Thursday, 6 October 2016

Little Black Book Dubai

I often find myself in Dubai for work, and Elle has been a couple of times too, most recently to meet me at the end of my project. Over the years, I have built up a little black book of hidden and not so hidden gems, conveniently mapped for you here

Map Preview - You Can Zoom in on My Maps

Here is a little bit about each point on the map...

To Eat and Drink (Blue Pins)

Pai Thai - my favourite Thai in the middle of Madinat Jumeriah, a place that can only be described as Disney's Aladdin meets Venice... The food and service here are incredibly good. Have the purple chicken dumplings, the prawn papaya salad and any one of the curries.

The Armani Deli - not exactly a hidden gem but a great place for a luxe-y dinner right in the centre. This restaurant is in the Berg Khalifa and serves modern Italian food with fantastic views of the fountain. It's a very Dubai experience and a fun place to hang out. Get a window seat and order anything with burrata or black truffle.

Marina Social - Jason Atherton is one of my favourite chefs and he has an incredibly designed restaurant in the Intercontinental hotel. Get there early for a fantastic value early bird tasting menu

Scallop carpaccio

Folly by Nick and Scott  - this should be opening in December in the Madinat so we haven't technically been yet but Elle and I were lucky enough to sample an unforgettable tasting menu from the chefs at a pop up during our stay at Zighy Bay. We were so impressed by the food - beautifully tender pigeon in the middle of the Omani mountains

Highlights from the tasting menu

Tom and Serg - in the industrial district, this is the perfect place for lunch if you are visiting Alserkal Avenue (which you should!) - see below... Order the siracha chicken bao, the coffee and the whole grains salad

Em Sherif - I haven't yet had the chance to visit but I have been recommended this place on very good authority. They specialise in authentic Lebanese food

Kaftan - good for traditional Turkish dishes eaten outside. Don't go when it's too hot!

Al Amoor - for no-frills, cheap and authentic Egyptian street food, recommended by a client's boyfriend who is a chef at Noma

Little Black Door - for interesting cocktails, recommended by Folly's sommelier (and she had great taste in wine!)

To See, Do, Buy (Purple Pins)

Alserkal Avenue - this collection of dusty warehouses is full of hidden gems to discover. Alongside commercial art galleries,  it also houses museums, studios, workshops and a few interesting shops. My favourites are Leiler Heller Museum for interesting and free exhibitions, A4 Space for somewhere fun to work and hang out, Cartel for unusual (although often European) designers and Mirzam to see chocolate being made and to buy some unusual bars. Also look out for any events across the avenue such as their Music on the Avenue and Urban Market

Bedouin Studios at Galleries Lafayette - I met this designer at a bar and we got talking about her outfit straight away. She is London-born but based in Dubai and pretty damn talented 

Cara Jewellers - this is a great place to get anything copied in gold and diamonds. They offer fantastic value and can turn pieces around in matter of days. I have had some of my mum's antique pieces copied, and shown pictures of pieces I liked to have them cast. Do barter, give very precise instructions, and give yourself time to check the design. 

Spice Souk - historic spice market. Buy Iranian saffron and sumac

Bastakiya - the old district, full of interesting architecture and some quirky galleries

Beauty Connection - great for cheap beauty treatments 

Jet Set Salon - great for a quick blowdry

Where to Stay (Green Pins)

Vida - If you are going with work, my favourite hotel is Vida. It has a great location an feels somewhat less corporate than some of the others. Rooms vary from £100-£200 per night. 

Otherwise there are plenty of AirBnbs to choose from.

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Supperclub: The Water House Project in Bethnal Green

Gabriel Waterhouse, Chef (left) & Brother (right)

This season is all about supper clubbing and chef's tables... Why go to a regular restaurant when you can try something unique, bring your own wine and meet interesting people?

If you aren't yet sold on the idea, the Water House Project's menu, skill and general deliciousness should sway you...
Here goes:

Watercress velouté with a hens egg and asparagus (this was fresh and summery with a beautiful rich, orange egg yolk in the middle)

Flamed mackerel with rhubarb and beetroot (subtle, charcoal-y fish with earthy beetroot and tart rhubarb was a match made in heaven)

Cumbrian Herdwick lamb with pea, mint and goats curd (by god this lamb was good, and it shone through as the main element in this traditional combination)

Brillat-savarin and white chocolate ganache, strawberry and basil soup, strawberry sorbet (a lovely, light end to the meal)

Or so I thought... we topped it off with Androuet cheeses with sourdough bread (fantastic selection, so good I couldn't resist and left feeling uncomfortably full!)

All this with wonderful company, what more could you wish for? 
We also booked as a relatively large group (six of the fourteen) so it was almost like having you own private dinner party.

Gabriel Waterhouse is a truly talented chef who I am sure will go onto great things... watch this space but in the mean time, treat yourself! 

You can book into the next one here...

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Supperclub: Ferdie's Food Lab at The London Cooking Project

A remarkable thing happened last week... I went to my very first supperclub. I don't know how or why it took my so long but I did it and will never look back again. 

It all began with Ferdie chefing my birthday party... many gin cocktail's into the night he kindly invited me and the Mr to his supperclub, not sure if he remembered but we were not going to miss the opportunity!

The food, as before, did not disappoint and a the company was a lot of fun. We were sat next to the hilarious duo behind the foodie boys blog, who reviewed the same meal here.

After quite a few glasses of wine, we started with pressed lamb cubes with a herby dip..

Followed by that delicious beetroot cured salmon I had on my birthday, and delightful 'green bombs' that came with a delicious Asian salad...

But we both agreed that the rose veal cutlets stole the show with their melt-in-the-mouth tenderness and gentle beefy flavour... 

Other than the great food and company, the best thing about supperclubs is the bring your own booze, allowing you to drink some pretty fine wines for the price of a house white in a restaurant.

Despite the foodie boy's (and Vivino's) claims, our Hugel et Fils 2013 Reisling far surpassed their Asda quaff though I am no stranger to a wine bargain... For the boys,  Asda's Marques de Concha Chardonnay is a favourite of mine and currently on rollback.

All in all, a wonderful first supperclub experience and a definite start of more to come..

Foodie boys, perhaps we can found our own food fight club, starting with Twinny Feast in East Asia. Elle will come too. Shiso up for it, miso ready, yuzu guys are in trouble...

Monday, 29 August 2016

Available for Hire: Ferdie's Food Lab

I first met Simon (a.k.a. Ferdie) when I was trawling through grubclub looking for a chef to host my birthday. As soon as we spoke, he won me over with his humour and down to earth style, focusing on bold flavours and sharing dishes. 

We began designing a menu together right away and settled upon five savoury courses leaving me to come up with dessert.

The food was fantastic and I had so much fun I forgot to take proper photos (always a good sign)... But here are some of the highlights...

My very own thrifty table decorations consisting of a £2 tube of gold acrylic, three £1 pineapples and leaves from the garden!

Incredibly delicious Vietnamese carrot salad with Thai basil and shredded chicken. So so good

Beetroot cured salmon with horseradish parfait and orange candy

Slow cooked pigs cheeks in a crackling crumb served with a herb and lime sauce and afghan bread

Pork loin with a passion fruit gravy 

My birthday cake (as in I made it - sad, I know), a dense chocolate and hazelnut cake served with milk ice-cream

My photography skills rapidly deteriorating...

Simon was great fun to work with and utterly recommended. If you don't have any private parties coming up, you can eat his marvellous food at the London Cooking Project in Battersea. I went for the first time last week and had an excellent time getting (too) drunk and eating incredible food. Review of that coming soon...

Sunday, 21 August 2016

New Opening: Kisetsu

Cute panda spoons!

Last week marked the launch of Kisetsu, the chef's table at Sosharu. The offer is simple, book for a ten-course omakase ('I'm in your hands' in Japanese) and hope for the best.

Omakase basically means the chef cooks whatever he feels like each day, it means throwing caution, dietary preferences and quite a bit of money to the wind... but, when the man on the other side of the table is Alex Cracuin, you feel very reassured. 

After a year sous-chefing at Pollen Street Social, he spent a year training in Japan before the opening of Sosharu. His skill and passion for Japanese simplicity and precision came through beautifully in everything we ate.

The first dish was a rich mushroom broth, topped with a silky tofu cream, this was followed by a delicately seasoned tuna tartare topped with top quality Russian Beluga, encased in a wafer flower.

Next was a somewhat strange but authentically Japanese savoury set custard favoured with fresh crab meat and exquisitely packed shiso flowers from a remote Japanese village. This was garnished with proper Japanese wasabi, ground to a paste on a shark-skin board.

Then came a chicken broth like no other, potent but pure, flavoured with chicken necks which, apparently, hold the most flavour. This came with a chicken liver and frois gras parfait piped between attractive beetroot discs. Perfection!

Next came the assorted sushi starting with a hand-dived scallop shot, and followed by lightly blow-torched salmon. Then there was the battle of the tuna, with a lightly rice-smoked sweet soy dressed akami (lean tuna) followed by the deliciously fatty otoro (belly) cut. 

On a similar theme, we next ate temaki consisting of mayonnaise-dressed cobia tartare wrapped in paper thin sheets of cucumber. A refreshing mouthful somewhat reminiscent of a really great kebab.

Then, perhaps the highlight, the Kobe beef course. Thin slices of heaven topped nigiri made from aubergine, rice and then pickled cabbage, to be dipped in a pedigree breed of chicken's deep orange egg yolks. 

If that wasn't enough luxury for one evening, our next course was, of course, lobster, with an incredibly potent, bisque-y rice. Delicious.

Then onto pudding, the intriguingly named, water mochi, which turned out to be a beautiful jelly bubble flavoured with aromatic distilled water, cherries and a peanut crumb. This was served with a Japanese street snack in the shape of a fish that tastes a bit like freshly made waffles. And finally (as if any meal is complete without at least two puddings) a medley of foraged berries and blue-berry sorbet.

Now it wouldn't be fair to end this review without paying homage to the comedy double act of the chef and sommelier, Suzuki, who generously plied us with carefully matched Sake all night. This included an unusually wine-like sake called red turtle and a vintage Fuji Shuzou that tasted of toasted barley.

The meal was one of the best I've had in London and a very memorable experience. As chef's tables go, it's pretty amazing value to be one of eight sat around the chef as he explains and prepares each dish in front of you. I wouldn't hesitate to go back and am already looking for the next special occasion to justify it. 

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