Pick n' Mix fell by the wayside somewhat but we're back on a roll with a smearing of butter. London's seeing several new restaurants opening at the moment, and Foxlow was one I was most excited about. From the team behind Hawksmoor, it's styled as more of a neighbourhood restaurant (I wish my neighbourhood was Farringdon...) and has a more casual vibe. I was invited along to their preview and the menu reads like a mash-up between Hawksmoor and Pitt Cue, with a lot of smoked meats on offer, as well as their usual steaks.
Crispy five pepper squid (£7) had the ideal crunchy exterior and tender innards. Garnished with tiny rounds of sliced lime, it was poshed-up salt n' pepper squid, accompanied with a ginger-spiked mayonnaise. Just the phrase 'baby back Iberico ribs' (£8.50) danced at you from the menu, wiggling their seductive hips, whispering "eat me" until there's nothing you can do but order them. They didn't disappoint; a sweet glaze covered the plump ribs, which crucially kept some bite. For me, there's nothing worse than floppy rib meat, you know the type; the stuff you can slide bones out of without disturbing the plate. I have perfectly functioning teeth, thank you.
Ten hour smoked beef short rib with kimchi (£16) was a hulking beast - excuse the photo, the lighting was... atmospheric. Often beef rib can be hugely fatty, but this was pure slow cooked meat. Flavoursome and smoky, the tart fermented cabbage was mandatory every few bites to cut through the richness. We actually asked for a little more. Monkfish was cooked in the Big Green Egg, a ceramic smoker made famous by the likes of The Smokehouse. The result was that the fish took on a delicate flavour of charcoal, but with the tenderness of it cooked to just-there.
Sides are never a sideline with these guys, we opted out of the salad bar (there's a salad bar) and instead went for bacon-salt fries, tenderstem broccoli with chilli and anchovy and sausage-stuffed onion (all between £3.50 - £4.50). I'm sad to say the onion, stuffed with mace-heavy beefy sausage, defeated us but we demolished the rest like a flood of locusts. Salted caramel popcorn and caramel bourbon soft-serve pushed our already meat-high brains into the sugar crazed territory. In short, I loved Foxlow.
69 - 73 St John Street
London EC1M 4AN
Burger & Lobster have set up shop on the fifth floor of Harvey Nichols. I fully expect it to be completely rammed as surely the ladies who lunch would get stuck right in to lobster rolls. They give you a buzzer if there's a wait for a table, and this way you can get on with your shopping and swan over to your table when summoned. I used the opportunity at the press preview to try the burger; beefy, well constructed, cooked to medium as requested - all ticks from me. But I'd never choose a burger over a lobster, made even more evident by the lobster roll and grilled lobster we also shared. I felt a twinge of guilt when I glanced over at their forlorn faces in the lobster tank as I left. They also mix a mean martini.
Speaking of Harvey Nichols, the Pizza Pilgrims' van is also on the 5th floor for the winter. Two internal walls were taken down to get this beast in. I'll be completely transparent here - one of the Pilgrims' is my boyfriend so you can take this at face value... but I wouldn't go out with someone who makes bad pizza so, you know, it's ace.
I was invited to an evening of pickles at One Leicester Street which was hugely exciting, given what a pickle fiend I am. Chef Tom Harris talked us through all their homemade pickles - salt pickles, sweet pickles (quince is a revelation), and sauerkraut-esque fermentations.
They also make their own hams, and a Middlewhite belly and tongue ham with sour cabbage was a particular favourite (above). Pig's cheek ham with celeriac and mustard showed how the marriage between rich fat and sharp vegetable works so well, and a smoked gamey duck breast, pink and tender, showcased the sweetness of aforementioned pickled quince (below).
One Leicester Street
London WC2H 7BL
Chicken wings with pomegranate molasses were deboned and served on a tangle of 'sepia' (squid ink, then?) noodles. With an attractive glaze, they were a little too tart for my palate, but juicy and full of chicken flavour. For my main, the monkfish, mussel, and potato romesco was probably the least adventurous, ingredient-wise. But it was light and pretty, not overly daunting for a meal that late in the evening. Creamed kale and spinach with bacon sounds like my vegetal dream, but was disappointly salty. Rhubarb and custard, studded with dramatic black sesame wafers was a palate-cleansing, refreshing end to the meal.
I liked Mr Cooper's House & Garden well enough, but it didn't blow my socks off like The French did. You can read about that here, if you so wish, and my pictures are here. I suspect the ox rib tartare (above) with coal oil may well be one of my most memorable dishes of 2013.
Mr Cooper's House & Garden
The Midland Hotel,
Manchester M60 2DS
Lastly, the Plusixfive Cookbook is out and it is a beauty. Packed full of amusing anecdotes, great pictures and quirky drawings, it's also got a recipe in there from me for cocktail sausage buns, a Hong Kong classic. You can buy it here. Do. It's lovely.