Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Guest reviews on the Croydonist

Hi readers! It's been a long time with no updates so we to make up for this here are some reviews that we have been writing for our friends at the Croydonist, who write about all that's fun and interesting about our home borough. We love shouting about Croydon and we felt that it was the perfect place to share our love of the great food here and here are the first three pieces we've written. Do have a look through the rest of the site to discover food, art and culture from Croydon.

First up here is a review of one of the best places to get Vietnamese food in Croydon, Cat Ba Island.

Back in May we shared our favourite place to get Indian food, Karnavar.

Then we went for pizza at 500 Degrees. Possibly the finest crusts to be had in our wonderful town.

We will carry on writing reviews for the Croydonist and share them here too.
All pictures are by The Croydonist.

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

SKA beer and food matching at BOOMA for #londonskaweek

There's nothing we like more than a good beer and food match, so we were pleased to be invited to this event hosted by Euroboozer who have just started importing SKA canned beers to the UK. It didn't disappoint and we enjoyed an evening of great beer paired with some fantastic Indian cooking provided by new Brixton restaurant BOOMA. A few highlights are below.

BOOMA Specialises in craft beer matching with Indian food

SKA Pinstripe Red Ale - 5.2% ABV (Poppadoms); A thoroughly drinkable British style bitter, brewed with Liberty hops.

SKA True Blonde - 5% ABV (Tandoori Subji); This has a hint of honey and wheat, and is mostly Cascade hops. It worked very well pitched against tandoori vegetables which were yoghurty and heavily spiced. 

SKA Rudie Session IPA - 4.5% ABV (Malai Tikka); Brewed with Eldorado and Galaxy hops, this is fruity - citrussy with a hint of pineapple, and when paired with the herbed chicken dish, took on it's own herbaceous characteristics. A very accessible beer for non-US-hop-loving peeps like me...and possibly the first US IPA that I have ever enjoyed drinking!

SKA Special ESB - 5.8% ABV ('Booma' Lamb Burger); This beer gives the impression of being quite boozy, with a big flavour, so it was a pleasant surprise to discover it was less than 6% ABV. Brewed with a hop I'm not familiar with - Galena - this is another take on a classic British style, and was the first beer SKA ever brewed. It also has the claim to fame of being the 2nd ever craft beer to be canned (only missing out on being the first by a week). Alongside the delicious and quite heavily spiced lamb patty it went down a treat.


SKA Buster Nut Brown - 5.3% ABV (Khumb Chaat); I really enjoyed this beer, and it was possibly my favourite of the night. It's an earthy and autumnal flavoured beer, working very well with the mushroom dish.

SKA Modus Hoperandi IPA - 6.8% ABV (Chettinaad Pork Ribs); This is their flagship and biggest selling beer, with bags of hops and pine but very well balanced. As this leans towards the heavy hopped US style IPAs this wasn't my favourite, but it did appear to be that of the rest of the room! It worked well with anise and spiced ribs which were the highlight of the night food-wise.

SKA Modus Mandarina IPA - 6.8% ABV (Chocolate Mousse); This tasted both fresh and aged at the same time. The base beer is Modus Hoperandi IPA with orange added. There is a marmalade character accompanying the citrus and piney hops, it's big on flavour and stood up well to the chocolate and cardamom mousse.

All in all it was a fantastic night and we had a chance to sample some great beers. We were also incredibly impressed with the quality of the food at BOOMA, as well as the knowledge and dedication of the staff when describing the way the beers complimented the dishes according to their flavour profiles. After a sneaky peak at the 'normal' menu, we will definitely back to try some of the impressive combinations of craft beer and food which they've recommended. 

There are events all week for #londonskaweek which you can find out about by taking a look here or by following the hashtag on twitter.

Monday, 25 July 2016

Hungerlust Guide to Eating and Drinking in Lyon

Lyon is a wonderful place for food and drink lovers to visit for a holiday. It's sandwiched between two great wine regions and is considered the culinary capital of France. But there are so many restaurants, wine bars and food based things to do that it can at first seem a little overwhelming. So here is the Hungerlust Guide to some of our favourite places in Lyon.

Chateauneuf De Peuple

Chateauneuf de Peuple is a truly unique and special wine bar in the old town of Lyon. The owner and your guide into his world of wine, Mahdi, is an intriguing host. Sitting down in what feels like his front room for the first time, you won't know what to expect.

There is no wine list and the only food menu is a chalk board declaring a choice of cheese and charcuterie. But spend some time here and let yourself be guided by Mahdi through his intriguing collection of natural wines and you won't be sorry. That plate of cheese and meat is huge and will sate you for the whole evening. His wine collection is extensive and it's a pleasure to let yourself be guided through the international and fascinating natural wine list.

Chope De Lug

If you thought that French beer was just Kronenburg and not much else then a visit to this beer shop deep in the winding streets of the old town will set you straight. They stock a vast range of beers and beer styles from the Rhone region and we bought an excellent range of beers that Nate and I tasted on the first episode of my brand new podcast Parched and Peckish. The beers from this shop typically come in beautiful 750ml bottles adorned with particularly artful labels.


Octopus and Caulifower starter
We've been eating at Archange since we first visited Lyon back in 2012. It's a charming restaurant with a compact and impressive menu of seemingly classic french dishes but done with a modern flair. We always start with the unusual house kir made with a red pepper syrup. Like the menu, the wine list is also short but well formed and service from the proprietor is always personal and excellent.
Langoustine ravioli
Cafe Gadagne
If you are wandering around the traboules of the old town and looking for somewhere for a tasty lunch then you could do a lot worse than this popular cafe at the top of the Musee Gadagne. It's worth the wait for a table for their substantial salads and charcuterie.

It's always fun to take a chance on a new restaurant that you like the look of on holiday. We spied this one from our upstairs window at Le Potager Des Halles. L'Ebauche seats 26 people and is open for lunch and dinner. A simple sounding menu of three starters, three mains and three desserts belies the sophistication of this bistronomic delight. We especially liked the veal with polenta, boudin noir puree and apple. More charming service from the host who told us that the chef was working in Sketch in London prior to returning to Lyon to set up this cosy little nook of a restaurant.

The veal and black pudding

Puzzle Cafe
Puzzle is a cool little cafe serving great coffee and patisserie on Rue de la Poulaillerie near the Saint-Nizier Church. Drop in for a drip coffee and a slice of clafoutis.

AOC Les Halles
AOC in the famous Bocuse Halles is always our first stop when we arrive in Lyon. They pride themselves on the quality of their steak but it is their cheese and charcuterie plate that we always get for lunch. Excellent pate, saucisson and cheese from the markets along with some of the best bread and butter we've had in Lyon.

Les Fleurs Du Malt
Les Fleurs Du Malt have a couple of bars and a beer shop but it was at the basement bar near the banks of the Saône river that we enjoyed an international craft beer list, served unusually at the bar only. At first glance the bar looks tiny but it opens up into the basement arches to make a large hall that can gets buzzy when busy at the weekends.

Vins Nature
Vins Nature have a few shops in Lyon where they sell an exceptional range of natural wines from all over France and also a small selection of local and international beers.

The Ninkasi brewery was formed in 1997. They have ten bars and venues spread out around Lyon, Villeurbanne and Menuires. The large venue in the Gerland region of Lyon hosts music concerts, DJs, BBQ events and has it's own fast food bar which serves excellent burgers.

The beers themselves are solid examples of modern craft staples. The seasonal beers are excellent, when we were there last they were serving a smoked brown ale in honour of Lemmy from Motorhead.

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Kinnie Chicken Wings

The Maltese soft drink, Kinnie, is a favourite in our household. It's bitter orange and herbal flavours transport me straight back to scorching hot summers in Sliema. I've written about my love for Kinnie here and I have to say that Kinnie is one of the best mixers for vodka. I'm always trying to think of incorporating Kinnie into recipes so when Lizzie Mabbott posted her Hong Kong inspired chicken wings in Cola recipe on her blog, Lizzie Eats London, I knew I had to try it with my beloved Kinnie. Sometimes the Kinnie experiments don't work but in this case it works perfectly. Kinnie is perfect for sticky Chinese style dishes - as it reduces it creates a delicious sugary glaze that is offset by the bitterness of the chinotto orange. Big props to Lizzie for inspiring this recipe.  

You can buy Kinnie on Amazon or at the Maltese cafe, Parparellu, in Hammersmith. 

Kinnie Chicken Wings

10-12 chicken wings
2 cloves of garlic
1 thumb sized piece of ginger
2 tbsp dark soy
2 tbsp light soy 
1 star anise
300mL Kinnie 
2 spring onions
2 tbsp oil

Mix the chicken wings with the dark soy sauce in a bowl and marinade for a couple of hours. The key to wok based recipes is to make sure you have your ingredients prepped in advance. So while the wings are sitting in the soy, grate your ginger, chop your spring onions and crush your garlic. 

Heat up your wok, add the oil and fry the wings till the skin is golden brown. Take them out and put to one side. Add a little more oil is necessary and fry off your carefully chopped garlic, ginger, spring onions and the star anise. Put the wings back into the mix and add the light soy. Pour your Kinnie on top, bring to the boil and let it simmer for 30-40 minutes. Mix up the wings frequently so that they get an even contact with the Kinnie. As you reach the end of the cooking time look out for the sauce being reduced enough to cover glaze the wings. If it hasn't reached this point carry on simmering. Serve with white rice and napkins!

Monday, 16 November 2015

A few of our favourite things: a flying visit to Brussels

We're missing Brussels already - but thought we'd take the opportunity to share some of our favourite places....

First stop: Cantillon Brewery to sample this year's Zwanze, a wild Brussels stout. Not as sour as expected, but it's still there...with a stouty sweetness as the base flavour. Very drinkable.

Only available to drink at the brewery, this Cantillon made with Carignan grapes was an unexpected (and delicious) surprise - we couldn't resist and weren't disappointed - the Carignan adds an earthiness and hints at terroir.

The beautiful ironwork outside Moeder Lambic Fontainas accompanies an amazing beer selection

We finally made it to the Horta Museum - well worth a visit.

This year's star find - an amazing pastelaria in the centre of Brussels - took us straight back to Lisbon, but with some amazing flavour twists - our favourites were the lime/pine nut/honey, speculoos and lemon varieties.

Oh, and they do takeout too...

No matter how many places we try, Fritland is still our favourite - there's a reason the queues are so long!

Love him or hate him, you can't avoid the Mannekin Pis

Not the best photo but the only one I have from our final evening in our favourite Brussels restaurant Wine Bar Sablon des Marolles, which has a great wine selection including the above, a great example of a natural wine.

A first for us and we've yet to try this, but it'll be our first taste of Belgian this space for a report back!

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Croydon/Purley Food Heroes - Dexter Burger

Britain’s taste for burgers, especially the gourmet kind, is on the rise. While the international mega-chains still dominate the market it is the hunger for better quality food in a casual setting that has fueled the explosion of fancy burger joints all over the country. And the good news is that Purley now has its own premium burger restaurant. Dexter Burger quietly opened on Purley High Street in late July and since then has been building a keen local fan base for their rare breed burgers and indulgent brunches. Having heard good things we met with some friends for dinner. The cosy restaurant welcomes you in from the street like an old friend. The care that the owners, Nick and Stewart, have put into the hand built furniture, stylish fixtures and fittings of the restaurant lend a contemporary but friendly atmosphere.

The proper test of any burger restaurant is the house beef burger and it’s with the “Dexter Beef Burger” that Dexter set out their stall. The carefully sourced, properly aged, rare breed beef is freshly ground in-house to produce the juicy patties. Refreshingly the accompanying garnish of rocket and béarnaise sauce enhance rather than swamp the delicious burger. The whole thing is housed in what I think is the best burger bun I’ve experienced. The grilled brioche bun is soft enough to yield but with enough integrity to contain the burger till the last bite. I wanted to completely indulge so I opted for the special for that week, the chilli burger. 

There is always a chance when you pile on the toppings that the flavour of the burger can be lost. But there is no risk of that at Dexter, where the slow cooked beef chilli makes a good thing even better. The accompanying chilli fries are drizzled with a tangy chilli mayo and sprinkled with a warming chilli seasoning. The regularly changing special burger is an opportunity for the chefs to experiment and on our second visit we tasted the new beef bourguignon burger with soft cheese which was a triumph. The chicken burger made with whole chicken breast is well cooked, juicy and delicious. Vegetarians can opt for the beetroot and goat cheese burger, a welcome change from the usual beany offerings. The best thing to drink with a burger is beer and here they offer beers from local brewery, The Cronx, as well as a modest and well-chosen wine selection.   

Back for Brunch

We were tempted back for brunch on the August bank holiday Sunday to meet some local Purleyite friends. The welcoming atmosphere of Dexter Burger works equally well in the morning too. Dexter only soft launched a few weeks ago but it already feels like a local favourite for families, friends and couples.
I have a soft spot for brunch, we don’t do it enough in this country, perhaps because of our fondness for roast dinners. It feels like a naughty extravagance or forbidden, conspiratorial rendezvous, especially when the pork, eggs and late morning cocktail is softening the effects of the previous night’s adventures. So doing it right is important and rather than juicy burgers the Dexter brunch menu covers diner classics and more. One restaurant trend that I’m yet to grow bored of is pulled pork. Slow cooked pork shoulder is finding its way into any dish that will have it and at Dexter Burger it has sneaked under the eggs benedict.

It works, it really works and if that forkful of soft pork, runny yolk and hollandaise is getting a bit too rich and you find yourself drifting from your co-conspirators then a sip of a homemade Bloody Mary or a Bucks Fizz will bring you back into the room even if only temporarily. They also serve a range of teas from Teapigs and invigorating coffee from London’s Monmouth.

My fellow diners were equally impressed with their choices. A rare breed beef sausage sarnie with onion was both huge in size and high in quality. The care with which Dexter source their meat shines through again. 

The baked eggs almost felt like a healthy option when compared to the pulled pork benedict but both haloumi and chorizo options packed enough nourishment to easily see you through till dinner. 

For the self-denialists among you there is a bowl of Bircher Muesli - but get real people, brunch is not part of a cleanse, live a little! We will be back for more brunch as we couldn’t quite stretch to the classic diner pancakes, here served with either bacon and maple syrup or blueberries. On all of our visits to Dexter the service has been excellent and we have been made to feel more than welcome. So whether it is quality burgers you are after or a robust and surprising brunch, I can heartily recommend Dexter Burger.

Dexter Burger
10 High St, Purley CR2 2AA
020 8660 9427
Open Tuesday to Sunday for dinner
Saturday and Sunday for Brunch 

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Marble Old Manchester - Three years on, the final sample.

Three years ago I bought three bottles of Old Manchester, Marble Brewery's collaboration with John Keeling from Fuller's. I tasted it then and wondered how it might age. One year on I tried it again and there wasn't much change apart from a hint of something medicinal (this should have been a clue for what was to come). So I decided to leave the last bottle for a further two years and for an occasion with some other beer lovers who would be interested in sampling the evolution of a beer like this.

The opportunity arrived when our good friend Nate "Mr Drink'n'Eat" Nolan invited me and two other beer writers, Matt "Total" Curtis who writes at Total Ales and Chris Hall who writes on his own blog as well as for the brand new site Beer Insider. We were at Nate's to try some South African beers which impressed me with highlights from Devils Peak's Blockhouse IPA and American Pale Ale. But we also took the opportunity to bring some interesting beers from our own stashes. I dusted off the Old Manchester and took it down to Camberwell.

A beer like this can become explosive over time so towels were prepared for the inevitable fountain. When I pulled the cork nothing came but it was obvious as soon as the bottle was opened that there had been significant development since 2013. The first soured sniff worried me but then a distinct "brettyness" took over and excitement kicked in. We poured it out, all tangerine and murk, and the murmurs of appreciation started.

Boak and Bailey recently wrote a short piece on the difficulty in describing the character of beer brewed with the wild yeast Brettanomyces (known as Brett to his friends). The established comparisons of horse blanket and barnyard don't quite cut it and really the best descriptor is Orval-like. Orval is a Belgian Trappist ale whose unique flavour is influenced by its fermentation with Brett.  And Orval-like is what has happened to Old Manchester. Whether it was intentional or not, there is Brett in this beer and it has turned a good beer into a wonderful one.

The hop bitterness is still big with that distinctive orange peel citrus character that was there from the beginning. It seems richer than before with an almost oily mouthfeel.
That Brettyness comes though with  spicy and woody otherness. That medicinal note that I barely tasted in 2013 was indeed a sign of age and it has developed wonderfully.
It accompanied the cheese spread admirably. The Stilton made a perfect match - this deep and complex beer able to stand up against the powerful blue cheese.

I could wax on about this beer for pages but it seems mean to do so when it's now so difficult to get hold of. I'm thoroughly delighted that the experiment worked, it really was worth the wait. I can highly recommend aging beers for yourselves. Orval is one of the best beers for aging and shows Brett's development in the bottle clearly. Get hold of four bottles, stick them under the stairs and try one every couple of months to really appreciate this intriguing flavour,