Bone Daddies – Ramen Round-up

Having visited Tonkotsu, Shoryu and even made my own, I finally managed to get to Bone Daddies. By far the least Asian of the ramen triumvirate, Bone Daddies is a hipster favourite. They play rock music, have funky menus and cocktails.

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They offer a range of ramen, including the ever popular pork based tonkotsu and you can customise it with a dizzying array of toppings. I couldn’t turn down cock scratchings – who can?!

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The broth was great, rich and decidedly thicker than the other two, without the fattiness of Tonkotsu’s. The noodles were average and to my mind slightly overcooked, the pork wasn’t great either – much chewier than the others. The egg, however, was sublime. Creamy yolk and nicely marinaded white. I also really liked the scratchings – they added some great texture.

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So the conclusion if you’re in need of a ramen fix in London, where should you go? The answer isn’t simple – it depends what you want:

Noodles – 1. Shoryu, 2. Tonkotsu, 3. Bone Daddies

Stock – 1. Shoryu, 2. Bone Daddies, 3. Tonkotsu

Pork – 1. Tonkotsu, 2. Shoryu, 3. Bone Daddies

Extras – 1. Bone Daddies, 2. Shoryu, 3. Tonkotsu

Variety – 1. Shoryu, 2. Bone Daddies, 3. Tonkotsu

Authenticity – 1. Tonkotsu, 2. Shoryu, 3. Bone Daddies

In my mind Shoryu is probably the winner, with Tonkotsu and Bone Daddies a close second – depending on what’s important. Either way there’s three great restaurants to try. Get out there and slurp!

 

 

 

 

Bone Daddies on Urbanspoon

A. Wong Tasting Menu

I don’t normally make two posts about the same restaurant in quick succession – but when I made a second visit to A. Wong with my sister, their tasting menu definitely deserved a mention. You can read my original article here.

Eight Course Tasting Menu – £40

Dim Sum Platter
They had some different versions this visit – the foam added a really delicious seafood/citrus hit to the bite. All the dim sum were really juicy and well seasoned. I’m definitely making a trip for lunch at some point (when they have a much wider dim sum selection).

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Bean Curd Soup and Prawn Cracker
This is easily the biggest prawn crack i’ve ever seen – it’s a monster. I’ve no diea how they managed to fry it! The soup was rich, savoury and full of flavour.

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Fried Vegetables with Shrimp Butter
This was a delicious mix of pak choi, choi sum and some other veg – they’d cooked it just right so there was still some crunch and a lovely contrast of textures. The shrimp butter is inspired.

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Razor Clams
These can be a chefs worst nightmare – a fraction too long and it’s like chewing on an inner tube. These were beautifully cooked and went really well with the chinese sausage.

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Szechuan Chicken
The region is known for it’s peppercorns and the chef really went to town with them. For me it was the perfect balance, hot enough to warm your mouth but without too much numbing – others may find it a bit challenging! The chicken was incredibly moist and stood up to the spice well. It was served with a side of aubergine – similarly spiced and just as delicious. This was probably my favourite course!

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Steak and Yunnan Truffles
Just like their European counterparts – these truffles add a lovely nutty element to the dish and went really well with the rich beef and sauce. Well cooked and very tender. Bliss.

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Beef Noodles
Served with the steak – I’ve had these noodles before and they’re just as good – they manage to get the amount of soy just right, not too sweet, not too bland.

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Pineapple and Yoghurt
Apparently available everywhere in Beijing this yoghurt is very loosely set with a decidedly salty tang – when combined with the chili pineapple, it really comes alive. Yum.

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Poached Meringue with Lychee Granita
A lovely finish to the meal – crisp refreshing and with lots of interesting textures – the lychees really stood out.

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The dishes are varied, fun, complex and most importantly tasty. It’s a great little restaurant that definitely deserves support as it starts up – I look forward to many more happy meals!

A. Wong

Pimlico is where I live, it’s a lovely little area, tucked behind Victoria, north of the river, east of Chelsea, west of Westminster. There are little family-run shops, great cafes and gorgeous houses – but it also does an excellent line in restaurants. One of the newest is ‘A. Wong’. Opened in December it sits on the site of a rather dingy old chinese, but in a somewhat phoenix-like transformation it’s now a swanky, modern restaurant with a spotless open kitchen and lovely decor.

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On a freezing Thursday night it was a welcome respite from weather, the staff were welcoming and attentive and the restaurant reassuringly busy. The menu is pretty extensive and takes in a range of chinese styles, but using quality british ingredients. £40 gets you an eight course tasting menu which will have to wait for another time, we plumped for their £13 two course set menu (including a glass of very drinkable wine), brilliant value!

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The starter was a lovely dim sum platter, the pork dumpling was an absolute star, generously filled and carefully seasoned.

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The main was a great beef and noodle dish – rich, savoury and filling.

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While the service was a little slow, the quality of the food more than made up for it – i’ll definitely be back for more! It’s a welcome addition to the neighbourhood and I can’t wait to sample the rest of the menu!

A. Wong on Urbanspoon

Tonkotsu

Chinatown and it’s surrounding areas are full of cheap, plastic chinese restaurants. Bright lights and 70s decor welcome the tourists, but recently another breed of restaurants has opened shop offering simple, authentic food at affordable prices.

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Tonkotsu has been around for a while now and is a firm blogger favourite. They serve ramen – big steaming bowls of it. The menu is wonderfully simple – one of three kinds with a few sides and extras (get the pork gyoza as a starter). They also serve an excellent selection of local beers, Kernel and Camden breweries being well represented. The staff are friendly and the ‘no booking’ policy seems to work great, turning up on a Thursday evening we were seated immediately.

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So how does it taste? In a word – stunning. The pork stock is rich and savoury, the noodles are to die for. Just the right level of al dente and dripping with sauce. The pork is tender and sweet, the vegetables perfectly cooked and the egg delicious (order extra). Great value for money.

Tonkotsu on Urbanspoon

Pitt Cue Co. and More

Pitt Cue Co.

Barbecue as a concept means vastly different things depending on your background. It can be as simple as a sausage grilled outside to a complex multi-stage smoking of an entire carcass. Regardless of it’s definition it’s certainly delicious and a fantastic way of enjoying some of the more unusual cuts of meat.

Pitt Cue Co. has taken the blogging scene by storm – the queues outside are testatment to their ‘cue prowess. You can’t book, the menu is simple and unpretentious, and the restaurant tiny. Turning up on a weekend afternoon, I was very unsure we’d get in but after a short wait we were shown to our table.

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The food is incredible. Generous portions of tender flaky meat slathered in rich smokey sauces. The sides are magnificent too – I went for bone marrow mash and brussel tops but the grilled leeks are stunning too.

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My pulled pork was just perfect – piggy, soft and with just the right amount of seasoning. It was served with a lovely sour slaw, which helped cut through the richness and a very nice home made pickle. I also plumped for some rib tips – the odds and ends left over from tidying the racks slow cooked and slathered in hot sauce – magic.

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If you can get a table, and you’re longing for something meaty, uncomplicated and fun – I can’t think of a better place to go!

The Black Swan
Situated just outside Ockham in Surrey, The Black Swan is everything you could want in a country gastro-pub. I went for their starter platter which is incredible for two to share. Welsh rarebit, rabbit sausage rolls, potted venison, potted trout, scotch quails eggs, devils on horseback, pickled walnuts, onion chutney, piccalilli, Norbury blue (a delightful soft blue local cheese) and salad. It’s quite a meal.

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Chinese Cooking
Making some more recipes from ‘Every Grain of Rice’ I whipped up some slow cooked beef with bamboo tofu, stir-fried cabbage and dried shrimp and a tiger salad. Exotic, yummy and dangerously good.

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Pitt Cue Co on Urbanspoon

A Weekend in Edinburgh

Despite having Scottish heritage I’ve never been north of the border, so with the promise of good food, free accommodation and an enthusiastic guide I hopped on a plane to Edinburgh.
Scottish food has had some terrible press over the years – most people would struggle to get past haggis and deep fried mars bars. But this is a little unfair – Scotland has a wealth of fantastic ingredients: grouse, partridge, wild salmon, fresh shellfish and incredible beef. Top chefs like Tom Kitchin and Martin Wishart are reclaiming Scottish heritage and producing food that presents a local twist on Nouvelle Cuisine. Yum.
My goal over the weekend was to try a little of everything and I think I certainly managed it!

The Arcade
Located on Cockburn street (comically near to Fleshmarket Close) this very affordable little café/bistro is pretty representative of a nice tourist dive. Friendly staff serve hearty food washed down with reasonably priced whisky and wine. What’s not to like?

Starter – Smoked Salmon

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The salmon was obviously wild (just look how lean it is!) and richly flavoured. Deeply smoked with lovely fruit and spice notes I practically inhaled it. Fennel, salmon and balsamic is an interesting combination, but it certainly worked!

Main – Haggis, Neeps and Tatties

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I know it’s cliché, but it had to be done at least once. Haggis is gaining massively in popularity and is popping up on lots of menus – I’ve eaten it in Henley and even served it myself at a dinner party. Here’s it’s served in a neat stack with the traditional swede and potatoes. I prefer to interpret the ‘neeps’ as roast parnsips – to add a bit of textural contrast – but this rendition is lovely and the whisky cream sauce is a keeper!

Arcade on Urbanspoon

The Witchery

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This was a bit of a treat – The Witchery is one of the nicest restaurants in Edinburgh and has a great reputation. Situated off a little alleyway, just beside the castle it serves fantastic food in a wonderfully quirky ‘secret garden’ dining room – it’s very popular with celebrities. It serves a very reasonable lunch menu £30 for three courses and is well worth a visit.

Starter – Roast Partridge with ‘Scotch’ quails egg and black pudding.

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The partridge was lovely and the miniature black pudding delicious, but the real start was the quails egg. I like my yolks runny – but the sausage meat around the outside was incredible. Laden with mace and cinnamon it worked beautifully with the game.

Main – Ayrshire beef cheek on a spelt risotto with a burnt onion mayonnaise and kale.

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The beef cheek was fall apart tender and the spelt risotto perfectly cooked (I am definitely borrowing this for a dinner party). The kale was tasty – though I’d happily swap if for spinach. A lovely dish and perfect for a brisk November lunch.

Dessert – Marmalade Brulee

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A perfectly cooked vanilla brulee with a lovely layer of marmalade on the base – it’s a great combo and I’d love to try it myself. Some orange liqueur would help cut some of the richness too.

The Witchery By the Castle on Urbanspoon

Maxies
Saturday night is busy in Edinburgh. As we discovered – if you haven’t booked you’re out of luck. After traipsing round the streets for a while we headed for this cosy little place just off Grassmarket. Blessedly quiet it serves simple Scottish food and a great selection of wines.

Starter – Oysters

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Scottish seafood is excellent and these oysters were no different. I think my favourites still come from California, but these rank among the best I’ve had in the UK.

Main – Ribeye and Crevettes

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I like steak – and Scotland is certainly known for its Aberdeen Angus (which is completely meaningless is North America). This was perfectly cooked in a lovely whisky cream sauce with two enormous prawns all nestled majestically upon a bed of garlic mash.

Dessert – Apple Pie

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I also have a real thing for Apple pies – this frankly intimidating slab was delicious. Good pastry, nice filling and plenty of cream.

Maxies Bistro on Urbanspoon

Breakfast – World’s End Pub
In need of something substantial – this is a traditional fry-up with the addition of Haggis – a definite plus in the morning.

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Lunch – The Stand

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Now I’ll be honest – The Stand is a comedy club. The improv I saw was fantastic but the show was almost stolen by the nachos. Bought as a quick snack they were utterly phenomenal – the chilli wasn’t made with mince, but big tender chunks of beef in a rich, savoury sauce. We polished off a plate and immediately ordered a second. Beefy heaven!

A Weekend in Paris

Western cuisine has changed significantly in the last hundred years, through New International, Nouvelle Cuisine and most recently Modernist cuisine (I can’t wait to see what Postmodernist cuisine is like!) but the bedrock is still French cuisine. Escoffier has had more impact on the way Europe (and by extension, fine dining) works than any other individual in history. His ordering of the kitchen and espousal and codification of classical French dishes is the bedrock upon which we stand. French cuisine itself is a diverse as any other with numerous regional specialities, from bouillabaisse to baguette, but if its centred anywhere, it’s Paris.

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With free hotel vouchers to use up, I hopped on the Eurostar for a packed weekend of art, food and alcohol.

Lunch – Cafe Constant
Once the proud holder of a Michelin star, cafe constant is a beautiful snapshot of the archetypical upmarket bistro. Sat on a corner near the Eiffel Tower it’s tiny dining room is host to some fantastic food.

Starter – Terrine of Foie Gras and Pork Shin, with warm lentil salad.
I loved the play of cold, rich terrine with warm smooth lentils. I normally avoid small round pulses, but these were superbly cooked.

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Main – ‘Calves Head’ (Veal brain, tongue and cheek) served with dauphin potatoes.
Offal is having a bit of a comeback in British cuisine and righty so. If you can look past the well… brain like look of it, a creamey subtley beefy delight is waiting. The tongue was meltingly tender and the beef cheek added some welcome firmness. The potatoes were beautifully cooked and the herby salad was nicely dressed.

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Dessert – Ile flottante
This is a dessert I’ve tried at home recently. This version has really beautiful presentation – I’ve no idea how they poach the meringue without it losing all definition, I suspect it’s a cooked, Italian meringue. The creme anglaise was a beautiful texture. Another innovation is the use of a salted caramel sauce rather than the traditional hard caramel – it works beautifully and I’ll definitely be stealing it!

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Dinner – Le Roi du Pot au Feu
As the name suggests this little bistro, a piece of the 1930s lovingly preserved behind the place de la Concorde, specialises in Pot au Feu. A traditional French dish where beef is stewed with vegetables until its fall apart tender then most of the juice is strained off and turned into a consommé which can be served as a starter.

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This rendition is gorgeous, big tender chunks of beef that are full of flavour and can be cut with a spoon. A generous chunk of bone marrow is also provided alongside some thoughtful toast and salt. It’s hearty peasant food, but wonderfully executed. A bottle of house wine (a surprisingly full bodied cote du rhone) is provided with each table and you simply pay for what you use – genius. In a restaurant with an eponymous special I really wouldn’t stray, the fish on the next table looked a bit ropey, but the pot au feu really is wonderful.

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Breakfast – Marche Bastille
All that’s left of the great prison is few bricks visible from the Metro, but in its place stands a large monument and on Sundays the biggest market in Paris. Unlike a British farmers market, where often the focus is on processed ingredients (chutneys, preserves, charcuterie etc.) here there was far more fresh produce. Stall after stall of immaculate fruit and vegetable, enough shellfish to sate even the greediest gourmet and some truly spectacular butchers.

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There was a notable shortage of baked goods and patisseries, though I imagine this has more to do with the very high quality available in every neighbourhood shop.

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Brunch – Cafe Hugo and Berthillon
Having sampled rather too many good things at the market I wandered a couple of streets over to the Place de Vosges, a picturesque little square with a number of tiny cafes.

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Next stop was Bertillon on the Ile St Louis. Shops all over Paris serve their ice cream and the selection of almost seventy flavours is dazzling.

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I plumped for the salted caramel and the kirsch with preserved fruit. The texture was lovely and rich, the caramel very dark almost to the point of burnt. Very yummy despite the freezing weather!

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Dinner – Market
Jean Georges Vongerichten is a French culinary force with a chain of restaurants around the world. In Paris he has Market. Just off the Champs Élysées it was a convenient stop on the way home and, more importantly, open on Sundays.

Starter – Iberico Ham
While undeniably delicious, I was hoping for a bit from this starter. I’m all for showcasing great ingredients, but this is just a bit lazy. That aside, the ham was spectacular.

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Main – Escalope of Veal with cranberries and salsify.
I wouldn’t have imagined this flavour combination, but it actually works really well. Light, fruity and very tasty. The salad on top was nice but I think they went a bit overkill – it doesn’t smack of careful presentation.

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Dessert – Chestnut Soufflé
At this point I was pretty unimpressed so I picked the most technically difficult dessert on the menu to see if they could redeem themselves. I think they pulled it off. The soufflé was beautifully risen, barely cooked in the middle and delicately flavoured. The sorbet was phenomenal – incredibly light and smooth. I’ve never eaten one with quite that texture but after enquiring (in very bad French) the waiter confirmed it was made with a Pacojet – a very expensive ice cream machine that literally shaves microscopic fragments off a block of solid sorbet. It’s definitely in my dream kitchen.

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Lunch – Au pied du Cochon
For my final meal in Paris I needed something quick and authentic. A short walk from the Louvre, ‘Au pied du Cochon’ has been serving food twenty four hours a day, seven days a week since the end of World War Two. It was very busy when I turned up, but they managed to squeeze me in and I’m very glad they did.

Starter – French Onion Soup
The great raft of cheese and toast hid a truly delicious soup, rich and savoury it was perfect for a cold November afternoon. The cheese was nicely browned and the complimentary bread and pâté helped mop up any left overs.

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Main – Pigs Trotter
The house speciality – beautifully slow roasted pigs trotter. There are 32 bones, in case you were wondering, but they hide some of the tenderest, most flavourful pork I’ve ever eaten. Slow cooking transforms the tough tendons into gentle, soft juiciness. Judicious application of bearnaise sauce made it wonderfully rich. I’m definitely trying it at home, though in a sop to British sensibilities, I might borrow another option on the menu: bone it out and stuff the cavity with mushrooms.

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Dessert – Brasserie du Nord
Too full after lunch I left my final snack for the way home. No ordinary station cafe, Brasserie du Nord is a 1920s gem. Waiters are immaculately dressed and the dining room beautifully mirrored around a copper bar. The ‘patisserie du jour’ was a beautifully cooked chocolate fondant with homemade vanilla ice cream. Yum.

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Paris has a lot of offer a keen foodie, on any budget. I’d love to return again and sample some of the more upmarket places. I was very impressed at the number of restaurants, though none seemed to deviate too far from the traditional bistro staples. I like the fact that a lot of English restaurants are starting to mix up the classics, presenting them with modern twists – hopefully I’ll find this somewhere in Paris soon!

The Crooked Billet

Situated just west of Henley, down winding country lanes, The Crooked Billet is everything that’s wonderful about British gastropubs. Seasonal ingredients, carefully prepared, beautifully presented. Paul Clerehugh knows what he’s doing. There are low ceilings, log fires and a cosy atmosphere. Perfect for a meal on a cold November evening.

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Starter – Partridge breasts, braised red cabbage, parsnip purée, parsnip crisps

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The partridge was perfectly cooked – slightly pink in the middle – and stood up well to the rich cabbage. The crisps added a lovely textural contrast.

Main – Pink carved venison, haggis, baby spinach, roast figs, port and juniper

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Probably the best venison I’ve had. The port and figs are a superb choice, I’m definitely going to borrow that. Haggis just fits – the herby/spices flavour works great with the very gamey meat. Wonderful.

Dessert – Syrup Pudding with Custard and Ice Cream

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I love traditional steamed sponge puddings, especially at this time of year. Much lighter than I expected with a lovely sweet syrup. Very nice. I have to admit to some considerable envy – one of my fellow diners opted for the chocolate banana bread which was really magnificent.

Homemade Fudge

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A lovely way to finish the meal: smooth, rich and creamy.

Beer and Brasserie

HB3 Beer Tasting

Beer Review

I like beer. This will surprise precisely no-one who know’s me. But I also like brewing it. I first tried it out at university and have been enjoying it ever since. There’s a quiet satisfaction about letting something bubble away and weeks later pouring off a perfect pint of beer. Over the last four years i’ve done several different styles of beer and even dabbled in cider – this is barely brushing the surface compared to my colleague Jasper.

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Jasper is a serious home-brewer and as such had lots of beer laying around that needed drinking. Being the noble, selfless souls that we are, we volunteered to help him out. Jasper’s portable beer setup involves half-size Corny kegs, a CO2 bottle and an inline beer chiller with two taps. But more importantly – how does it taste?

Beer 1 – #101 Witbier
A typical wheatbeer it was light, floral and tasted of summer. A perfect antidote to a long hot day in the sun. It had been flavoured with some coriander and elderflower which added a lovely layer of complexity. (Hops: Bramling Cross and Amos’ Earlybird)

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Beer 2 – #102 Bitter
Sweet with a lovely colour, this is very reminiscent of a classic english ale – think Speckled Hen or Woodfords Wherry. (Malts: Maris Otter, Amber, Crystal, Pale Crystal – Hops: Fuggle, Northdown, Amos’ Early Bird)

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Beer 3 – #98 Porter
A dark english porter – think guiness. Rich, creamey and slightly smokey. A fantastic little beer and perfect for the winter months. (Hops: Fuggles, Progress)

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Beer 4 – #103 Pale Ale
This was the star of the show – a very young beer. Lots of tropical grapefruit notes from the rare hops. Light smooth and dangerously easy to drink. (Malt: Maris Otter, Pale Crystal, Amber – Hops: Nelson Sauvin, Centennial 2012)

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myalacarte

I’ve already waxed lyrical about this little gem in Reading. Here’s a sample of their latest menu:

Watlington pork crackling, homemade apple sauce
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Loin of Hampshire rabbit wrapped in streaky bacon, confit leg, herb potato, mustard purée, red wine jus
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Ashampstead venison haunch served pink, butternut tart, duxelle of seasonal mushroom, herb crumbed salsify, smoked butternut purée, game jus, crisps
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English apple ‘stew’ – pastry case, creme anglaise, calvados ice cream.
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Saigon Saigon

Thai food has become something of a commodity – almost every village has a little restaurant churning out reliable Asian cuisine. Vietnamese on the other hand is far rarer and with a strong recommendation I set off for Saigon Saigon in Hammersmith.

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In an otherwise unprepossessing street, Saigon Saigon has been serving up a wide range of traditional Vietnamese dishes for years. On a wet Saturday evening the restaurant was buzzing but they managed to squeeze us in. The friendly staff were happy to reccommend dishes for first timers.

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The beef pho was delicious – rare steak and tender brisket in an umami laden noodle soup.

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Of the mains, the shaking beef was the undoubted star. Generous chunks of steak sizzling on a red hot griddle, served with a spicy, pepper laden sauce.

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The aubergine and mushroom claypot was great, lots of fish sauce. We also had a really nice duck breast, heavily seasoned with five spice. The menu is pretty extensive and i’ll definitely visit to investigate the pork options.

If you’re not familiar with Vietnamese food – I really recommend it. Think thai with a little more chinese influence. Saigon Saigon is a great place to try it out – three people ate their fill for less than £20 each which is a pretty astonishing feat in London!

Saigon Saigon on Urbanspoon