Thursday, 24 April 2008

A Chance To Eat Out (A Few Times)

Working the hours I do, I don't get much chance to eat out in Barcelona. So I sure made up for it while I was back in London for two weeks of holiday from work. First in line was an old favourite within walking distance of home, Anatolia Ocakbasi, in Mare Street, Hackney. For those unfamiliar with Turkish restaurant classifications, an ocakbaşı is a grill house - informal, noisy, high throughput and with much of the food cooked over burning coals in an open kitchen area surrounded by the customers. Anatolia may not be the best Turkish restaurant in Hackney - that accolade probably goes to 19 Numara Bos Cirrik - but it's almost certainly the best value for money when you have a big appetite to satisfy.

My first fine dining experience was dinner at Bacchus, which I wrote about recently. Nuno Mendes was in great form, introducing many new dishes to his tasting menu and always ready to talk food and life.

A get-together for siblings, uncles, aunts and cousinsSunday was the day to drive out of town for a major family get-together lunch at The White Hart in Wood Street village, Surrey. Recently refurbished and under new ownership, word was that the quality of food at The White Hart had improved dramatically. So this pub, within walking distance of my aunt and uncle's house, seemed the ideal meeting place. Both the food and service were excellent, which in my experience is unusual for southern pub grub, where if the food is good the service is usually awful. Mostly rustic dishes (with strong Jamie Oliveresque influence) but with some surprisingly modern presentation as well. Everyone left feeling extremely well fed and watered.

Next on the agenda was dinner at The Providores with Roshani of Living to Eat - a meal that nearly didn't happen due to my dad's inability to remember his own mobile phone number when confirming logistics with my guest and fellow food blogger. Still, we all made it in the end and had an excellent meal.

Roshani, mum and me (dad taking the photo)
Starters included smokey chicken, coconut and tamarind laksa with duck & foie gras wonton, fried quails egg, green tea noodles, crispy shallots & coriander; and tandoori-spiced squab on ginger ale braised cabbage with morel jus & banana raita. Wow, just typing this in making me hungry again. Our mains were pan-roast monkfish on jasmin basmati rice with spicy sugar cane & eggplant broth, crab claw, coriander, pickled ginger & crispy garlic; roast Gressingham duck breast on celeriac and almond skordalia with buttered spinach, yuzu confit carrots and lime & coriander paste; and roast New Zealand venison rack on tamarind baby potatoes and barbe de frate with quinoa, nora chilli & tomato relish and crispy curry leaves. Now that's what I call global cooking!

My next dinner companion was someone who was first introduced to my older brother Joel before either of them was born. Can you work that one out? I hadn't seen Adrianna for many years, so meeting her again for a meal at Ottolenghi in Upper Street Islington with our respective mothers was a real pleasure. And I can't resist a restaurateur who not only has an attractive website but also publishes his own blog.

Adrianna and me enjoying a great mealOttolenghi describes its cuisine as "inventive but honest", a description that I think fits the bill perfectly. Their tapas-style cooking has quite an eclectic blend of Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and a few Asian influences, but with the focus on big, bold flavours. The food was every bit as good as I expected and better. Go try it.

Have you figured the puzzle yet? Yes, our mums were also both present the first time Joel and Adrianna met. They attended the same Hackney ante-natal class, exactly a quarter of a century ago.

My final dining excursion was to my local Bangladeshi restaurant Joy, in Broadway Market - the site of one my first kitchen work experiences. An enjoyable meal as always, although Jafoor has never managed to recruit a chef who can cook as well as he can himself. And he still needs to listen to his regulars, who are always telling him to modernise his cuisine. But a good curry all the same - and that's not something too easy to find back in Barcelona.

So - six meals out in two weeks. Not bad going. Now it's back to cooking for other people.


Vanessa said...

So good to see you had a nice visit with your family and with Ros. I must apologize that we totally forgot about meeting up with Joel while we were in Paris...that city literally swept us off our feet and we loved it. Please give Joel our apologies.

Maybe we can all meet up next year in Spain...we still want you all to hop over the pond our way.

Joel said...

No problem, Vanessa. It was the same for us as well. As soon as you get into Paris you are literally swept away, as you say. I hope you enjoyed it as much as we did, although a return visit when the weather is better is definitely on the cards. Versailles was a wash out, but we had a great day at Pere Lachaise. And some fantastic food!

Looking forward to visiting Wisconsin one day and paying a trip to Lake Monona. said...

Impressive! You covered alot of ground.

I do love Ottolenghi, I sneak up occasionally at lunch time for a treat. Might today :-)


Jeanne said...

That's pretty good going! I bet the London restaurant industry wishes you came to visit more often ;-) Nice to see a pic of Ros at last too. And re. Ottolenghi - I've never been , but in the last 2 weeks I've made 2 of his recipes (cranberry & pear upside down cake, and a salad of roasted & grilled veg and haloumi) and I am now officially in love. The man is a genius!

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