Dinner at the Northall: Puds

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Though these two desserts didn’t really work together in total harmony, they were both divinely decadent. On the right is a rasperry smear with vanilla ice cream and little blobs of meringue. I am a great believer in the elegance of small plate dining but I would have been very happy for them to sacrifice elegance in favour of giving me a bucket full of this. Of course, I would have been uncomfortable full, but it would have been worth popping the buttons off my waistcoat for it. On the left is a raspberry and dark chocolate mille-feuille, with some unidentified flowers. This, too, was an indulgence and I would have had a bucket full of this also.

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Madsen had the cheese board and as I am not fond of cheese after a meal had some of the grapes. It looked delicious, though I imagine those crackers were a little on the dry side.

All in all it was a splendid dinner – really well thought-out by the chef and executed with flair and elegance. Service was excellent and I would recommend this restaurant to anyone (especially smokers, as they have a charming smoking area flanked by open fires which feels like a room in itself but is in fact a small courtyard).

Great stuff!

Dinner at the Northall: Mains

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For the main I had the hake with mussels, beans and velouté sauce. The fish was perfectly cooked: soft and flaky without losing its structure, and the crispy skin was marvellous. I would have liked more mussels as they added a more pungent note of the sea to the dish, but with the deep flavour of the beans and the light fishiness of the sauce it was a gorgeous combination.

I am usually in the fortunate position of being that guy who always ends up with the most delicious dish through the will of the gastronomic gods. However, the gods were smiling on Madsen that night because while my hake was scrummy, his pork belly was incredible.

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Aside from that inedible protrusion of rock hard crackling, this dish was a delight. Pork belly is always devilishly good with just the right balance of fat and meat below crispy crackling but this was so good I involuntarily made an embarrassing noise. Sweet and salty pork melted in the mouth and the crunch of the crispy fat on top was sheer heaven. The cabbage was fresh and crunchy, adding just a hint of bitterness, and the mushrooms intensified the rich flavour of the meat. I could go on and on about this, so I’ll stop there before I go overboard. YUM.

Dinner at the Northall: Starter

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Madsen and I went for a delicious three-course dinner at the Northall restaurant at the Corinthia Hotel on Whitehall Place a few weeks ago and it was so marvellous I have decided to write a post for each course. The menu included a glass of Laurrent-Perrier non-vintage which had a delightful biscuity flavour and was a perfect way to start the meal. We both had the smoked salmon and beetroot to start which was a light, tasty starter. The thin slivers of beetroot added a lovely earthiness to the surf of the salmon, and was absolutely scrummy – I could have eaten it twice!

 

Stuffed tomatoes with minted peas

stuff-tomsI bought the biggest beef tomatoes I could find on the market, sliced the tops off and scooped out most of the insides, but leaving a wall thick enough to hold the filling.  I seasoned the insides with salt and then garlic, and set the tomato cases upside down for half an hour to allow water to be drawn out and fall away.

For the filling I cooked some beef mince on the stove top, and drained off the liquid fat.  I zapped the pulp from the tomatoes in a blender, and used some of that to replace the fat from the meat.  Next came fried purple onions and a mixture of herbs, mostly thyme, and a generous squeeze of tomato purée.  After spooning the filling into the tomato cases and sitting the tops back on, I put them into a pre-heated oven (170 turbo) for 25 minutes.

I cooked garden peas and mashed them with a fork to leave them still chunky before stirring in lots of chopped mint.  This went into a circular pastry cutter and was pressed down with a circular piece of cardboard cut to shape to give a rissole shape, decorated on top with half a cherry tomato.  It worked quite well, and I followed it with berry blue jelly (jello) with fresh blueberries added into it, and served with double cream.  The remainder of the tomato pulp went into next day’s tomato soup.

Coq d’Argent (part three)

Cheese and strawbs

 

For dessert we moved to the terrace and my friend had the cheese which came with grapes, biscuits and chutney. Neither of us managed to eat the extremely pungent stilton, though I had a good crack at it. On the table’s horizon you can see my mound of chantilly cream flecked with flakes of milk chocolate emanating from gorgeously ripe English strawberries. We finished with coffee and chocolate bon-bons.

Our experience at Coq d’Argent was excellent. The staff were very helpful and discrete, and the food was wonderful and very generous of size. To find somewhere so reasonably priced and with such attention to detail was a joy in the city. I would certainly go again and would recommend it to anyone.

Coq d’Argent (part two)

Confit unspoiled

 

My friend and I both chose the duck leg braised in duck stock and olives for our main. The taste was intense and delicious. Wonderfully sticky meat fell meltingly from the bone and the bed of cabbage was perfectly cooked. The fondant potato was scrummy, too. All in all it was a marvellous French classic executed with real attention to flavour.

Coq d’Argent (part one)

Snail shells

Last week I had dinner with a photographer friend at Cod d’Argent at 1 Poultry just across from Bank station. The restaurant has gained a reputation as the Beachy Head of London with a few notable instances of diners flinging themselves from the fifth floor terrace. Whatever their reasons might have been, it certainly wasn’t the food or the service. We both had escargot which were beautifully plump and drenched in garlic butter. A French classic and very well done.

We drank a 2011 J. Charles Pivot Beaujolais throughout the meal (two bottles) which was very light and easy drinking. Perfect for a summer lunch. The mark-up was considerable (around 300%) but the prix fixe menu was extremely reasonably priced so we couldn’t grumble too much that they wanted to make their money back. Here is a photo with one of the bottles we slaughtered:

Pivot Beaujolais Village

Courses two and three to follow.

A plough-person’s lunch

ploughmanThis was actually quite a good ploughman’s lunch at the Loose Box on London’s Horseferry Road.  When I asked them they obligingly replaced the white bread with brown.  The tomato had been lightly grilled but was correctly served cold.  The chutney was very tasty and the greens were nice and fresh.  The butter was slightly salted as it should be, and there was lots of ham.  Indeed, there was more than I wanted, and I’d have preferred more cheese instead, preferably of another variety.  But that’s a quibble because I really like cheese.  As I said, it was pretty good…

Yet more things to do with parma ham and cheese

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In this instance I grilled cheese, topped with sweet chilli chutney and wrapped in prosciutto parcels served up with toast and garlic vinaigrette. It’s the third time I’ve listed this dish but each is slightly different in presentation and the type of cheese used. It just goes to show how many things you can do with a few simple ingredients.

Playing around with my croque monsieur

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I bought a little extra hot mexicana cheese today and thought I’d try it out with prosciutto and a garlic vinaigrette as a variation on my croque monsieur. The vinaigrette has to be quite pungent to stand up to the cheese full of chillies, but it went well. I would probably melt the cheese next time as I did with the goat’s cheese, and shape it so it looks a little less childish. Or I might shave them into the shape of carrots and have parsley sticking out the end… But this was a lovely snack. The bright red dots are sweet chilli chutney.