Category Archives: restaurants

rambling restaurant

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The Rambling Restaurant launched on Sunday after a wild flurry of activity with friends and neighbours. The precarious table I’d made out of a volume of Renaissance Drama, a Tom Wolfe tome, chest of drawers & filing cabinet was deemed unsafe, so I borrowed Mary and Edward’s garden table from down the road. My mum spent an entire day hemming material (wonkily self-cut in Ikea and some from neighbour Elspeth) to make tablecloths and napkins. Her friend Hilary provided candles and ivory bedsheets to go under the table cloths, which they both expertly pinned and sewed until they hung perfectly. My friend Emily cut down roses, created a suitable playlist on her ipod and ran off to the shops for extra cream and cava, while Michelle and Mei – the star sous chefs and hostesses of the evening – chopped, grated, wrote menus and generally got things organized. I used strength I didn’t think I had to shift my bookshelves across the room to create a room divider between kitchen and dining room and we hung up a curtain to shield diners from the cooking frenzy within.

By 7.10pm I had finished most of the food prep and left Michelle making toast, while I went to change. The first guests arrived shockingly (well just 10 minutes) early at 7.20pm (Chris and Helen must’ve been rather hungry…), so I just had time to scramble upstairs and make some Rambling Cocktail (gin and homemade elderflower cordial topped with cava and a mint leaf). For the next 40 minutes, as I pootled away in the kitchen plating up chicken liver pate and frying streaky bacon, I could hear people arriving and there seemed to be a cocktail party sort of atmosphere. People popped their heads in to say hello and take a peek at the cooking. One pair dropped in to say sorry, they couldn’t stay as they thought they had food poisoning, but they had come along to see what it looked like and they very sweetly insisted I take their donations – thank you! With the two cancellations we were still full, with 15 for dinner (not including myself, Mei and Mish).

mei & liver, bacon, pea starter

Here is Mei with the liver, bacon and mushy pea starter (photo by Michelle). The main was trout on a bed of fennel and parmesan, potato rosti and rocket. We were so busy plating it up – a rather labour intensive process – that we forgot to take any photos.

homemade lavender ice cream

Lavender icecream before the arrival of the chocolate fondant (photo by Mei).

intense conversations

Looks like some rather intense conversation going on. Thanks to Andre (of The Worm and Antic Banquet festival) for making coffee and to Horton (of The Secret Ingredient) for finding it…

Check out Boo in London’s review of the launch.

Rambling Restaurant hopes to be a weekly event and opens its doors again this Sunday for a Moroccan feast on a rooftop terrace in Bethnal Green! To book please contact ramblingrestaurant@googlemail.com

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the secret ingredient

 

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One dark and wintery Wednesday after work I made my way to Newington Green. It took me a while, some unnecessary rattling of a locked gate and the asking of a couple of passers-by before I found the entrance to The Secret Ingredient. One of my friends was equally confused and we had a couple of exasperating mobile phone conversations:
– Well where are you?
– I’m here, where are you?
– I’m here…
– Well you can’t be because I’m here and I can’t see you…
– What direction are you facing?
– Ah, there you are.

Strangely, the other four didn’t seem to have any trouble finding it, but hey, it was living up to its name so far for two of us. At ground level, around the back of a block of flats, a turquoise sofa finally drew me to the right place. From outside I could see into the kitchen, where our host Horton Jupiter was rushing about in a cool stripey apron, chopping, mixing, plating and gesticulating wildly at a girl in a chic flowery dress. This turned out to be his lovely girlfriend Rachel, who welcomed us in and was our gracious waitress for the evening. She led me through to the dining room, where two other guests had already arrived and were chatting about naked bingo or something similar. 

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Our party of six had a table for four and a sofa for two. Although we appreciated being able to sink into the cushions and liked the small home-made circular tablecloth laid on a mini-table on wheels, the two of us on the sofa did feel a bit left out. However, Rachel was happy to let us turn the wheelie on its side, use it as a chair and squeeze in around the bigger table. The whole restaurant seemed to join in and had suggestions on the re-arrangement of the furniture too.

We cracked open the bubbly we’d brought and toasted several things – two new jobs and one successful CRB check (don’t ask). Meanwhile, in the kitchen… Horton, who had originally announced:
– I’m more organised than I’ve ever been tonight! I really do feel rather relaxed about it all…
…was becoming increasingly frenzied as the time ticked by and the food wasn’t quite ready yet. He popped his head around the door every once in a while to check that we were okay and we certainly were. The dining room was cosy – softly candlelit with tea-lights and three tables of excited diners.

The menu was a vegetarian Japanese feast. We began with a small starter of pickled onion each. Some didn’t eat much of this at all for fear of onion breath, while others ate two portions and could’ve eaten more. Next came a dish stunningly presented on a mirror: crunchy cabbage maki, sesame-flavoured carrots delicately tied in seaweed, a beautifully cut radish with a mini lemon slice and some raw apple chutney. I won’t spoil the rest of the seven-course menu for those that want to go there, but it was good.

There was a second sitting after ours and the diners arrived as we were still eating our star fruit. Luckily for us, and unluckily for the hungry arrivals, these were friends of the cook, so he sent them packing to the pub down the road while we finished the last drop of hot sake and ambled out.

Not only a talented cook, Horton Jupiter is also in pop band They Came From The Stars. I met him at the opening of The Underground Restaurant a few weeks ago, another private dining room which is opening its doors to the public once a week. These two super supper clubs might be just the start of something new on the London restaurant scene and I’m definitely going to be keeping my eye out for more popping up. But get in there fast, as the prices are rising. The Underground Restaurant (every Saturday) is already charging £25, while the minimum suggested donation at The Secret Ingredient (every Wendesday) has gone up to £15.

Personally, I think this one is worth every penny.

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the underground restaurant

I haven’t posted anything up here for nearly four weeks and feel somewhat shamefaced about it. But, thanks to MsMarmitelover and her inspiring living room, now known as The Underground Restaurant, I’m back in the posting saddle. In the chic, chandeliered home of this photographer/writer/cook I met two fellow food bloggers – the lovely London Eater and the infamous Bellaphon. They both gently persuaded me that it really is best to keep up with the blogging.

dsc00767The concept of a restaurant at home is a good one, fully explored by Jim Hayes, an American in Paris who hosts up to 120 people for Sunday dinner every week. You get the thrill of eating out, but at less expense, less choice and the bonuses of nosying into someone else’s home environment and of meeting new people.

I went with my friend Michelle, someone equally excited by new eating experiences as I am. Our evening didn’t get off to the best start. We hurried for the Silverlink from Camden to Brondesbury only to see it chugging out of the station a minute early, leaving us stranded on the platform with a couple having an increasingly violent domestic, resulting in police, tears and threats of being sectioned.

We finally got to MsML’s Kilburn abode at about 8pm, with the help of an equally confused Bellaphon, found wandering about the street, and some clueless passers-by. It was a joy to be welcomed in to her warm house with a glass of kir. We stood around chatting, admiring the white wooden floorboards, beautifully laid tables, black & white photos and a stylish daughter/waitress in a black & white dress to match, until MsML’s sister heralded the meal with a call to take our seats.dsc00770

So, what was dinner chez MsMarmitelover like? We had fat, juicy kalamata olives to nibble on before the arrival of the starter: an intense tomato soup with plenty of garlic and a deliciously thick texture, as the seeds were left in. This was served with homemade rosemary and garlic focaccia. For mains we had a generous portion of creamy potato and smoked salmon pie with shredded carrot and celeriac (or at least I thought it was celeriac after a couple of glasses of BYO wine…)

dsc00772Then came the fresh-tasting palate cleanser of elderflower jelly, brought along by Bompas & Parr.  And finally, there was a divine bitter chocolate pot, topped with candied orange.

At £10 a pop, this was a bargain and something a bit different.  It will be on every Saturday and I highly recommend giving it a go. Contact theundergroundrestaurant@gmail.com to book a table.  Please note: the price may be going up.

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el rincon quiteño

235 Holloway Road, London N7 8HG

dsc_0024If you’ve had a hard time of it chasing a shuttlecock around the Sobell Leisure Centre and are feeling way too healthy, there is a small Ecuadorean cafe on the Holloway Road where you can eat a meat feast for under a tenner. What you read on the menu is what you get, but be prepared for the deep friedness! Pique Macho is a Bolivian dish of epic proportions – a mountain of beef with rivers of mayonnaise squeezed on top. Urban legend has it Continue reading

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york & albany

127-129 Parkway, London NW1 7PS
T: (020) 7388 3344

Layers of Telegraph are spread out on the bar of Gordon Ramsay and Angela Hartnett’s new venture, York & Albany, which sits regally at the top of Parkway, halfway between the lions of London zoo and the pricey delicatessens of Primrose Hill. This grade two listed building, built by John Nash in the 1820s, has been empty for nearly two decades, so it’s exciting to see it finally coming to life… Continue reading

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lemonia

89 Regents Park Road, London NW1 8UY
Tel: 0871 3328485

This Greek-Cypriot Primrose Hill staple has been here since I was born, so nearly three decades… The enormous restaurant is always packed full of people, from the leopard skin clad, botoxed ladies who lunch to families who enjoy the child-friendly atmosphere. I haven’t been in there since I was small and was half expecting to have my cheeks pinched by the owner accompanied by a “my hasn’t she grown!” But I guess I look a bit different now. Last night the meze starters were really tasty, from the smooth hummous to the tangy tarama salata, but the mains were overpriced for rather small portions. They did serve the largest scallops I’ve ever seen though, with fat orange coral still attached. Why anyone ever detaches that bit, I don’t know. What on earth do they do with it?

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tapas brindisa

18-20 Southwark Street, Borough Market, London SE1 1TJ

Tel: (020) 7357 8880

www.brindisa.com

Having to queue for an hour to get a seat at this bustling tapas bar is annoying, but it’s well worth the wait. They don’t take bookings and you just have keep grinning at the waiter and reminding him you’re still there while you enjoy a sherry at the bar. Dishes change regularly but my favourite delights include a whole deep fried Monte Enebro goats’ cheese smothered in orange blossom honey and meltingly tender rare fillet steak with caramelised onions and Torta de Barros cheese on toast. It’s rich, but can easily be washed down with carafes of tart red wine…

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