Category Archives: food

All the fun of the Circus (Covent Garden)

I am a bit over these themed bars that seem to pop-up all over the shop.

I quite like the Cellar Door, on The Strand, it’s right next to work, and there is a certain je ne sais quoi about drinking a cocktail from a tea-cup, that I never  tire of (props to Bourne and Hollingsworth, for spawning my life long love of teacup cocktails), I enjoyed a Champagne cocktail or two at the China Club in Paris (ooo la la), incidentally home of the best lavatories I have ever visited.

But when it came to my good friend’s third (yes, third) hen night (for only one marriage), and the ‘pleasure of my company’ was requested at Circus, I was suspicious, I mean, Covent Garden is not known for it’s authentic bar experiences, at least not without swathes of tourists.

Trepidation and petulance, did not stop me from donning a blue silk 1940’s dress, and minnie mouse style wedges, neither did it stop me twiddling my stupid, thin hair into 1940’s victory rolls.

There are a LOT of rules at Circus, here are some:

1) groups are not allowed to split the bill over various cards, it’s one card, or cash.

2) single sex groups are banned, banned, banned (which is where the smooth talking Miss Lockwood came in ultra handy).

3) no cameras

STAFF:

On the basis of the rules, and the location I was expecting the staff to be the offish sort, I was wrong, they were lovely, welcoming, accommodating – they were chatty without being intrusive, when we had to wait for five minutes for our 10pm (yes, TEN PM) table, they kept us informed. Someone, from another table had misordered their cocktails, so they gave them to us. Lovely job.

FOOD:

One of the rules is that at the weekend, everyone has to order two courses. This was problematic, as due to the late table, I’d stuffed my face with quiche before I’d even left Clapham. For main course I ordered Scallop and King Prawn salad, the prawns were huge and impressive (three of them, which sounds stingy, but they really were glorious looking crustacea) – however they were overcooked, and so not particularly flavourful, much less moist. The citrus mayonnaise was nothingy, the scallops dull.

For pudding I had the pineapple tart with fresh ginger ice cream. I spent the course wondering who decided that matching pineapple with ginger was a good idea, and concluding that, actually, it wasn’t (NB: one of my favourite books the Flavour Thesaurus doesn’t even list pineapple and ginger as a valid combination…and that book reckons pineapple and anchovy would be fine). Either part on its own was good though.

ENTERTAINMENT:

Now… this is where it got good.

Every-so-often, throughout dinner, the metal blinds over the open plan kitchen would close, like eyelids, leaving the room dark, the music would rise to a crescendo, and an act would perform.

Act 1 was fire girls, I’ve seen girls dancing with, and eating fire too many times to mention, probably most impressively in the snow at the Hospital Club Christmas iceskating party (where I later broke my knee, in one of those ‘showing off’ moments, never to be repeated).

Act 2 – was AWESOME, tall and lanky (and somehow v sexy) dude, in high wasted 1940’s trousers, with a suitcase and a crystal ball, which he conjured to look as if it was floating in the air, rolling it over his arms, twiddling it in his fingers, dexterity unsurpassed, I could watch that for hours.

Act 3 – sexy girl stretching cat-like, whilst hanging from a cane ring over the main table, effortlessly hanging from the ring by a foot, balanced beautifully, somewhere between Olympic gymnast and Burlesque moon act.

Act 4 – dancing and singing, short story told in dance, three gyrating girls to the Beyonce’s, Single Ladies.

When the acts are over, but you still want more. The place changes into a club-type-affair, the DJ mixes classic songs that make the diners chatter about how they “haven’t heard this for AGES!”, the staff, slowly followed by the diners dance on tables, and a party is had.

Taxi’s at this stage for me, after all, it was the third hen night, and I was pooped.

I had a wonderful time, with some of my favourite people, I was left hankering for more. Oh, and the Tom Ford designed minimalis sci-fi interior, was pretty okes too.

(all pictures courtesy of Circus, Covent Garden).

Big Love to the bride.

Circus,

27-29 Endell Street,
Covent Garden,
London, WC2H 9BA.

  • Mon,17:30 to Midnight
  • Tue,17:30 to Midnight
  • Wed,17:30 to Midnight
  • Thu,17:30 to 01:00
  • Fri,17:30 to 02:00
  • Sat,17:30-02:00
  • Sun,Closed
  • Bank Holidays, Closed
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L’Autre Pied

I know it’s a bit, you know…. but I do love some fine dining, so as part of my ‘One Michelin Starred Restaurant per Month’ resolutions, my dear friend and I went to L’Autre Pied.

It didn’t start well, when one of the bazillion waiters (in a dining room the size of my living room) refused to serve me escargot as a starter, as they were only available on the tasting menu.

It got better.

The bread was, so-so.

The amuse bouche was awesome, a mouse of parmesan and artichoke, with a teeny crunchy breaded quails egg, and toasted rice (the toasted rice, which looks terrifyingly like maggots, but tastes toasty delicious, is a bit of a theme at this restaurant).

Very quickly came starters, I had Lightly Poached Maldon Oysters, Apple Purée,   Smoked Olive Oil and Herb  Emulsion, which arrived under a cloche of smoke, and were effing gorgeous, my dining partner had truffle Tagliatelle of Winter Truffle, Sauté of Japanese Artichokes,  Watercress, Winter Truffle Cream, which was, apparently, ‘very good’. And the kind dining staff agreed to exchange the artichokes for mushrooms, which was kind.

Again quickly, came our twin main course of Pan Fried Cod, Roscoff Onions, Gently  Smoked Sabayon, Ragout of Sweetcorn and Chanterelle Mushrooms, mine cooked rare, her’s well done (we’re both picky about fish, and I mainly like raw things) – again brilliant, perfectly cooked, delicious. And included toasted rice, of course.

Puddings were, for me: Yorkshire Rhubarb and Canilla Tart,                                           Rhubarb Compote,  Almond Ice Cream (which was quite literally one of the best things I have ever eaten) and, for her: Poached Pear and Cinnamon Mille-feuille, Pear Purée, Acacia Honey Ice Cream.

Service was fast, not too in your face (considering the bazillion staff) and they only did that annoying ‘table wiping’ thing once.

We didn’t drink, aside from still water, and the bill came in, at a reasonable £60 each. I would *so* eat there again, I almost booked a table for next week on my way out.

 

 

With these flowers you are spoiling us…

Last Saturday, I had a gorgeous day in the Surrey Countryside, with my Cousins Rob and Hannah and my Aunt and Uncle. For Aunt Selwa I brought the blousiest bunch of Green/Pink Hydrangea and Peonies (favourites, favourites, favourites) – Hydrangea seem to be having a resurgence, thankfully, previously considered to be the domain of the grandma-garden, the beautiful, multi-headed shrub is getting a LOT of love in the Lily-Household at the moment.

Aunt Selwa cooked delicious Palestinian gourmet, and we ate in the shade of a pear tree, before treating ourselves to a small nap on a blanket on the lawn.

T’was idyllic – it is decided the only way to properly enjoy the sunshine is from under a pear tree.

This Saturday was Hampton Court Flower Show day, avec ma maman, I got the train an hour early, because I am an idiot, it was boiling hot (which meant at least we didn’t need a wee)… we saw some marvellous things – these table decorations, totally up my street, all bunting and porcelain and oddments of metal boxes containing bundles of garden-flowers:

The roses were looking a little sad for themselves on the penultimate day of the show…and there wasn’t a single Amnesia Rose.

Here’s some of my favourite stuff…

I liked the raggeldy taggledy ones the best, like they just happened to have grown there.

Maybe it’s the product of the *never-ending winter of 2009 – 2010*, but the summer this year seems extra big and bright and blousey.

Summer obsessions in the Clarke-Emery household include, though are not limited to:

1) bee keeping – specifically in pastel coloured hives (the pastel coloured bit is more Emery than Clarke)

2) creating a giant fondant fancy – like this one:

3) Medicines Sans Frontiers – if they need a a builder (probably) and a project manager (maybe)

4) Organic Farming Holidays in France

Just some nice *stuff*

I got up this morning and realised I didn’t leave the house yesterday…

It was of those nice days, punctuated by pancake flipping for breakfast and barefoot baking, a Victoria Sandwich affair… ably assisted by a three-year old …

I’m *all about* the filling, so we baked one cake, sliced it in half horizontally, and filled it with vanilla cream, chopped strawberries and a thick spooning of this:

I don’t really use a recipe for cakes, I weigh the eggs, then match the egg weight with the same weight of self-raising four, golden caster sugar and butter. A teeny bit of vanilla essence. Bobs your uncle.

I am a great fan of my kite, though have only half-arsedly flown it once, on a fateful trip to Cornwall –  circa 2005. Kites, like bunting are things I would like to *get involved* with… Here’re some lovely kites I saw on my way to work this morning:

As seen in the window of East – High Street Kensington

…always a sucker for a foreign newspaper…

A night in Hospital

Slow on the uptake? Maybe, but last night I went, with a dear friend to The Hospital Club in Covent Garden, for the first time.

I am by no means a private members club officianado, though I have darkened the doors of Soho and Shoreditch House, and have danced the night away, whilst dressed as Minnie Mouse at Century.

Once I ended-up in a Masonic Lodge, but that’s a different story.

But I’ve always found these *exclusive* places a bit…*meh*…that cliquey, snobby, darkened-room stuff…likewhaddevah…give me an oversized tequila in a sticky-floored pub, or a cup of tea at the seaside anytime.

And now that membership is reputedly closing for Soho and Shoreditch House, it makes me wonder – where will the new-blood come from, surely they’ll just stagnate?

So I didn’t have MASSIVE expectations of The Hospital Club.

Luckily I was wrong.

We arrived at 7.15 and to the five storey ex hospital building, there was a man at the door, but he was an unassuming and polite man, not a burly look-you-up-and-down bouncer. The reception looks like the reception of a trendy ad agency (I spend a lot of time in trendy ad agencies) they take your photo on one of those webcam thingies, though here they lift it off the desk, so as not to take one of those awful under-chin-security-photos (I swear there are about 100 of those massively unflattering photos of me around the capital). The receptionists were on the arty side of trendy, and the ditzy side of helpful, both of which I thoroughly approve of.

The concept behind The Hospital Club is that it is a private club for creative people to get together, collaborate, relax and share their time and ideas. This surely is a recipe for complete twattery? Not so, everyone, literally everyone was friendly, and smiley, people gave-way to each other through doors. People sat alone on banquettes, and easy chairs in one of the three lounges (I like a place where people feel comfortable enough just to ‘be’) all notably tapping away on their Mac-tops, not a PC in sight… of course.

The food was good, we both started with scallops, pea puree and pancetta and those little mini pea shoot things, with their twirly whirly fronds, it was good (not as good as the scallop starter I had some time in 2008 in Zetter, or indeed my favourite scallops of 2009 (unpredictably) at The Gallery in Selfridges.

For our mains, my dear friend had the chicken with sausages, mash and gravy, I (predictably) had the skate, with mussels. All very good, very filling, cooked with skill, a bit over salty, but  I quite like salt. Service was a teeny bit slow, but friendly.

They also had some just-this-side-of-kitsch flamingo wallpaper…

After our mains we tabbed-it-up and had a wander, then returned, and shared a chocolate fudge cake in a lounge.

There’s a cinema, that previews all the usual *stuff* and a studio for gigs and exhibitions, and several meeting rooms for small business members to impress their clients, there’s a games room and two bars, and a restaurant. And everywhere there are little installations, projections, films and soundtracks, benches made of a log and chair-backs, and the sound of children laughing (schpoooky) played in the restaurant.

I like.

The Stats:

Year one membership £700 or £300 for people under 30 years old.

Vinoteca Delight

First of all, I’m sorry there are not more photos (read: any) I wasn’t intending to blog this supper, it wasn’t until half way through that we realised we were eating one of the best meals ever.

I’ve walked past Vinoteca many, many times, usually on my way somewhere terribly important, like a meeting, or Magma

On Tuesday, my beautiful medeplichtige and I needed some food, fast, we were in Farringdon, and I have a rule that when there is the option of the chain restaurant (like Pizza Express) or an independent restaurant (Vinoteca) I always choose the independent (the only exception to this rule is the GBK, because sometimes I NEED a blue cheese and bacon burger, like the deserts need the rain) – my stated reason for this is ‘there’s more love in the food’…fact.

So we ordered some bread and olive oil, the bread was fresh out of the oven, like super-hot-fresh and was ok, it wasn’t bad, they didn’t have any balsamic (which is a a sin as my love of pickled goods knows no bounds), so we salted the oil, it was good – we ate it all, not amazical bread, not like the yummy scrummy chewy, crispy, soft sour dough bread from the Clerkenwell Kitchen – then again my love for sour dough, knows no bounds….but hey-ho at this stage we weren’t expecting the meal to end all meals.

Then came out main course, the beautiful medeplichtige had a mozzarella, tomato and basil risotto (the kind of thing I never order) and I had the bavette with herb butter, salad and fat chips.

The risotto – cooked to perfection, it was strewn with Jamie Oliver style green and red tomatoes (has he actually patented green and red tomatoes?) and rippings of mozzarella and basil. And every single mouthful tasted of mozzarella, and tomato and basil – but like mozzerella, and tomato and basil on speed, the milkiest mozzerellaest mozzarella in the world, and the tomatoest tomatoes and basillest basil. All slightly drenched (in a good way) in the oliviest olive oil known to man.

The Bavette- a ‘bavette‘ is a steak (I found this out using the medium of iPhone, the usefulness of an iPhone, knows no bounds) and it was delicious, I enjoyed every single medium-rare-melt-in-the-mouth-mouthful. The herb butter was salty and tangy and herby and garlicky, the salad was well dressed and interesting, the chips were crispy and fluffy and delicious. It was the best steak I have had since Le Square Trousseau a Paris, circa. 2006

We can’t remember what wine we drunk (food blogging fail!), it was red, and drinkable. The wine list is impressive, 275 wines, also for sale in the wine shop which makes up about 1/4 of the floor space.

Then couldn’t resist a little dessert (make no mistake, we were stuffed, but greedy) , we shared the buttermilk cake with confit oranges… yumski (not as outstanding as the main courses, but pretty darn yum).

Stats:

Vinoteca Ltd
7 St. John Street, London EC1M 4AA
020 72538786

Meal above – £54

Best Sandwich Ever?

Apparently according the The Grauniad the Shooters Sandwich is the best sandwich ever…

It looks like this:

The premise is that you hollow out a loaf of bread, fill it with hot, juicy steak, mushrooms, onions and mustard – wrap it carefully in baking paper, like this:

And compress it under some heavy tomes, for about six hours until it’s all flat…

Here’s a step-by-step guide to making one.

Maybe such a project would be deserving of this vintaaaaage mustard pot:

From Accenton Vintage on Etsy