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Bordelaise: French vibes in Tooting

Bordelaise: French vibes in Tooting

Before I say anything else, you need to know this. The chef at Bordelaise is a very bad man.  Despite being dangerously full after having demolished two large rounds of food, he insisted that my friend and I each have a pudding, rather than going down the more civilised route of sharing one. What’s more, we were “coerced” into the richest, most decadent dessert on the menu. But more of that later…

Bordelaise is the latest offering by the power team behind The Little Bar and The Little Taperia in Tooting. These guys can’t seem to put a foot wrong, so I was pretty confident that Bordelaise would be a winner too. I have previously written about The Little Taperia and waxed lyrical about how it’s basically a direct portal to sunny Spain. I don’t know what their secret is but these guys have achieved something similar with Bordelaise. Despite the fact that it’s a tiny unit in Broadway Market, surrounded by braying butchers, fruit and veg hawkers and a wonderfully chaotic array of world food stalls, Bordelaise somehow manages to transport you to a quintessentially Parisien bistro. It becomes easy to block out the potential assault on the senses from the rest of the market and focus on the food and, of course, the wine.

We started our foray into France (via Tooting) with a cheese and charcuterie platter. Our lovely French waiter brought over what he called “a 3D version of the menu”, i.e. their cheese board. There was every kind of cheese on there, from hard to squidgy to running all over the place. Not wanting to spoil the rest of our meal, we showed enormous restraint and selected only three cheeses – Comté,  Tomme de Savoir and a wonderfully ripe Epoisses. Served with crusty fresh bread and a selection of cured meat, washed down with a glass of fizz…I was kicking back and feeling all sorts of joie de vivre.

I could have happily sat there all day grazing on cheese and wine, but Bordelaise actually specialises in steak. They do offer other things if steak’s not your bag, such as truffled mac and cheese, braised ox cheeks or a daily special. The menu is fairly limited, with just two cuts of meat available – a flat iron and a rib eye. We chose one of each together with sides of creamed spinach, beef dripping chips and a special of tempura baby artichokes. There are also only two sauces to choose from – a Béarnaise and their signature Bordelaise sauce. The Bordelaise is made with red wine and bone marrow, and takes a mega two days to reduce before they serve it. It oozed out of the little sauce pan, slow and luxuriant, generously coating the steak.

The steaks were cooked very well, although it was announced that they would be served medium rare. I get that this is easier for the kitchen, but it’s a little bit lazy. However, I asked if my steak could be served rare and this wasn’t a problem. The sides were scrumptious and rather naughty, especially the creamed spinach, where the cream to spinach ratio was most definitely in favour of the cream.  Beef dripping chips are all the rage right now and these were crispy, golden and moreish.  I have been very spoiled by the We Serve Humans version over at the Jackdaw and Star, however. There’s not much that can compare to those beauties, I’m afraid.

Anyway, on to that pudding. We were, of course, painfully full by this stage but I’m a big believer in the “pudding belly” (like Santa Claus and the tooth fairy, only it’s real – honest!) so we had to take a gander at the dessert menu. Again, it’s very limited with two regular dishes (chocolate fondant and a Coupe Colonel, which is lemon sorbet with a vodka shot) and a daily special. We decided it was wiser to share the special of a lemon tart – something light and palate cleansing.  The chef, however, had other ideas. I nipped out to the cash point while we were waiting for dessert to be served and, during the five minutes I was gone, the chef had persuaded my friend to order the chocolate fondant. And I thought I was weak-willed!

As it happens, this chocolate fondant is a bit of a chef’s special at Bordelaise so they were keen for us to try it. It’s not just any old chocolate fondant. It comes with salted caramel and salted vanilla ice cream. Yes, that’s right. A scoop of good old fashioned vanilla ice cream with a pinch of rock salt sprinkled on top. Why has no-one ever thought about doing this before?? It’s bloody amazing! In fact, the whole pud was amazing. A lava flow of chocolate sauce gushed into the salted caramel which, combined with the rapidly melting ice cream, created a perfect storm of foodporn. My friend and I approached it with all the grace and finesse of a pair of starving savages, smashing into the thing and shovelling it into our faces as quickly as possible. The poor old lemon tart almost got overlooked during our feeding frenzy, but I’m happy to report that it was a zingy thing of beauty.

I think part of the secret to the success of the Little Bar, the Little Taperia and – now – Bordelaise is the attention to detail. It’s the little, subtle touches that transport you to another place altogether. Of course, having a bloody good chef helps too! I know I’ve mentioned the “limited menu” a few times, but I don’t mean that to be a negative. It was completely reminiscent of what you’d find in an old-fashioned bistro in France. You get what’s fresh, what’s seasonal and what they want to cook.  The food is straightforward, made with good quality ingredients and executed perfectly. What more do you want? Don’t let the madness of a (brilliant) working market fool you; Bordelaise is your passport to Paris.

Bordelaise, Units 9-10, Broadway Market, Tooting High Street, SW17 0RJ

Many thanks to the team at Bordelaise for inviting me over for lunch. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

5 top places to drink a Negroni in London

5 top places to drink a Negroni in London

I discovered the pleasures of a well-mixed Negroni a couple of years ago and have been addicted to them ever since. A Negroni is a cocktail made with one part gin, Campari and vermouth, served over ice, usually with a slice of orange. It’s not for the faint-hearted. Dry and packing a pretty punch, with no mixer this is all thriller, no filler. The last few years have seen Negronis become increasingly fashionable, and you’ll likely find one on most cocktail menus throughout town. Here are 5 of my top picks:

Bar Termini
Bar Termini is THE place to go for a Negroni.  It’s the where I popped my Negroni cherry and it’s where I return to time and time again. I’ve written more extensively about Bar Termini elsewhere but, suffice to say, it’s a sexy little Italian number that serves coffee by day and cocktails by night. The drinks in this tiny little enclave of Continental Europe are strong, served by slick white-jacketed waiters. Work your way through their sublime range of pre-mixed Negronis and pretend that you’re living la dolce vita in Italy.
7 Old Compton Street, W1D 5JE

The Little Bar
I was so excited when this place opened in my ‘hood of Tooting. Like Bar Termini, it takes its inspiration from the bars of the Continent as well as being a little on the small side. You can find a staggering 8 versions of the Negroni on their menu and I strongly recommend holing up here and working your way through them all. The staff are lovely, the vibe is relaxed and the pound shops of Tooting could not feel further away (actually they probably could).
145 Mitcham Road, SW17 9PE

Franks Cafe
Franks is one massive hipster cliche. Yes, it’s in Peckham. Yes, it’s on the roof of a multi-story carpark. Yes, it’s Instagram heaven (especially the pink stairwells). But it really is a cracking spot to drink a Negroni. These guys know their shit when it comes to “grown up cocktails” (as I like to call them). You know, the cocktails that actually taste alcoholic and don’t come decorated with a paper parasol. Expect to find Campari, Aperol, vermouth and port on the menu here. It’s only open during the summer and you can’t book, so get there early to grab one of the tables or just prop up one of the shelves around the perimeter and take in the amazing view.
Peckham Multi-story Car Park, 95a Rye Lane, SE15 4ST

The Portobello Star
I rarely venture “out west” but the Portobello Star is worth the Tube trek. As it’s home to Portobello Road Gin, you would expect them to be able to mix a mean Negroni. And they do. Perfectly dry and refreshing, their Negronis are smooth sippin’. Escape the tourist-thronged mayhem of Portobello Road and dive into this discrete and dimly lit drinking den for ace cocktails or one of the best G&Ts in town.
171 Portobello Road, W11 2DY

68 and Boston
The bar with the split personality. On the ground floor you’ll find a wine bar; upstairs is a cocktail lounge. Unsurprisingly, it’s the cocktails that draw me in. A warren of luxuriously furnished rooms awaits you, as does a stellar cocktail menu. Their Negroni is one of the best in town by far. You’d be forgiven for thinking that making a drink using only three ingredients is a doddle; however, I’ve had my fair share of nasty Negronis. There are no extra flourishes involved, no mixers to mask the taste. 68 and Boston get it bang on.
5 Greek Street, W1D 4DD

But you should also visit….
Campania
Viktor Wynd’s Cabinet of Curiosities
Little Bird 

Where’s your favourite spot for a Negroni? Let me know in the comments!

The Best Food and Drink of 2016

The Best Food and Drink of 2016

Fried chicken waffle by Waffle On at Maltby Street Market

Yes, everyone keeps saying that 2016 has been the worst year ever.  But when it comes to food and drink, this year has been a cracker.  With more new restaurants and more foodie entrepreneurs than ever, there is no excuse to eat badly.  Here are the best things that I snaffled into my greedy face this year:

Chicken and pistachio shish from Arabica Bar & Kitchen
I wanted to eat everything on Arabica Bar & Kitchen’s menu.  I’ve eaten a lot of samey mezze over the years, but these guys really know how to sex it up.  It’s easy to be bamboozled by choice; however, you should definitely include the chicken and pistachio shish in your order.  Forget all about those dry old shish kebabs you may have had the misfortune to eat in the past.  These little skewers are succulent, dripping with meat juices and are infused with the flavours of the Middle East.

Chicken and pistachio shish from Arabica Bar & Kitchen

Kürtöskalács in Budapest
Yeah I have no idea how to pronounce it either.  But that won’t be a hinderance to you when you visit Budapest because you can find it everywhere.  It’s a chimney cake made from a doughnut style dough and rolled in sugar.  It’s served hot with various toppings, like nuts or desiccated coconut, but I chose good old fashioned cinnamon.  It was huge but worth every stomach-straining bite.

Fried chicken waffle from Waffle On
You’re spoiled for choice when it comes to eating at Maltby Street market.  However, I can definitely recommend the fried chicken waffle with maple syrup butter from Waffle On.  Street food is generally naughty but this is really decadent.  The chicken is fried to perfection, and the combination of sweet and savoury flavours here is sheer bliss.

Rabbit risotto from Cafe Murano
Rabbit’s another one that is so often dry and dull.  And a perfect risotto sometimes feels like the holy grail. Not so when these things are in the hands of the chefs at Cafe Murano.  The risotto was creamy, topped off with chunks of juicy rabbit meat and a drizzle of stock.  It’s a wonderfully, sinfully rich dish that stood out on a menu that was full of wonderful dishes.

The Meihua Shan at Oriole
Many bars claim to be “speakeasies” but Oriole probably comes closest to the real deal.  For a start, it’s genuinely hard to find.  I walked past it a couple of times in increasing confusion.  But once you’re in, you’re truly through the looking glass.  Their incredible cocktail list – inspired by the golden age of exploration – helps to transport you to another era and another world.  Again, you can be bamboozled by choice (and some unusual ingredients), but the Meihua Shan is worth splashing the cash on.  Made with Hendricks gin, plum rosolio, juniper chou syrup, egg white and lemon, it manages to be both refreshing and creamy.  And, as with all the cocktails from the team behind Nightjar, it looked like a work of art.

Meihua Shan cocktail from Oriole

All of the cheese from La Latteria
La Latteria specialise in mozzarella, stracciatella and ricotta.  And they do this exceptionally well.  Scoffing down a plate of their ricotta felt incredibly naughty – it was that creamy.  Then I did the same with their stracciatella.  Seemingly simple produce that, when done well, tastes exquisite.  Find them at newbie food destination, Mercato Metropolitano.

Pork confit bao from BAO
Yes, this has become a bit of “a classic” but justifiably so.  Judging by Instagram, I think everyone in London has now eaten this but, if you haven’t, then brave the queue at the door of BAO.  This little squidgy mouthful is worth it.  As is the rest of the menu.

Goat kofte salad from Gourmet Goat
Goat is a much under-rated meat but, when it’s handled well, it’s delicious.  Gourmet Goat know exactly what they are doing and their goat kofte salad is delightful.  The meat is tender and flavoursome, and the salad is one of the tastiest I have eaten.  It was packed with beetroot, chickpeas, goat kurd and came with a punchy chilli “pistou” – and I gobbled the whole thing up in a matter of minutes.

Goat kofte salad from Gourmet Goat

Everything I ate at Rotorino
Admittedly, I’d had a few shandies before my friend and I decided to grab a bite here.  But everything I ate here was delicious.  So much so, that it managed to make an impression through the fog of gin that surrounded me – and one that has lasted.  My starter of marinated mackerel with pinenuts, almonds and breadcrumbs was fresh and zingy.  The roast chicken on toast (yes, toast!) that followed was one of the tastiest roast chooks I have eaten (although annoyingly a little under-cooked in places).  The buttermilk pannacotta with rhubarb for dessert was perfectly executed.  Can’t wait to go back.

Chicken livers with pomegranate molasses from Meza
It’s taken me 7 years to get around to going to Meza in my ‘hood of Tooting.  I now can’t believe that I have gone without their chicken livers for so long.  Melt-in-the-mouth with a sticky, sweet, tangy dressing and a great smack of Middle Eastern spices.  I think I might have to nip up the road and get some now….!

“Strawberries and Cream” from Fifteen 
This wasn’t a dish of strawberries and cream.  It was actually a cocktail, made for this year’s London Cocktail Week.  The list of ingredients was as long as my arm but the end result was simple and elegant.  It really did taste of strawberries and cream, reminiscent of those old fashioned boiled sweets.  And of course it looked as pretty as a picture.

Strawberries and Cream cocktail from Jamie Oliver's Fifteen

Slow cooked beef cheek pie from The Holly Bush
My second choice dish from the menu at The Holly Bush in Hampstead actually turned out to be the right decision after all.  This “proper” pie was fully encased in buttery shortcrust pastry and stuffed full of the most tender chunks of beef cheek I have ever eaten.  It came with a rich, dark gravy and every mouthful was a pleasure.  Comfort food at its best.

Ricotta dumplings from The Ship Inn, Rye
This dish.  My God.  Ricotta, sage, pumpkin all forming a perfect storm of flavour.  It was so delicious and so comforting to eat.  The cheese was rich and gooey, counterbalanced by the sweetness of the roast pumpkin.  Exactly the sort of thing you want to eat on a dark, chilly winter’s night on the Sussex marshes.

Ricotta dumplings from The Ship Inn, Rye

Disappointment of the year: Hatchetts
Hatchetts, a new arrival in 2016, had a limited, unimaginative menu that was very over priced for what they offered.  Weirdly, they had a “Christmas dinner” on their standard lunch menu when I visited.  I ordered it because the other three main courses available appealed to me far less than this one did (which is saying something).  It was average.  So was their chocolate fondant dessert.  The plates were stone cold and the restaurant was empty.  When you charge premium prices then you should deliver a premium experience.  This was just lazy and complacent.

I ate a lot over the course of 2016, but I barely scratched the surface of all the amazing restaurants and bars that are only in London  I tend not to make New Year’s resolutions but I think, for 2017, I’m going to have just one: eat more.

If you have any recommendations for me then drop me a line.  I’d love to hear them.  Happy New Year!

Tub 4 Grub/The Collective

Tub 4 Grub/The Collective

Raw cookie dough as part of the Tub 4 Grub campaign

I have a confession to make.  I hardly ever cook.  For someone who writes about food, this is a little embarrassing.  The thing is, I used to love cooking.  I’m a total feeder.  I cooked for friends, colleagues and loved ones, and I would always go crazy, making more food than they could possibly eat.  I cooked for my boyfriend all the time.  In fact, I became a proper little domestic goddess, enjoying nothing more than getting out of bed at the crack of dawn to cook him an amazing breakfast.  We hosted parties together and I would push myself to produce fantastic dishes to impress his friends.  I baked him cakes and pies just because.  We grew fat and happy.  Then the relationship ended and a rug was pulled out from under my feet.  As he fell out of love with me, so I fell out of love with cooking.

But sometimes life gives you a much-needed kick up the backside.  For me, this came in the form of The Collective and their Tub 4 Grub campaign.  The Collective make yoghurt.  You may have seen their tubs in your local supermarket.  Initially started in New Zealand, they were so successful that they expanded to the UK.  With interesting flavours like honeyed plum with stem ginger, Russian fudge or wild blueberry, it’s not difficult to see why they are doing so well.  But they also give a little something back.  Tub 4 Grub is an initiative that they started to support Action Against Hunger, with the goal of raising £20,000.  Once you’ve eaten your tub of The Collective yoghurt, don’t throw it away.  Wash it out, fill it with goodies (ideally ones you have made yourself), personalise it, then give it away to someone who needs a treat.  All tubs sold will raise money for Action Against Hunger and the team will donate a further 50p if you share your good deed on social media.

Tubs of The Collective yoghurt

I think this is a really lovely idea so, when I was approached about participating, I jumped at the chance.  And I knew exactly who I wanted to donate my tub to.  CARAS is a charity based just around the corner from me in Tooting.  They support refugees and asylum-seekers, particularly women and children, through a range of services such as mentoring, outreach and training.  Now, more than ever, it feels appropriate to do something, even if that’s only a small thing like baking biscuits.  Here was a reason to get back in the kitchen.

Making cookies for Tub 4 Grub

There are a few recipes on the Collective website, but I decided to make chocolate chip cookies because, well, who doesn’t like chocolate chip cookies.  Plus, biscuits are generally really easy to make and I’m more than a little rusty when it comes to baking.  I followed a great recipe from the BBC Good Food website, which was quick and straightforward.  Ok, so my cookies didn’t look quite like the photo on the BBC website…..  But they tasted good which is the main thing.  I filled up several tubs, labelled them and set off to CARAS.  A children’s group was running as I arrived.  Despite the dreary weather, the children were playing outside, running about and laughing – which is exactly what children should be doing.  I don’t know where they came from and I don’t know what they have been through, but I sincerely hope that life for these kids will only get better from now on.

Freshly baked chocolate chip cookies

The team at CARAS were so lovely and were also very kind about my slightly rubbish cookies.  What’s more, I began to remember why I used to enjoy cooking.  I guess it’s twofold.  Firstly, creating something is always pleasing.  You feel like you’ve achieved something, even if it’s some squished biscuits that you can make in a morning.  Secondly, the act of sharing food is incredibly meaningful.  Not just from the sense of pride that you get when someone enjoys your cooking, but also the connections that you make as a result.  So I’d like to say “thank you” to The Collective for giving me the motivation to dust off my pots and pans, dig out my apron and use something other than the microwave.  And my friends had better watch out because I’m going to be making you fat once again!

Thanks to The Forge and The Collective for introducing me to the Tub 4 Grub campaign.  If you want to take part then visit The Collective website for more details and remember to share your efforts on social media using #tub4grub.

The Little Taperia

The Little Taperia

Tapas 1

On a grey bank holiday Monday, it’s tempting to spend the whole day watching Netflix in your onesie.  Alternatively, you could pretend that you’re somewhere else entirely, somewhere with good food, good wine and summer vibes.  Tooting may not be the first place that springs to mind, but step over the threshold of The Little Taperia and it’s as if you’ve gone through a wormhole to sunny Spain.

The Little Taperia is the lovechild of two of Tooting’s leading foodies: Hikmat Antippa of Meza and formerly Caprice Holdings, and Madeleine Limm of The Little Bar and ex-Food & Drink editor of the Independent magazine.  There is much noise made about Tooting being “the new Shoreditch” and the emergence of restaurants like The Little Taperia give weight to the neighbourhood’s hipster credentials.  The interior of The Little Taperia is straight out of Barcelona or Madrid – tiled floor, vintage prints on the walls, a huge bar lined with high wooden seats and stocked with everything you need to make a good cocktail.

The menu is straightforward, with tapas bar staples such as chorizo, croquetas and patatas bravas.  Furthermore, it’s all extremely reasonably priced.  You could happily order the entire menu without breaking the bank.  There’s also a substantial wine list, a decent selection of cocktails plus options for cava, sherry and port.  All Iberian bases well and truly covered.  Food-wise, we decided on the morcilla scotch egg with piquillo pepper chutney, salt cod fritters, chorizo in red wine and arroz negro.  Although seemingly simple, these were dishes at the top of their game.  The fritters were freshly fried puffs of soft saltiness, the arroz negro was satiny with squid ink and contained little morsels of squid and prawn buried within the blackness.  Chorizo is chorizo, but can often be overly rich and greasy.  Not the case with these fat little sausages.  However, the highlight was the morcilla scotch egg.  Banish those memories of the sad soggy specimens found on many a family picnic.  The breadcrumb “shell” was crisp, the yolk was soft, and the addition of pickled piquillo peppers on the side is genius.  Their sweetness is the perfect foil for the rich, meaty black pudding.

Tapas 3

We ordered churros with chocolate dipping sauce for dessert.  The churros were great – freshly fried and heaving with sugar.  The chocolate sauce was surprisingly bitter which is ideal when paired with such sugary morsels.  However, the sauce lacked depth of flavour and would have been better served warm.

Tapas 2

If you’re looking for a sunny spot in south-west London then The Little Taperia is perfect.  The food is of an extremely high standard, especially considering the price.  You can perch at the bar with a crisp glass of white and graze your way through the day.  When we actually see some real sun (can you sense the optimism here?) this little bolthole will make Tooting feel like Tenerife.  Well, almost….

The Little Taperia, 143 Tooting High Street, SW17 0RU
£21 for four plates of tapas, dessert and wine (based on their lunchtime menu)

The Little Taperia Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Spice Village, Tooting

Spice Village, Tooting

Was it the screaming baby right behind me?  Was it the two drunks next to me who only stopped slurping cans of Carling to pass out?  Was it the food so smelly that it assaulted my nasal passages and walloped my sinuses?  Or was it the person playing their music so loudly that I’m sure they were only wearing headphones as a fashion accessory?  It was shaping up to be the journey from hell, and by the time I arrived in London I was feeling about as festive as a turkey on Christmas Eve.

Returning to an empty kitchen and having already made myself sick after gorging an entire box of Quality Street in one sitting (it was a small box!!), I was in the mood to eat the least Christmassy food that I could find.  And in Tooting that means one thing – curry!  Now, I have lived in Tooting for five years but, embarrassingly, I tend to divide my time between only two of the neighbourhood’s famed curry houses.  So, as the title of this website declares, I am determined to break the habit of a lifetime (or of five years at least) and venture forth into new territory!  With this in mind, I boldly strode into the first restaurant I came to, which happened to be Spice Village.

IMG_0725

I vaguely recalled hearing good things about Spice Village so I felt fairly confident that I would be fed well, despite the fact that there seemed to be more people at the humongous Chicken Cottage next door.  Maybe they had been dazed by the oversized “crystal” chandeliers that adorn the ceiling of Spice Village and stumbled into Chicken Cottage by accident, who knows….?  However, the chef at Spice Village is definitely better than their interior designer.  I began my feast with the “world famous” masala fish – cod that had been marinated in masala spices then deep fried.  As it was a starter, I had imagined being served delicate little goujons of fish that I could elegantly nibble on.  Not so.  I was unceremoniously presented with a huge fillet of fried fish.  It may have looked like something you would find down the local chippy, but it sure didn’t taste like it.  Moist, flaky white fish coated in delicately spiced crispy batter, with just enough heat to keep things interesting.  I gobbled the whole thing down in record speed.

For my main course I had ordered Afghani lamb karahi, with an onion kulcha and raita on the side.  A karahi is a cooking utensil similar to a wok, but is used for slow cooking.  Therefore Afghani lamb karahi is basically a lamb stew, or as the waiter described “it’s a bit dry, a bit saucy, it’s dry-saucy”.  It was big chunks of lamb on the bone, slow cooked so that the meat fell apart, coated in a rich sauce.  It had a little bit of heat, but not so much that it obliterated all the other flavours.  I ate it with the raita to be on the safe side, which I was pleased to note was “proper” raita with bits of cucumber and tomato mixed through the yoghurt.  The “dry sauce” was mopped up with the onion kulcha – a large flatbread stuffed with minced onions and topped with sesame seeds.  I wish I could tell you exactly what was in the lamb karahi (other than lamb!) but the waiter wasn’t able to share that information with me – apparently it’s top secret!

IMG_0724

Spice Village has apparently been voted the best Indian and Pakistani restaurant in Tooting by the local residents.  In an area with so much competition, this is praise indeed.  I was impressed both by the food and the service, but do I think it’s the best in Tooting?  I’ll have to try a few more restaurants before I decide…..

£19.99 for one person, excluding drinks.  Salad, chutneys and a jug of water were provided.  Service not included.

Spice Village Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato