Brunch in the east

Mr Buckleys has been very much talked about amongst my foodie friends. Located along Hackney Road, I have been there once prior to my return visit today. They serve brunch all day and have cocktails for day time drinking if you fancy it. The space itself is very simple and is a fantastic place to catch up with friends over breakfast.

Having been disappointed with my breakfast choice on my previous visit, I decided to go for a crowd favourite today. I ordered their potato & courgette rosti, bacon, avocado & poached eggs. My friends decided to go with the minute steak with poached eggs, spinach and béarnaise on sourdough and they thoroughly enjoyed it. As for me, I preferred my eggs a little bit more well done and the whole breakfast ended up being a little too dry for me. The potato and courgette rosti was not crispy on the surface and fell apart when I cut through it. It was not as seasoned as I wish it was but the bacon did the job.

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On this occasion, the service was a little slow with only three people servicing the floor. It came up to about £15 for my breakfast with a coffee and tea. Given that this was my second shot, I am not quite sure I will be back again anytime soon.

Dishpiglets’ rating: 6/10

Mr Buckley's on Urbanspoon

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A Very British cookbook – Roast

Three years ago, I did not own a single cookbook. Fast forward to today, my shelf is now home to a couple of beautiful cookbooks in addition to my architecture collection. Inside one of them, the recent Plusixfive cookbook has a full page spread of a photo I took! It is such a pleasure to browse through these cookbooks when out of ideas on what to cook for dinner. My latest addition is Roast – a Very British cookbook by Marcus Verberne.

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Roast restaurant opened in 2005 with a mantra that is “to use produce from the nation’s farmers and fishermen to bring a new level of energy to British cooking.” Located in Borough Market, on the mezzanine level of the Floral Hall, one needs to look up to admire this jewel directly above Brindisa and the Ginger Pig stall off Stoney Street. Its elegant white interiors and amazing high ceiling space offers diners another perspective into Borough Market and gorgeous views out towards the Shard and St Paul’s.

Last week, I was invited to Roast for the launch of their first cookbook written by their head chef. I have never been to Roast but have heard good things about the breakfast which they serve.

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Shortly after we were seated, Marcus Verberne, Roast restaurant’s head chef came out to our table to welcome us to the restaurant. He gave us an introduction to his first cookbook and how he went about writing it. Originally from New Zealand, Marcus has been living in the UK for the past 12 years. His career in food began in Wellington before he moved to Melbourne and finally London. It was a pleasure to listen to the passionate chef talk about the thought process behind the cookbook and his love for British produce.

The cookbook’s recipes are written to be accessible for home cooks. It is filled with gorgeous photos by Lara Holmes whom Marcus spent quite some with during the documentation of the cookbook. Besides recipes, the cookbook has step-by-step photos from how to fillet fish to carving meat. You can even scan the QR codes in the cookbook to watch a video for further information! Amazing!

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Prior to us ordering our dinner, Marcus took the opportunity to explain to us about their menu and where they have sourced their produce from. It was featuring some of the recipes from the cookbook and we were given recommendations on what to order. As it was Thursday, Marcus mentioned that they had roasted a whole rare breed suckling pig which was their Thursday daily special. What I really enjoyed during the evening was listening to Marcus whilst flipping through the visual cookbook and there it was, a slightly charred roasted suckling pig on the third page of the cookbook.

However, I did not end up ordering the roast suckling pig but instead went with the chef’s recommendation of roast breast of Yorkshire cock pheasant with sprout top hearts, chestnuts and wild boar bacon for mains. It definitely did not disappoint! The roast pheasant breast was so tender and well complemented by the sweet chestnuts and saltiness of the wild boar bacon. Giulia and I both had the same and loved it! For starters, I had the seared Isle of Mull hand-dived scallops with whipped apple mash and smoked black pudding which was delicious.

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When it came to dessert, I chose the sea buckthorn berry pousset to end the evening. I was extremely intrigued by Marcus’ explanation on how they picked this berry as the branches of this shrub are thick, dense and thorny. The dessert which came was an amazing orange, almost fluorescent and was delightful to taste. Federica had the poached pear with ginger shortbread, walnut and honey ice cream whilst Giulia chose the sticky date pudding with toffee sauce and Neal’s Yard creme fraiche which all looked amazing.

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It was a pleasure to have met Roast’s passionate head chef, Marcus and tasted the outstanding dishes of Roast restaurant. I cannot wait to try out some of the recipes in the cookbook. Stay tune!

Roast – a Very British cookbook is now available from all good retailers, online and in store, for £25 (RRP).

*There is a twitter prize draw going on now for the month of November held by Roast Restaurant where you could win a signed copy of the Roast cookbook!

Roast Restaurant
The Floral Hall, Borough Market
Stoney Street, London SE1 1TL

*I was a guest of Jori White PR & Roast but all views here are my own.

Novikov

Novikov is located in Green Park, right in the heart of classy Mayfair. I recalled walking past many times whilst heading to the shops and have always wondered what it is like in there. Novikov serves both Italian and Asian cuisine in two separate rooms and underneath these restaurants is their fashionable lounge bar.

On this occasion, I had the opportunity to check out their aperitivo drinks menu at their lounge bar. From one of my conversations with Federica (The Daily Out), aperitivo originated from Milan. It is the pre-dinner drinks which comes along with some complimentary nibbles. Similar to the complimentary tapas served when you have a drink in Andalucia but perhaps the Italians might dispute this.

There was a good selection of drinks including Negroni and Aperol Spritz but I went with a prosecco to kick the night off. We were then served little bites (cichetti) which came in large platters. There was a good selection which included mushroom and truffle bruschetta, marinated olives and mortadella. This was followed by cold cut meats and a delicious board of cheese. Out of the lot, I was addicted to the crispy bread which I was told was Sardinian crispy bread. There were lovely rosemary sprinkled on top and it was so thin and crunchy to the bite, I couldn’t stop reaching for it!

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If you are in Green Park and seeking a trendy lounge bar to head to, Novikov is a good option. Their aperitivo menu is served Monday through to Friday, from 5.30pm until 7.30pm. Like the Milanese, you could pop by for a pre-dinner drink and get served some complimentary cichetti!

Novikov Restaurant & Bar
50 Berkeley Street
London W1J 8HA

*I was a guest of Jori White PR & Novikov but all views here are my own.

Shoryu Soho Opening

Three days ago, I attended theShoryu Soho opening party. Giulia from Mondomulia had kindly asked me along to join her at this special event. This was my second time to the Shoryu Soho branch. I visited before during their soft opening a while back to try their tonkotsu ramen.

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Shoryu specialises in Hakata tonkotsu ramen from Kyushu, southern Japan.
Made with a thick, rich pork soup, our tonkotsu ramen originates from the Hakata district of Fukuoka city in Kyushu, southern Japan. Our recipe has been specially created by our Executive Chef, born and raised in Hakata, to provide highly crafted, genuine tonkotsu rarely found outside Japan.” -Shoryu Ramen

The evening began with a cask of sake being broken open, to us shouting “YOISHO!” We were served a semi-dry premium grade sake from the cask and glittering real gold flakes can be seen in our sake masu (square wooden box). All of us were fascinated and took quite a while to try and photograph the amazing gold flakes.

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Our first course was the restaurant’s signature Shoryu Ganso Tonkotsu Ramen which went really well with the sake served. The two other courses that followed were also accompanied by matching sake.

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The bunch of us had a really good time and would like to thank Shoryu ramen for their kind hospitality.

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You can check out Shoryu Soho from now up until 19th July (their soft and grand opening period) to try their ramen for just £5!

Shoryu Soho
Address: 3 Denman Street London W1D 7HA

Cookery school – advanced pastry class

I have always considered myself as quite the baker. I enjoy baking and have taught myself a few tricks in the last few years. Perhaps the tricks were picked up when my mum asked me to fold in some flour whenever she bakes. One of my favourites is tart au citron. Making both the pastry shell and curd from scratch gives me a lot of satisfaction.

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When Cookery School at little Portland Street mentioned their advanced pastry course, I knew I had to go. The other half of Dishpiglets, Celia, had previously raved about her time there when she took up one of their intermediate cooking course. This was my first ever experience at a cooking class outside of school. The last time I was 13 and being taught how to cook during Home Economics class back in Singapore.

When I arrived at the Cookery School, there was a plate of delicious smelling gruyere cheese puffs waiting for the attendees. The gruyere puffs were light and had a slight tinge of saltiness to them. We were definitely off to a great start!

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The advanced pastry class was about exploring the use of puff pastry in both sweet and savoury recipes. Our tutor for the day was Ghalid, a pastry chef who was trained in France and has worked at many famous kitchens before deciding to switch to teaching. We were shown how to make a sweet short crust pastry to start with. The technique he taught was very different to the ‘shortcut‘ way which I normally used to make a lemon tart base. The key to a good sweet short crust pastry was the handling technique. There were many great tips given along the way and you could see all the students writing down ‘secrets of the trade‘.

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What intrigued me most was the making of puff pastry. Ghalid showed us the massive chunk of butter used in the making of a delicious puff pastry from scratch. Puff pastry is essentially BUTTER. The amount of time and strength used to roll the layers of butter and dough together to create all the layers requires patience and tenacity.

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There were a lot of hands on sessions with guidance from Ghalid when we were split into two groups of 3 to execute the provencal tomato tart and apple tarte tartin. As I was in quite the savoury mood, I headed to the provencal tomato tart group and tried to roll out a pre-prepared puff pastry. The handling of the puff pastry needs to be quick and precise. Manoeuvring of the pastry is crucial, with flour being regularly dusted onto both sides as you slowly roll it out. Ghalid gave a few pointers and we managed to roll out a decent length of puff pastry ready for our provencal tomato tart toppings.

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The other group prepared their apple tarte tartan and we were shown by the chef how to put it together. He then proceeded to show us other uses for puff pastry including the making of chicken sausage rolls and parmesan cheese straws.

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At the end of the class, we sat down together to enjoy our 3 hours of hard work, paired with wine. It was a ‘pastry’ themed dinner where we devoured our fruits of labour. The tomato provencal tart, apple tarte tartan and the parmesan cheese straws were the stand outs. This was a truly enjoyable class and I went away with a determination to make my own puff pastry soon! It was a wonderful way to spend a weekend afternoon, learning how to make pastry.

*The Cookery School participates in the Sustainable Restaurant Association Sustainability Rating and was rated as a Three Star Sustainability Champion in March 2012. They “have implemented numerous commendable sustainability practices, not only sourcing much produce locally and purchasing high welfare, organic food, but also sourcing most seafood from UK fisheries and stocking UK organic craft beers and some UK wines.

Cookery School
15b Little Portland Street
London W1W 8BW
Tel: 0207 631 4590

*Disclaimer: I attended the advanced pastry class as a guest of the Cookery School. All views are my own.

Hampstead Heath – Parliament Hill Farmers’ Market

I have been trying to find a local farmers’ market since we moved to the vicinity of Hampstead Heath and have tried to locate Parliament Hill farmers’ market sometime last year when I first heard about it. Didn’t manage to get near it the first time but last weekend we found it after 40 minutes of walking in the cold!

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It was such a refreshing change, walking around, browsing fresh produce and selecting what we wanted to make for dinner. It is very different to being in the supermarket, which is a norm for me in London now. Back in Singapore, I would always accompany my parents to the wet market in the morning and supermarkets were less frequented.

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We got a fresh sea bass which was cleaned in front of us once we selected it. Fresh organic vegetables were chosen next to go with our fish. We also bought some handmade spelt pasta from Seriously Italian for only £2.50 which we cooked in sage and butter the following evening. Such a simple dish and extremely fresh and tasty!

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Bath Soft Cheese Company was handling out cheeses for tasting and we ended up buying blue cheese which the dude loved. I am not a big fan of blue cheese and instead was actually really taken by their wyfe cheese which was like a cheddar and it tasted divine. Didn’t end up getting any as they were out of it but we will definitely be back for it next week!

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If you live in the vicinity, you should definitely check this farmers’ market out! Even if you don’t, head to Hampstead Heath on a Saturday morning and you might get a snowy scene like this whilst shopping!

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When: Every Saturday 10am-2pm
Where: William Ellis School, off Highgate Road. NW5 1RN.

A lunch at Bread Street Kitchen

With only less than two months away before my weddings in Singapore and Australia, it is getting busy and is partly the reason why this blog has been put on the back burner at the moment. The other Dishpiglet has just returned from her two months long trip and will soon be blogging from the other side of the world… i.e. Australia as she is heading back home.

Recently, we celebrated my friend’s 29th birthday and as a surprise, we decided to take her for a nice lunch at Bread Street Kitchen. Situated at One New Change, across St Paul’s Cathedral, it was a short walk from where we work. I have never been to a Gordon Ramsay joint… besides the Warrington in Maida Vale for a few pints. Bread Street Kitchen was a delight when we walked in… The decor was immaculate. Walking up the three flights or so of stairs, the concept of ‘industrial glamour’ came through with the black and gold. For those who are interested, BSK is designed by Emulsion architects alongside interior designer Russell Sage Studios.

When we walked into the restaurant area, the high ceiling and the well decked out restaurant area oozes appeal. The massive area which seats about 300 is broken down into smaller areas to reduce the sheer scale of the space. We were seated near the bar area and quickly got into deciding what to have for our lunch. Having read Guan’s BSK post, I was keen to try the slow-roasted pork belly with apple sauce. Priced at £17, it does not come with a side dish and I ordered a side of runner beans with rosemary.

Warm bread was served before our lunch arrived and it was quite a delight with the butter.

As I didn’t try my friends’ dishes, I can only comment on my main. The pork belly was crispy albeit a little too tough and chewy on the thicker edges. The meat was soft and tender but it was a shame that the apple sauce was quite plain and didn’t deliver. Definitely not the best pork belly that I have tried. I did not like my side as it tasted a little bitter. Overall, it was still a pleasant lunch but I was expecting a little more.

The bill came up to about £90 for four of us and we only had mains and shared half a carafe of white wine amongst us. I have been back since to have drinks with a friend and the atmosphere of the bar is great. I am sure that I will be back to try other dishes but it will not be a regular lunch out at BSK for me as it’s a little hefty on the price tag.

Dishpiglets’ rating: 7.5/10

Bread Street Kitchen
10 Bread Street
London, EC4M 9AJ
+4420 3030 4050

Bread Street Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Mama Lan at Brixton

The gorgeous weather saw us travelling down south to Brixton. It was my third trip there and we didn’t really have an agenda. The bright sun had many out on the streets and once we emerged from the Brixton tube, it was the usual craziness. I love the markets here, the people and the music. It feels like I’m transported to another place.

As we were a little early for dinner, we headed to a local pub called Hootananny.
Everyone was sitting in the big courtyard enjoying the sunshine and beer. A rather cool place to hang out on a sunny Saturday afternoon.

When dinner time came, we headed to Brixton village market. A part of me knew that I wanted to have Kao Sarn. Afterall, we did travel from up north down to south of the river! The other part of me wanted to try some dumplings out at Mama Lan’s. We walked around and there were just way too many choices. In the end, we decided to go with Mama Lan.

After browsing through the simple menu, We ordered spicy chicken noodle (ban mein), boiled prawn dumplings and pork and chinese leaf fried dumplings aka Guo tie 鍋貼… I also got the Mama Lan’s specially brewed tea of chrysanthemum and goji berries.

When the dumplings came, it wasn’t the usual big huge plate of greasy oily dumplings we often get back in Melbourne…
Instead, there were only 5 moderate sized dumplings per plate. We knew that we were getting only 5 from the menu so we shouldn’t be complaining. Afterall, it’s London! I did hear that at Mama Lan’s, they source their meat from The Ginger Pig.

What we tasted were juicy meat fillings when we bit into them. I only wished that they were slightly more generous with their fillings. Between the boiled and the fried dumplings, I prefered the fried option. The contrasting texture of the slightly charred dumpling skin and the well-steamed dumpling was the perfect combination.

The spicy chicken noodles was really well presented and nicely spiced. It was not too spicy for my tastebuds though it was lacking a little in the flavour.

The bill came up to about £20++ for two of us including a beer. It was a cheap dinner but a part of me was left a little unsatisfied.

Dishpiglets’ rating: 7/10

Mama Lan
Unit 18
Brixton Village Market
SW9

Mama Lan Supper Club on Urbanspoon