Last week was EPIC on the eating front – not so great for keeping to a consistent diet, but wonderful for my palate. I’m testing a lot of recipes at the moment, and I started off with a riff on the middle Eastern classic, shakshuka, (above) using cherry tomatoes, lots of onions, and scented with lemon thyme.
Whole Foods have just started stocking double yolked eggs, which I’ve never come across before, and they were particularly successful here, as sometimes it can be hard to fit four eggs into a pan with all the sauce, and here I had only two whites with the four yolks…perfect and packed full of protein.
On Tuesday night I was invited to a press dinner for beauty brand La Roche Posay in a private room at Ace Hotel, catered by their restaurant Hoi Polloi. I ate delicious burrata with podded and skinned broad beans (pity their prep chef!), watercress, pomegranate and a pea puree, spiked, I think, with either wasabi or horseradish.
The main course was a rustic little tart filled with spouting broccoli, ricotta and onion with roasted beetroots (beets) that had almost candied in the heat of the oven. (Lettice is so calm at dinners: she just curls up into a version of a Cumberland sausage and goes to sleep on my lap.)
Breakfast in bed at the hotel next morning sadly didn’t quite live up to dinner the night before. The toast was soggy – inevitably – from the over-squished avocado, which had had a very heavy hand with the chilli. If I’d been hungover I would have relished the kick. But I wasn’t.
Excellent filter coffee, and a fruit platter to finish.
Wednesday was quite the assault on my digestive system, as I ate out for all three meals. Following my room service breakfast I headed to Black Roe, a poke restaurant just behind Vogue House on Pollen Street. It specialises in Hawaiian poke, fish salads made from cubes of raw fish with rice, fruit or vegetables and garnishes in a soy-based dressing but, as I don’t eat fish, I ordered asparagus tempura which was excellent – light and crispy, and a brick of charred tofu with a pineapple salsa. The prospect didn’t fill me with joy, but I ended up loving the contrasts of smoke, sweet, silky and crispiness.
The service is very slow for a place that seems to have a large lunch business, and it would have been pleasant to at least have been acknowledged by the female maitre d’ when I walked through the door, rather than being left twitching and unloved in front of all the diners for several minutes whilst she dealt with another customer right next to me.
After he left, and at the point where I was jumping around like a very visible cat on a hot brick, late for my lunch meeting and pretty cross at being roundly ignored, the maitre d’ continued to punch away at her machine, this time blatantly not making eye contact with me. And that alone has killed any desire to return. In an area full of interesting lunch options, why go to a place where the front of house play power games with the customers?
That evening I headed back to Shoreditch with Lettice for a dinner cooked by Gizzi Erskine for TK Maxx – above her Korean Spiced Tofu. It may have been my second dish of tofu that day, but it gave a welcome blast of chilli, salt, sugar and umami.
I had breakfast twice at Granger & Co in Kings Cross last week, on Thursday and again on Friday: it’s very conveniently positioned right between St Pancras and Kings Cross railway stations. It’s sadly not dog-friendly inside, but in the summer there are six or so tables outside where dogs are welcome. (And they have water bowls for them too.)
On Thursday I had the red fruit bowl (three strawberries, a sprinkle pomegranate seeds and a few watermelon cubes), with a spoonful of yogurt and freeze dried raspberries. It was delicious, but pretty punchily priced for £8.00. I added an order of sourdough toast and butter to fill me up.
Friday’s breakfast choice was one of the bigger plates: courgette fritters, fried halloumi, siyez* & shreded kale salad, zhoug* (£11.50), which was much more filling and much better value, powering me (along with two Americanos) on my walk back to the office in Camden.
*in case you were wondering, siyez, more commonly known as einkorn wheat in the UK, is an ancient wheat, indigenous to Turkey, and zhoug is a fiery, green condiment from the Yemen, made from parsley, coriander, green chiles, garlic and olive oil.
Friday lunch was delivered to my office, a freebie courtesy of new Covent Garden restaurant Farmstand, who also have a takeaway lunch service. Their schtick is based on boxes: either grab a pre-boxed meal (£4.95), or choose to fill a box of protein, and two sides for a fixed price – £7.50
My vege lunch (meat eaters could choose from salmon, chicken or pulled beef) was a Roasted Aubergine with Sumac and Tahini, with a salad of split Fava Beans with Squash, Sultanas and Pumpkin Seeds, and Cinnamon Roasted Heritage Carrots. I added in a fresh strawberry Coyo yogurt £3.50 and a pot of nuts, seeds, and dried fruit.£1.45
I finished off the week by picking up Miss P for supper at the bar at Rotorino, Stevie Parle’s delicious Southern Italian restaurant on the Kingsland Road in Dalston, East London. Although I didn’t have Lettice with me this time, they are also small dog-friendly, which is a joy. You can book a table in the dining room but the 50 seats in the bar (and at the bar) are kept for walk in diners and drinkers.
We ate: Mammole artichoke with white beans and oregano, fried potatoes with rosemary and garlic, watermelon and tomato salad with ricotta salata, and delicious courgettes. Ten out of ten for the barman who mixed me a really good fruit juice cocktail when I said was driving. Our reasonably abstemious supper for two cost a shade under £40 including service and with a glass of wine.
Hoi Polloi at the Ace Hotel Shoreditch.
Address: 100 Shoreditch High St, London E1 6JQ. Telephone: 020 8880 6100. www.hoi-polloi.co.uk
Address: 4 Mill St, Greater London W1S 2AX. Telephone:020 3794 8448. www.blackroe.com
Granger & Co Kings Cross.
Address: Unit 1 Stanley Building, 7 Pancras Square, London N1C 4AG. Telephone: 020 3058 2567 www.grangerandco.com/kings-cross
Address: 42 Drury Lane, Covent Garden, London WC2B 5AJ. www.farmstand.co.uk|
Address: 434 Kingsland Rd, London E8 4AA. Phone:020 7249 9081. www.rotorino.com
Gizzi Erskine’s cookbooks are available here.