creole restaurant in Paris.  I don't think this recipe is that authentic (note the addition of plain flour) but it certainly hits the spot. 

Recipe for Corn Bread:

Dry Stuff

235ml of Polenta
235ml of Plain Flour
4 tablespoons of Caster Sugar
1.5 tbsp of Baking Power
1 tsp Salt
1 tbsp Herbes de Provence
half tsp ground sage

Wet Stuff

235ml milk
2 eggs beaten

Other stuff
3.5 tbsp melted butter.

  1. Preheat oven to 220
  2. Mix dry stuff in one bowl.
  3. Mix wet stuff in another
  4. Pour the melted butter in a Loaf Tin ensuring its fully coated (excess butter goes in with the milk and eggs)
  5. Mix the the dry stuff with the wet stuff.  Don't be too anal - it can still be quite a little lumpy.
  6. Pour the combined mixture into the loaf tin and bake in the oven for 11 minutes.
This doesn't last very long in my house.  It tends to get eaten on consecutive nights as a side-dish - although next time i'm going to try spreading it with Jam or Honey for breakfast.  Nom.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Review: The Black Swan at Ockham, Surrey and Painshill Park

The Black Swan at Ockham
After a boozy evening of what I can only describe as a bar/restaurant crawl along Maiden Lane in Covent Garden it was clear that my saturday-morning hangover was potent yet manageable.  I couldn't really face an outing taking me back into the hordes of summer tourists in London but luckily the A3 is only a mile away and the Surrey Countryside outside the M25 only a 20 minute drive.

At around 12:30pm we pulled off the A3 and down a little country lane to Ockham Common (philosophy fans - this is the birthplace of William of Ockham, the proponent of Occam's Razor).

Ockham common itself used to be the site of a WW2 airfield and despite the noise of the nearby A3 it feels very quaint and rural.  It would appear that the new Spielberg film War Horse filmed its battle scenes here but that isn't the only link to the cinema.

The interior of the Black Swan was the pub in An American Werewolf in London.  Don't go there now expecting them to have kept the interior faithful as it has had a full-on gastropub makeover.  Even the bikers that periodically turned up looked confused so I can only assume this is a recent thing!

A really good sign was the amount of cars continually pouring into the carpark as we drove up.  Most of them were serious Chelsea Tractors which in my humble experience is normally a sign of good food.  After squeezing my Peugeot 206 between two behemoths we chose to sit inside to get out of the midday sun.  Many people were enjoying the fantastic garden and decking area and I began to get serious food envy from the BBQ pork sandwiches that were being delivered outside.  A good sign of quality inside as well - 4 real ales including the wonderful locally brewed Shere Drop

The Meadow
Food blogger fail #1. Never order fish and chips in a pub you intend to review and expect to write anything interesting about it - oops. On the other hand the fish was fresh, and the batter nice and crispy (with a touch of ale added I think). Tartare sauce was coarse and chunky and both this and the terrific mushy peas had a homemade vibe. The menu here was actually pretty extensive with what looked like good example of various terrines (Rabbit, Smoked Trout and Prawn etc..)

Better still was an absolutely fantastic example of Pear Tarte-Tatin with Rhubarb Ice-cream, advertised with a 15 minute wait it was well worth delaying arriving at our next destination.  Fantastic caramelised pears were topped with what I think was pear-peel fried in butter which was an almost savoury counterpoint to the rest of the dish.  It tasted of the countryside and I could eat it once a week for the rest of my life - it was that good.

Pear Tarte-Tatin with Rhubarb Ice-cream

Just down the road in Cobham is Painshill Park - apparently one of the finest 18th Century Landscape Parks in the country.  In a decrepit state in 1980 it was purchased by the Borough Council and a charity setup to see to its renovation and return to grandeur.  For £6 or so per adult it was lovely way to walk off a heavy lunch!

Entrance Bridge over the River Mole to Painshill Park

The Crystal Grotto

The outside of the Grotto

A Grey Heron

Pictures of Lillies