Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Siam Central, Fitzrovia - Restaurant Review

Charlotte Street in Fitzrovia, just a few minute's walk from Tottenham Court Road, and Goodge Street, is one of London's secret gems. Mostly known only to folk who live, work or study locally and a haunt of celebs, should a tourist stumble upon this wonderful street, they would indeed have struck gold. Lined with many restaurants and caf├ęs, as well as numerous characterful period buildings, it oozes charm and atmosphere with a wealth of choice for eating, drinking, and being cool.

We aimed for Siam Central for dinner, on recommendation of my good friend who has eaten there many times and wanted me to try EVERYthing. Happy to oblige, we started with the Siam Combo, a selection of traditional Thai starters, all of which were deliciously authentic - do ask for an extra dipping bowl though, so you can double-dip to your heart's content. The menu also features a 'tapas' menu, so if you wish you can choose starters all evening... hmm, tempting!

Siam Combo
Whilst we didn't quite order everything on the menu (could have...), we chose a dish from each section, each with a different meat. The star of the meal was the Massaman Lamb curry, a warming, rich curry with potatoes - yes you can take the girl out of Ireland but she still loves her spuds - with succulent pieces of lamb and a fragrant spicy sauce. Pad Thai, that benchmark for every Thai meal, was delicious and the butterfly prawns cooked to perfection. The pineapple rice was served in, what else?, half a pineapple, and was flavoursome and spicy with the sweetness of the pineapple chunks coming through. On the side, a chilli and aubergine stir fry which had sweet basil and soy beans with slithers of pork added an extra kick. And just in case that wasn't enough, we had some roti with a light chilli-infused curry sauce. Every mouthful of every dish was delicious. Ok, I'm biased as Thai is one of my very favourite cuisines, but still. Can't fault the food here. 

Thai Food

No booking required, though we waited about five minutes to be seated. Then we got the window seat which would be perfect if you were celeb-spotting. Which we weren't. The staff were polite although the two main men could have cracked a smile - Thailand is, after all, the land of Smiles, and rightly so. If I could eat Thai food every day, I sure would smile more.

As we ventured out into the night (with enough leftover food for several days' lunch) we stumbled upon a basement cocktail bar called Bourne and Hollingsworth, definitely worth a visit for The Gatsby. Appropriately named.

Charlotte Street, I will be back.

Siam Central
14 Charlotte St
020 7436 7460

Meal for two with wine ~£70

Siam Central on Urbanspoon Square Meal

Friday, 9 January 2015

Cake Club - Fondant Fancies

This month's Cake Club theme was 'Retro'. Inspired by GBBO, I thought I'd give Fondant Fancies a try. I used this recipe from Woman&Home, but instead of yucky marzipan and apricot jam in the middle I used some chocolate ganache. Much better in my opinion! The icing didn't quite run down the sides as they should, giving my fancies a slightly rustic look. Ah well. The daisies were made using a mould.

Retro Fondant Fancies.

The winning bake was a delicious (warm) pineapple upside down cake. We also had a cool version of the same, and a coffee and walnut sponge. Ah, the memories...
The Winner: Warm Pineapple Upside Down Cake

Coffee and Walnut Cake

Pineapple Upside Down Cake
Waiting for my bakers to arrive

Next month's theme is Valentines... promises to be 'love'ly!

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Monday, 5 January 2015

Lotus Lounge, Yarm - Restaurant Review

The entrance to Lotus Lounge in Yarm is through a Burlington Arcade-esque designer shop alley (with a red carpet which completely justified the wearing of my vintage fur coat!). The clientele appears to be a mixture of local young drinkers at the bar and groups of friends and families out celebrating the festive season. The bar area serves colourful cocktails while we wait for our table. Our table for six. For the two of us. Yes, I do eat a lot... Having booked ahead with OpenTable and tweeted to say how much I was looking forward to it, I half expected some paparazzi and some special treatment from the manager, but I think they were a bit busy. Lovely staff, but busy.

Lotus Lounge is billed as Pan-Asian, which I think was a good description. The starters ranged from Chinese Dim Sum, Malaysian satay and Japanese tempura to a selection of Bento boxes which offered a mixture of all sorts. The mains also featured a selection of dishes, each for a different cuisine. You can choose a Japanese Teriyaki Don, a sweet and sour chicken curry, or a beef madras. It's as if the place can't make up it's mind what to be, and tries to please everyone.

We chose the Bento Box from the Land to start. This was a mix of meaty starters, again panning the Asian continent; Nice vegetable tempura, flavoursome Chinese beef in char sui sauce, though the pork skewers were a bit dubious. I thought there was no need for the lamb shish kebab - it felt out of place.
Presented in, yes, a Bento box. With sweet chilli dipping sauce. Which doesn't really go with any of them.

Bento Box from the Land 
Worth a mention are the Bamboo Boards. Although we didn't order them, they looked quite tempting, as it looked like they were glorified starters - so things like chicken satay or Thai fish cakes, served with either Asian coleslaw or fries - presented on a bamboo board presumably. So upgrading your favourite Asian starters to a main course. Interesting...

Himself ordered the Thai chicken curry, which, as one of our favourite dishes, was a real measure of the food quality. It tasted like something I could have knocked up with a jar of curry paste and a tin of coconut milk and was a bit thicker than it should be. The vegetables were not the usual kind you would find in a Thai curry - mushrooms and courgettes.
Thai Chicken Curry

For me, it was Indonesian. I chose the Pork Nasi Goreng. Now this was good. When the waitress brought it, she said all the staff were jealous! It was a layer of prawn and vegetable fried rice, with two layers of belly pork and a fried egg on top, served with a mint creme fraiche and garnished with peanuts and fresh coriander. A real fusion of flavours and cooked well. Towards the end my green curry envy took over and I stole some of himself's curry sauce which made it even better.

Indonesian Pork Belly Nasi Goreng
Overall we had an enjoyable evening. Although the service was slow, the staff were friendly, but I did spy someone who looked like the manager just watching the others when he could have mucked in. My trip to the loo, turned out to be the kitchens, so I got a quick glance in there, and it seemed to be in order. The loos themselves, when I did find them, were absolutely freezing and the doors didn't lock. So it was -1 outside, but still. We left satisfied, leaving the young Yarmites to their late night cocktails.

Fairfax Court, 32-34 High Street,
TS15 9AE
Tel: 01642 355558

Meal for two, with beer ~£55-60.

Square Meal

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Red Velvet by Lily Vanilli for a 60th Birthday

My lovely friend's mum turned 60 just before Christmas. In all the pre-Christmas prep and chaos I managed to squeeze in decorating a cake for her. She requested a red velvet, so I delved into my new Lily Vanilli Sweet Tooth book for the recipe. I doubled her Red Velvet recipe for my 10" square cake and used the whizzed-up crumbs from levelling it off to shape the name and the 60. It was then slathered in delicious cream cheese frosting. My friend also asked for a bow that she'd seen on my Leopard Skin cake. Only too happy to oblige...

lily vanilli
I'm very keen to make more from Lily Vanilli, so keep watching. Also love her name! Puntastic!

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Christmas Cake

 Only a few days left to Chrimbo! Time to decorate the cake for this year.
This is for my mother-in-law, who plays bowls with my father-in-law every week.
Decorated by their grandkids and dutiful son.
Merry Christmas one and all.  

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Tierra Peru, Islington - Restaurant Review

 Peruvian cuisine is hugely trendy at the moment, and this little gem of a place on Essex Road is the first time I've tried what is becoming renowned as the best of Latin American food. There's a Spanish tapas feel initially but both the differences and similarities become obvious as we indulge in as much Inca fare as we can.

Early evening, the place was empty but filled up comfortably as the evening wore on. A haven for local Foodies I would imagine, as well as an eatery worth travelling across London to visit. With simplistic Incan wall art and cosy seating, the staff made us feel welcome and at ease.

Choosing from the menu proved inconclusive as we all wanted to try everything, so in the end we went for two of the special platters, which was enough for five people, deceivingly so, as it seemed so little, but made us all satisfied. Pretty much everything in the menu was contained in these two dishes so it was exactly what we needed. 

The most traditional and possibly best known dish from Peru, is of course, the ceviche. These are usually fish and vegetables 'cooked' in citric juices and are served cold. A lot of  pulses and vegetables mixed in gave texture and flavour. My favourite meat dish was the chicaronnes de cerdo - deep-fried pork with cassava and chimmichurri sauce. Not hot at all - until the aftertaste kicked in!

Some similarities to my beloved Spanish food were the deep-fried cassava and cheese balls, reminiscent of croquettas, and much grilled seafood. Alongside this, the unfamiliar plantain, Peruvian corn, and palm hearts. The fusion of hearty traditional stews with modern unique dishes gives a whole wealth of new dishes which I will be more than happy to return to explore.
(Speaking of heart, one dish was actually heart, cooked and tasting similar to liver, definitely worth a try.)

Desserts were most unusual. Chilli ice-cream? What a paradox. But it worked. It worked well. The chocolate mousse with pisco, Peru's traditional spirit, was delicious, and the rococo pepper ice cream intensified all the dessert flavours.

Mousse de Pisco y Chocolate
Helado Frito de Rocoto
Picarones y Helados

We were left feeling totally satisfied, as you do when eating tiny amounts of lots of different plates. And also indulged. When I go back I know what I want more of!

Tierra Peru
164 Essex Road
N1 8LY
020 7354 5586

Meal for two with wine ~£80

Tierra Peru on Urbanspoon Square Meal