I’ve been trying to nail Southern Fried Chicken for quite some time.

Some recipes call for the chicken to be brined before cooking. Others marinade the meat in buttermilk instead. Some recipes don’t feature brine or marinade at all. Some cooks coat the chicken with nothing but flour and spices; others use buttermilk or an egg-and-milk mix to help the flour and spices adhere to the chicken. And of course, I’ve come across countless online recipes claiming to have cracked the secret spice blend for a KFC copycat, if that’s what you’re after…

The key problem for us has been in ensuring the chicken is cooked all the way through without overcooking the crispy coating. Of course, setting the right oil temperature helps a lot with that, as does the size of chicken pieces. But it’s remained my main point of difficulty.

When we received our Sous Vide Supreme, we poached chicken in it as one of our first experiments in getting a feel for how it worked and where the strengths of the technique lie. (For the record, the chicken was moist and evenly cooked, but no more so than if we’d poached it in our slow cooker).

But that experiment made it occur to me that we could sous vide the chicken first, to ensure that it was cooked right the way through and then apply the coating and deep fry.

Bingo! No more worries about the chicken being cooked at the core…

Of course, if you don’t have a sous vide machine, you can seal the chicken into bags (or wrap in cling film) and poach at a low simmer until cooked all the way through.

The next question is one of flavourings. The previous times I’ve made Southern Fried Chicken, I’ve blended my own spice mix in which I’ve included dried oregano, dried sage, dried rosemary, garlic powder, paprika, chilli powder, ground black pepper and salt. Of those, I’d say the core ingredients are oregano, paprika, chilli powder and garlic powder.

But this time I realised I had the perfect ready-made seasoning mix sitting in front of me – a tub of African Volcano Seasoning Rub (Medium). In case you can’t get hold of this, I’ve provided an alternative blend in the recipe below.

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Southern Fried Chicken | Making Use of Sous Vide

Serves 2-3

Ingredients
6 boneless chicken thighs
150-200 ml (about 1 cup) buttermilk
150-200 grams (about 1 cup) plain flour
2-3 tablespoons African Volcano Seasoning Rub (or see note, below)
Salt and pepper

Note: You can substitute African Volcano Seasoning Rub with 2 teaspoons paprika, 1 teaspoon dried oregano, 1 teaspoon dried sage, 1 teaspoon chilli powder and 1 teaspoon garlic powder.

Method

  • Pre-heat your sous vide machine to 66 °C (151 °F).
  • Open out the chicken thighs and cut them into two or three pieces each.
  • Add one to two tablespoons of buttermilk to the chicken and coat all the pieces.
  • Spread the chicken out flat in a food-grade plastic pouch and seal with a vacuum sealer.
  • Cook for two hours in the sous vide machine.
    Note: If you don’t have a sous vide machine, seal the chicken and buttermilk into bags (or wrap in cling film) and poach in water at a low simmer until cooked all the way through.

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  • Before removing chicken from the water bath, prepare the plates of coating ready to dip and switch on your deep fat fryer to pre-heat to 170-175 °C.
  • Pour half a cup of buttermilk into a bowl. In another bowl, combine the flour, spice blend and salt and pepper. Have an empty plate ready for floured chicken pieces.
  • Remove the chicken from the water bath, open the pouch, discard the juices and remove chicken pieces onto a plate or dish.
    Note: you don’t want the chicken to cool down in the centre, as you won’t be deep frying it for as long as usual, so allow it to cool for just a couple of minutes before continuing with the recipe.
  • As soon as the chicken has cooled enough to handle, dip each piece into the buttermilk and then into the seasoned flour, ensuring that plenty of flour has adhered to all surfaces of the chicken.

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  • Repeat for the rest of the chicken, adding more buttermilk to the dipping bowl as and when required.
    Ideally, if there are two of you, one person can fry the first batch while the second person dips and flours the remaining chicken.

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  • Fry in small batches, depending on the size of your deep fat fryer.
  • Ours took 5 minutes for the coating to crisp and brown. Increase cooking time if necessary, to achieve the necessary colour and texture.
  • Drain on to a paper towel and serve hot.

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Although that’s shop-bought coleslaw in the photographs, this southern fried chicken is even better served with my smoky paprika coleslaw, which can be made beforehand. Do give it a try.

 

Kavey Eats received a SousVide Supreme and vacuum sealer in exchange for sharing my experiences using the equipment.

 

After two trips to Japan in two years, I’ve fallen even more in love with Japanese food. Both holidays gave us plenty of opportunities to enjoy traditional washoku cuisine, particularly in the multi-course kaiseki ryori meals we enjoyed at a number of ryokans.

While sushi is increasingly popular in the UK, the many, many other dishes that make up this tasty cuisine have been less widely available. But in the last few years, particularly in London, Japanese food is growing its fan base and more and more Japanese restaurants are opening their doors. It’s not that we didn’t have Japanese restaurants before, but they certainly weren’t (and still aren’t) as ubiquitous as Indian, Chinese, Italian, Thai…

I’ve written previously about London’s ramen awakening; after Wagamama popularised a simplified version, authentic ramen is now coming into its own.

Sushi remains a lunch-time favourite, sold by supermarkets and sandwich chains across the country, but Chef Toru Takahashi of Sushi Tetsu is one of a new generation bringing the higher end experience to the UK. I’ve not yet been, but it’s very high on my wish list!

Even kaiseki ryori is now available in London – another place that I’m enormously keen to visit is The Shiori, where Chef Takashi Takagi recreates a Kyoto-style kaiseki experience for enthusiastic London diners.

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I learned about Chisou Japanese Restaurant during a chance encounter at a United Ramen pop-up I went to in January. A fellow diner told me about it, having recently taken up a job with them. Recently, he extended an invitation to visit and try their Japanese menu for myself. There are actually three restaurants in this mini-chain – the original Mayfair branch which opened in 2002, the Knightsbridge location I visited, which opened in 2010, and the newest one out in Chiswick, which opened in 2012.

Each restaurant has its own head chef – at Knightsbridge, Chef Ryota Tsuji is at the helm. The core menu is common to all three restaurants, but each head chef also offers a selection of their own specialities as well.

On the website, Chisou describe themselves as closer to an izakaya (casual Japanese bars that also serve food) than to a formal kaiseki restaurant, though I’d place the Knightsbridge restaurant somewhere between the two. It’s definitely more upmarket than most izakaya but not as rarefied as a traditional Kyoto kaiseki restaurant. The website is not great – clicking on Food (in the hope of seeing the menu) takes you to a long passage about private hire, which would be far better given its own section of the menu. Scroll down, down, down past all of that to eventually find the menu, laid out in sections you have to read one at a time. Use the sub-menu on the left to navigate between these. Frustratingly, prices are not listed – one of my pet hates; a complete website revamp would be a great investment!

Still, the menu has many appealing dishes including several that I haven’t much encountered in the UK.

I take friend and fellow Japanophile MiMi with me to review.

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We are warmly greeted by general manager (and sommelier) John who is a little disappointed that we’re not wine drinkers, and that we also turn down the offer of sake, but cheers up when we ask for umeshu (plum liqueur) instead. It’s lovely to be served our sweet Ozeki Kanjuku Umeshu (£6.50 glass) with a whole alcohol-pickled plum in each glass, which I greedily eat after finishing my drink.

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Chewy, slightly fishy strands of seaweed with sesame seeds are a tasty nibble, placed on the table soon after we arrive. Edamame beans (£4.50) are served simply, in salt.

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Horenso salad (£9.90), described as “ baby spinach topped with spicy prawns and sweet carrot, drizzled in yuzu vinaigrette” is artfully presented, though a little fussy. I’d like just a few more prawns, given the price tag, but the flavours are excellent. And the yuzu comes through loud and clear, which is good news since we both love it. When the dish arrives, we’ve forgotten the mention of sweet carrot on the menu, and wonder what the strange  orange fibres are made of – their flavour doesn’t clue us in to their carrot nature but they do add an interesting texture.

Hotate Carpaccio Yuzukosho Salt (£11.95) is described as wild-caught Alaskan scallop carpaccio served with yuzukosho and ponzu sauce. The scallops are delicious, served in thin sashimi slices. I can’t detect the yuzukosho (a salty spicy condiment made from yuzu citrus) very well but the dressing, rich in sesame, is refreshing.

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Yakitori (£4.90) is disappointing. It’s offered coated in chef’s “special sauce” or lightly salted, and we choose the latter but find the yakitori woefully under seasoned. The chicken meat has very little flavour and these are a bland, chewy let-down.

Tempura Moriawase (£13.90) is another dish that I think is over-priced for the portion. The quality of the ingredients is good and the tempura is excellent – a lovely light batter cooked to a perfect crisp and not at all oily – but a plate of three prawns, one small piece of fish and a small number vegetables is not enough for the price.

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Chawan Mushi (£7.50) is an absolute winner of a dish, one of the best of the night. Within the delicately flavoured savoury custard (that has just the right wobble and silken texture) are prawns, chicken and mushrooms. It immediately transports me back to the delicious chawan mushi I enjoyed in Japan and both MiMi and I agree we’d come back to Chisou for this dish in a heartbeat.

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The menu offers lots of choice on sashimi and sushi, but we decide to leave it in the hands of the chef, and order Sanpin Sashimi (£19.90). The chef selects three different types of fish from the catch of the day and three pieces of each are served. Knowing what I pay for excellent quality fresh sashimi at Atari-ya, the mark-up seems a touch high once again, but the quality of fish is decent.

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Eel; Salmon belly

After asking about two pork belly dishes, we choose one of them along with Unagi Kabayaki (£25.80) and Aburi Sake Toro (£7.20), plus a bowl of plain boiled rice (£3) and Konomono (assorted pickles) (£4.10). In the end, we are eventually told that neither pork belly dish is available, but we have plenty with our two fish choices, so don’t bother choosing a replacement.

The unagi (eel) is beautifully cooked, coated with a traditional sweet barbecue sauce; the flesh is almost jelly like and full of flavour.

Likewise, the aburi sake toro (seared salmon belly), served with a yuzu soy sauce, is delicious and suitably fatty, as the cut suggests. Visually, they look similar, but flavours are quite distinct.

The pickles are very good: four contrasting colours, tastes and textures.

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I don’t think either of us intend to have dessert but once we glance at the menu, we can’t resist the ice creams and sorbets; two scoops (£4.90).

My yuzu sorbet is the essence of yuzu, just as MiMi’s lychee sorbet is nothing but pure fruit flavour. Her green tea ice cream is decent (though not the best I’ve tasted). My soy and brown sugar ice cream is alright but the soy doesn’t come through at all, which is a shame – I had hoped for the classic flavour of soy and sugar combined, like the glaze on mitarashi dango. I am a little surprised at presentation of the ice creams – thus far in the meal, plates have been so carefully arranged but here the scoops are sloppily shaped and my bowl is actually quite messy.

Overall, our meal has been good, with some real highlights – the spinach and prawn salad, chawan mushi, pickles and unagi. Pricing is a little variable, with some dishes providing far better value than others. Including our two glasses of umeshu and a green tea, our bill would be approximately £70 a head – a lot even given the number of dishes we ordered. Judicious ordering would reduce that – swap out the sashimi and the unagi for three or four additional small dishes and you could bring that down by at least a tenner per person. That’s still at the top edge of what I’d pay. Then again, the restaurants is within a stone’s throw of Harrods and the multi-million-pound mansions of the very wealthy, so perhaps it is simply targeting its locale clientele.

Certainly there are many more dishes I’d like to try, including Buta Bara Kimuchi (£5.90) – belly pork stir fried with garlic and kimchi, Kani Karaage (£13.50) – deep fried soft shell crab with a ponzu dip, Kodako Nanban Age (£8.20) – deep fried and marinated baby octopus, Saikyo Yaki (£12.50) – grilled black cod in white miso, Wagyu Steak & Foie Gras Truffle Teriyaki (£24.50) – featuring 50 grams of Chilean wagyu rib eye, and Sake Chazuke (£4.90/£7.20) – plain rice served in a hot soup and sprinkled with flakes of salmon.

So yes, it’s expensive but the range of dishes and the quality of most of them means it’s worthy of consideration for a little taste of traditional Japanese washoku in London.

Kavey Eats dined as guests of Chisou Restaurant.

Chisou Japanese Restaurant Knightsbridge on Urbanspoon
Square Meal

 

Recently I started thinking more about ready meals, about other people’s cooking and eating habits and about our own thoughts on ready meals. Usually we have ready meals or ready-made components about once a week. I started musing on whether we could do 7 days in a row eating only ready meals each evening.

I decided to restrict our choices to a single range within one supermarket – Sainsbury’s were kind enough to step up and I chose their Taste The Difference Bistro range to put to the test.

Most of the meals within the Bistro range are priced at £7 (and serve two people); the lasagne costs £6. Some of the meals have felt better value at that price point than others.

For the last several weeks, the Bistro main meals have been part of a £10 meal deal which allows you to choose one main, one Bistro dessert and a bottle of wine. If you fancy dessert, and drink wine, I’d say it’s a fair offer, since the desserts are usually £3.50 and the wines around £5 a bottle.  You’ll have to do the legwork though; in our local store the shelves where the meal deal is promoted never have any wine displayed and my husband has to head to the wine section and root out the wines included in the deal. We took advantage of the meal deal twice. Without the meal deal, these are a little pricy, in my opinion.

Also, be aware that not all branches will stock the full range of Bistro meals or desserts. We generally found only 3 of the meals readily available each time we visited, with another 2 very occasionally in stock. None of the others are sold by our branch and I turned to the team at Sainsbury’s to help me source the rest.

In the end, availability issues (both in terms of us having a fully clear week and the lack of stock in our local branch) meant we weren’t able to stick to my plan to eat the ready meals back to back in a single week. We also ended up trying eight rather than seven items from the range.

We ate these ready meals below spread over a few weeks.

Bistro Chicken with Cider Sauce (£7, 800 grams)

This was a great start. The chicken remained moist during cooking, the creamy cider sauce was tasty and the roasted baby potatoes had a good texture and taste. The onions on top veered towards burnt, but overall, flavours were excellent. I would possibly buy this again, though there are other ready meals I’d choose in preference.

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Bistro Wiltshire Ham Gratin (£7, 800 grams)

Ham, green beans, cheddar cheese, potatoes and breadcrumbs – what’s not to like? We found this delicious and would be happy to buy this again.

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Bistro Lasagne Al Forno With Slow Cooked Beef (£6, 710 grams)

The Bistro lasagne didn’t stack up at all well against premium lasagnes we’ve tried from other supermarkets. Although the ragu had a good flavour, it was lacking in moisture and it didn’t stand out well against the hard, chewy pasta. Had I not seen it with my own eyes, I’d never have believed this was from a premium range and it’s definitely not worth £6.

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Bistro Catalan Chicken (£7, 800 grams)

For us, this was definitely the weakest in the range. The chicken meat didn’t remain moist but that was a minor detail. The “Catalan” sauce was really unpleasant, with a horrible flavour reminiscent of a really cheap bottle sauce. There were also a couple of larger pieces of potato that remained a little hard, because they had not cooked sufficiently in the time.

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Bistro Chicken with a Red Wine, Madeira & Mushroom Sauce (£7, 800 grams)

The cooking was split into two for this meal – part way through, a packet of sauce provided was poured over the chicken and the tray returned to the oven. Sadly, the sauce wasn’t great and didn’t live up to expectations on flavour. Onions and mushrooms didn’t benefit from being baked, with mushrooms turning out rubbery and dry and onions ending up a little burnt. The chicken breast wrapped in bacon was decent, but the so-so sauce was the dominant taste. By the time it was the turn of this dish, we were already bored of skin-on roasted new potatoes, though at least the small and size meant they did cook through properly.  I would not buy this again.

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Bistro Chicken with Brie, Bacon & Cream Sauce (£7, 800 grams)

Yep, you guessed it – more skin-on roasted new potatoes. Like the previous dish, the sauce was poured over the vegetables part way through the cooking time. The cheese and bacon kept the chicken reasonably moist. The sauce was tasty though I didn’t feel it went very well with the choice of vegetables, and the vegetables didn’t suit the cooking method very well. The potatoes were properly cooked through. This meal tasted reasonably good but didn’t strike us as a particularly coherent plate.

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Beef Bourguignon (£7, 800 grams)

When we picked this meal up we did start to wonder if the product development team were unaware of other ways to cook potatoes – peeled steamed potatoes would work better here, as would a good creamy mash. Skin-on roasted new potatoes, not so much! The flavours in the Bourguignon itself were good; if the stew were sold on its own, I’d consider buying it (though I’ve made my own previously), but as a complete meal with new potatoes, I wouldn’t buy it again.

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Bistro Creamy Ham Hock & Chicken Pie (£7, 600 grams)

I think this would more accurately be called a gratin rather than a pie, as there’s no pastry in sight. Again, presentation was pretty poor here – it’s clear Sainsbury’s aren’t going for the dinner party demographic! At first glance, there didn’t seem to be much ham or chicken, but as soon as we dug under the surface, there was plenty there. This was a very tasty meal and I’d happily eat this again.

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So the hit rate for great meals in the Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Bistro range was quite a bit lower than I expected, especially as chance meant we started strongly with two good choices. We tried eight meals in the range.

There were only three that I’d be happy to have again – the chicken with cider sauce, the Wiltshire ham gratin and the creamy ham hock and chicken “pie”.

Two were good in parts – the choice of potatoes let down the beef bourguignon and the side vegetables did the same for the chicken with brie, bacon and cream Sauce.

The lasagne, Catalan chicken and chicken with red wine, madeira and mushroom sauce were disappointing.

 

Our main supermarket is Waitrose; as we live a couple of minute’s walk away we are able to shop every couple of days rather than do a large weekly shop. We have had a far better hit rate with the ready meals we’ve bought there over the last several years. I’d hoped that the Sainsbury’s meals would hold up well, given that the price point is the same, but it wasn’t the case.

I’m hoping to do similar reviews of other premium ready meal ranges from some of the other supermarkets in coming months. Please let me know if there are any you particularly recommend I try (or avoid)!

 

With thanks to Sainsbury’s for providing the above ready meals for review.

 

I love biryani!

I mean the real deal, with beautifully spiced meat between layers of fragrant basmati rice…

NOT stir-fried rice with a few bits of meat thrown in, served with a side of sloppy vegetable curry, that is sold as biryani by so many curry houses across the UK. *rolls eyes*

Incidentally, if you’re wondering about the difference between pulao (pilaf) and biryani it is in the cooking method rather than the ingredients: rice is the core ingredient in a pulao, often supplemented by meat or vegetables, just like a biryani, however all the ingredients of a pulao are cooked together. In a biryani, the meat or vegetables are prepared separately, then assembled into a cooking pot with the rice, before the biryani is baked to finish. In some variations, the meat and rice are par-cooked before assembly, in others they are added raw.

Biryani” comes from the Persian birian / beryan, which is a reference to frying or roasting an ingredient before cooking it. The actual dish was likely spread across the wider region by merchants and other travellers many centuries ago.

Biryani was very popular in the kitchens of the Mughal Emperors who ruled between the early 16th century to the early 18th century and it remains a much-loved dish in India today.

The Mughals were a Central Asian Turko-Mongolic people who settled in the region in the Middle Ages; their influence on architecture, art and culture, government and cuisine was significant. Mughlai cuisine is today best represented by the cooking of North India (particularly Utter Pradesh and Delhi, where my mother and father are from, respectively), Pakistan, Bangladesh and the Hyderabadi area of Andhra Pradesh in South East India. It retains many influences from Persian and Afghani cuisine.

There are many versions of biryani but two of the best known in India are Lucknowi (Awadhi) biryani and Hyderabadi biryani. For a Lucknowi biryani, the meat is seared and cooked in water with spices, then drained. The resulting broth is used to cook the rice. Both the pukki (cooked) elements are then layered together in a deep pot, sealed and baked. Hyderabadi biryani uses the kutchi (raw) method whereby the meat is marinated and the rice is mixed with spiced yoghurt (but neither are cooked) before being assembled in a deep pot and baked. The flavours of the meat and rice components in a Hyderabadi biryani are quite distinct, as compared to the Lucknowi biryani where they are more homogenous.

Also popular is Calcutta biryani, which evolved from Lucknowi style when the last nawab of Awadh was exiled to Kolkata in 1856; in response to a recession which resulted in a scarcity of meat and expensive spices, his personal chef developed the habit of adding potatoes and wielding a lighter hand with the spicing.

What is common to most variations is the dum pukht method – once the food has been arranged in the cooking vessel, the lid is tightly sealed (traditionally using dough but foil or rubber-sealed lids are a modern-day substitute) and the pot is baked in an oven or fire; the steam keeps the ingredients moist and the aromas and juices are locked in.

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Biryani is often served for celebratory feasts such as weddings, though most don’t take it quite as seriously as the two families involved in a cautionary tale that my friend alerted me to – a wedding was called off after an argument between the two families about whether chicken or mutton biryani should be served at the reception!

My mum, who grew up in Utter Pradesh, makes a delicious pukki method biryani, in the Lucknowi style. However, rather than using the liquid from the meat to cook the rice, she makes a fragrant lamb curry (with just a small volume of thick, clinging sauce rather than the usual generous gravy) and she flavours the rice with fresh coriander and mint and rose or kewra (screw pine flower) essence. Her recipe involves slowly caramelising onions, half of which go into the lamb curry and the rest of which are layered with the meat and rice when the biryani is assembled. The pot is sealed tightly and baked until the rice is cooked through.

You’ll notice that I specify basmati rice for this recipe – and that’s because it’s the most traditional rice used for Indian biryani. Of course there is the taste – basmati is a wonderfully fragrant rice – but it is also important that the grains remain separate after cooking; some rice varieties are much stickier or break down more on cooking. Longer grained basmati is prized over shorter grain, perhaps because rice must be carefully harvested and handled in order not to break the grains or just because it looks so elegant?

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Tilda, the best known brand of Basmati rice in the UK, recently launched a new product into their range. They describe Tilda Grand as a longer grained basmati rice, particularly well suited to making biryani and other Indian and Persian rice dishes.

Mum comes from a Basmati growing region of India and has seen Basmati planted, growing and harvested many times. Her family in India buy large sacks of rice when it is newly harvested and store it to mature because the flavour gets better with age; indeed I remember mum telling me how her parents saved their oldest basmati rice to serve to guests and on special occasions. Since I was a child, mum has always bought Tilda Basmati rice, so I asked her to try the new Tilda Grand and give me her feedback.

She didn’t find it as fragrant as usual but confirmed that it cooked much the same as the rice she regularly uses and commented that the grains remained separate and were longer than standard. That said, the grains weren’t as long as she was expecting; she has come across significantly longer grained rice in India in recent years.

This biryani, made to my mum’s recipe, is the first I’ve ever made and it was utterly delicious!

 

Mamta’s Lucknowi-Style Lamb Biryani

I have halved mum’s original recipe. The amounts below serve 4 as a full meal.

Ingredients
For the rice
500 grams basmati rice
Large pinch salt
1.25 litres water
Small sprig mint leaves
Small sprig coriander leaves
For the meat
2-3 tablespoons vegetable oil or ghee
3 large onions (about 600 grams), peeled and thinly sliced
500 grams lamb or mutton leg or shoulder, cubed
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped, grated or pureed
2-3 teaspoons (0.5 inch piece) ginger, finely chopped or grated
2 brown cardamoms, lightly crushed to crack pods open *
3 green cardamoms, lightly crushed to crack pods open *
1-2 inch piece of cinnamon or cassia bark *
2 bay leaves *
4-5 black peppercorns *
4-5 cloves *
0.5 teaspoon black cumin seeds (use ordinary cumin seeds if you don’t have black) *
1-2 green chillies, slit lengthwise (adjust to your taste and strength of chillies)
0.5 teaspoon chilli powder (adjust to your taste)
1 teaspoon salt
60 ml (quarter cup) thick, full-fat natural yoghurt
100-150 grams chopped tomatoes
Small bunch of coriander leaves, chopped
Small bunch of mint leaves, chopped
Half a small lemon, cut into small pieces
For the biryani
1 tablespoon ghee or clarified butter
A few strands of saffron soaked in a tablespoon of warm water
A few drops of rose water and/or kewra (screw-pine flower) essence
Optional: Orange or jalebi food colour, dissolved in 1 teaspoo water
Optional quarter cup of cashew nuts or blanched almonds

Note: The quality of the meat is important, so do buy good quality lamb or mutton. I used lamb steaks for my biryani.

Method

  • In a large pan, heat the vegetable oil or ghee and fry the onions until they are dark brown, stirring regularly so they do not catch and burn. This is a slow process; mine took approximately half an hour.
  • Remove onions from the pan and set aside.
  • Add more oil to the pan if necessary, then add the whole spices (marked *) plus the ginger and garlic. Fry for a couple of minutes to release the aromas.
  • Add the lamb, salt and chilli powder and stir fry to brown the meat on all sides.
  • Add the yoghurt, tomatoes, two thirds of the mint and coriander that is listed for the meat, the sliced green chillies, lemon pieces and half of the fried onions. Cook, stirring frequently, until the meat is done and only a little thick gravy is left. This may take 30 minutes to an hour, depending on the quality and cut of the meat.
  • Once the lamb curry is made, turn off the heat and set it aside.
  • While the meat is cooking, prepare the rice. Boil briskly with salt, the mint and coriander leaves listed for the rice until the rice is nearly cooked. (When you squash a grain between your fingers, only a hint of hardness should remain).
  • Drain, rinse in cold water to stop the cooking process and set aside.
  • Grease a large oven proof dish or pan with ghee or vegetable oil.
  • Spread a third of the par-cooked rice across the base of the dish.
  • Spread a quarter of the reserved browned onions over the rice.

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  • Sprinkle a little saffron water, rose and kewra essence over the rice.

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  • Spread  half the lamb curry over the rice.

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  • Repeat to add another layer of rice, onions, lamb curry and the saffron and flavourings.

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  • Top with the last third of the rice, the remaining browned onions and another sprinkling of saffron and flavourings.

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  • Dot the surface with a little ghee plus a few drops of colouring, if using.
  • Sprinkle cashew nuts or blanched almonds over top, if using.
  • Cover the pan tightly with foil and then the lid.
  • Preheat oven to 180° C (fan) and bake for about 30-40 minutes.
  • Serve hot.

LambBiryani-5215

 

Kavey Eats received samples of Tilda Grand rice from Tilda; as usual, there was no obligation on my part to write about it or to review favourably.

 

I love Demarquette chocolates!

Run by talented (not to mention warm and cuddly) chocolatier Marc Demarquette and lovely partner Kim Sauer, this award-winning London chocolate company produces utterly delicious and beautiful hand-made chocolates. Not only do the chocolates taste fantastic and look stunning, they are made with carefully chosen high-quality ingredients, many of which are sourced from British producers. Even the chocolate is not off-the-shelf couverture but roasted, conched and blended to Demarquette recipes. A keen and critical eye is focused on ethical considerations too.

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This year, chocoholics craving the very best quality Easter treats can enjoy Marc’s new Caramel Filled Easter Eggs. The size of quails’ eggs, these come in three flavours – dark chocolate with sea salted caramel, milk chocolate with key lime caramel and milk chocolate with banoffee caramel. The eggs are blue, green and yellow and feature a simple hand-painted design – each one is unique!

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The salted caramels are a familiar Demarquette favourite, and just as good in egg form as the glossy domes I’m more familiar with. Both the key lime and banoffee caramel eggs are sweeter, because of the milk chocolate, with their core flavour coming through loud and clear; I like both but the banoffee is definitely my favourite!

Available by mail order, this box of 12 eggs is £19.95 plus delivery.

 

DISCOUNT CODE

I’m delighted to share a special discount code for readers of Kavey Eats.

Enter KAVEYEASTER to receive 15% off your online orders.

The code can be used to purchase any item from Demarquette’s range of chocolate treats.

Valid until 14th April 2014. Discount excludes postage. Minimum spend, excluding postage, is £15. Code cannot be used in conjunction with any other offers.

COMPETITION

Demarquette are kindly offering a box of 12 Caramel Filled Chocolate Easter Eggs to a reader of Kavey Eats. The prize includes delivery within the UK.

HOW TO ENTER

Please read the terms and conditions before entering.

Entry 1 – Blog Comment
Leave a comment below, sharing your idea for a new caramel filling flavour.
Please include your name and provide a valid email address.
If you are intending to tweet a bonus entry (see below), please include your twitter name in your blog comment.

Bonus Entry – Twitter
Once you have entered via the blog, give yourself an extra entry via twitter!
Follow
@Kavey and @DemarquetteChoc on Twitter. Existing followers are, of course, welcome to enter!
Then tweet the (exact) sentence below.
I’d love to win a box of @DemarquetteChoc caramel filled easter eggs from Kavey Eats! 
http://goo.gl/nKkfw1 #KaveyEatsDemarquette
(Please do not add my twitter handle into the tweet; I track entries using the competition hash tag.)

RULES, TERMS & CONDITIONS

  • The deadline for entries is midnight GMT Friday 11 April 2014.
  • Kavey Eats reserves the right to alter the closing date of the competition. Changes to the closing date, if they occur, will be shown on this page.
  • The winner will be selected from all valid entries using a random number generator.
  • Entry instructions form part of the terms and conditions.
  • Blog comment entries must provide a valid email address.
  • By entering this competition, you give permission for your email address to be collected and provided to Demarquette Ltd, for marketing purposes. Kavey Eats will store the data until the end of April 2014 only.
  • For Twitter entries, winners must be following @Kavey and @DemarquetteChoc at the time of notification.
  • Twitter entries without an associated blog comment are not valid. Please include your twitter name in your blog comment to make the association clear.
  • The winners will be notified by email. If no response is received within 7 days of notification, the prize will be forfeit and a new winner will be picked and contacted.
  • One blog entry per person only. One Twitter entry per person only.
  • Where prizes are to be provided by a third party, Kavey Eats accepts no responsibility for the acts or defaults of that third party.
  • The prize is a box of 12 Demarquette caramel filled easter eggs, as shown above. Delivery within the UK is included.
  • The prize cannot be redeemed for a cash value.
  • The prize is offered and provided by Demarquette Ltd.

 

Kavey Eats received a review sample from Demarquette.

 

During our two recent holidays to Japan, we discovered a real love for yakiniku.*

I was determined to recreate this indoor barbecue experience at home. But there were obstacles: no smokeless charcoal; no indoor barbecue container; no working extractor fan in the kitchen (it died and we’ve not had it fixed); and it can be tricky to find the kind of tender and beautifully marbled beef that is prevalent in Japan.

The first two, I decided to ignore. The third too, though we opened the large kitchen window as wide as it would go. And Provenance Butcher came to the rescue on the fourth.

Founded by a team of three Kiwis and a Brit, this Nottinghill-based butcher’s shop opened just eight months ago. None of the founders have a background in the butchery business – Erin, Guy and Tom grew up on farms in New Zealand and Brit Struan gave up a career in marketing to retrain as a butcher a few years ago – but all four are committed to sourcing and supplying top quality meat. The team have a deep love for 100% grass fed beef, which they currently source from New Zealand wagyu herds. These cattle spend their entire lives outdoors, eat a natural grass diet and are not given growth promoters, hormones or antibiotics. The meat is broken into sub-primal cuts at a New Zealand processing plant, vacuum-packed and transported to the UK by boat. It’s chilled rather than frozen, so further wet-ages during the six week journey. Here, it’s butchered into individual cuts, ready for the customer. Of course, Provenance also sell lamb, pork and chicken and this they source in the UK; the lamb comes from two British farms, one in North Yorkshire and the other in Wales; two fourth-generation farming brothers in Staffordshire supply free range pork and chicken.

When they asked if I’d like to try their New Zealand wagyu I figured it would be perfect for my yakiniku experiment.

One of the cuts they sent was Flat Iron. According to this 2012 article in The Wall Street Journal, Flat Iron is filleted out of the chuck. Care must be taken to avoid a line of tough connective tissue running through the top blade of the shoulder area and, as there are only two such steaks in each cow, many butchers don’t bother, hence the cut is not that widely available. In the UK, it’s more traditionally known as Butler’s Steak or Feather Blade; the Aussies and Kiwis call it Oyster Blade.

Regardless of what name it goes by, it’s a very tender cut that is perfectly suited to being cooked rare or medium rare.

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When our Provenance wagyu Flat Iron arrived, we were hugely impressed at the deep colour and beautiful marbling of fat.

Pete sliced this 500 gram piece thinly across the grain. I arranged some of the slices on a plate and the rest I submerged in a bowl of miso yakiniku marinade (see recipe, below).

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As well as the marinade, we had three sauces in which to dip cooked meat – some beaten raw egg (with a few drops of soy mixed in), a goma (sesame) dipping sauce and another yakiniku sauce I made with dark soy sauce, sesame oil, shichimi (seven spice powder), sugar, fresh ginger and garlic.

The raw egg dip didn’t add much (I was way too stingy with the soy) and my yakiniku dipping sauce just wasn’t very balanced – way too much sesame oil and soy, not enough sugar, ginger and garlic. We quickly discarded these as failed experiments.

Our favourites proved to be the miso yakiniku marinade (which we dunked beef into before cooking) and the goma sauce (which we dipped the non-marinaded strips of beef into once cooked). We bought our goma sauce back from Japan; it’s Mizkan brand, a Japanese vinegar and condiments producer and available online from Japan Centre.

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Vegetable wise, we had some thin spring onions, mild long peppers (from our local Turkish grocery store) and thinly sliced sweet potato. We’d meant to have mushrooms too, but forgot to buy them!

The sweet potato didn’t cook well, blackening on the outside before softening at all inside. It’s definitely a vegetable we’ve been served in Japanese yakiniku restaurants so I’m wondering if they par-cooked it first, though I hadn’t thought so at the time. Or perhaps some varieties of sweet potatoes are better suited than others? I am on the hunt for the answer!

The spring onions and peppers worked very well.

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We used a disposable barbecue, which Pete lit outside, and bought in once the worst of the initial smoke had died down. We placed it over some old cork boards on a folding garden table we’d set up in the kitchen. It worked well enough, and wasn’t as smoky as we’d feared (though the smell did linger in the house for several hours afterwards). But the main weakness was that the disposable barbecue didn’t generate the level of heat we needed for a sufficiently long time, which meant the last several items took too long to cook.

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Oops! It was only when Pete took the disposable barbecue back outside that we discovered this little scene underneath!

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All that said, I was utterly delighted with our first home yakiniku!

I was also hugely impressed with the New Zealand grass fed wagyu which was full of flavour and wonderfully melt-in-the-mouth because of its beautiful marbling.

 

For next time:

  • I want to find food-grade smokeless charcoal – the British brands I have found seem to be sold for use in fireplaces rather than barbeques. What I’d like to use is Japanese binchōtan, a white charcoal produced from Ubame oak steamed at high temperatures; it is prized for burning characteristics which include very little smoke, low temperatures and a long burning time. Unfortunately, it’s also pretty expensive.
  • I’ll need to source a small bucket barbecue that can safely be used indoors.
  • And perhaps a cast iron trivet or a concrete paving slab might fare better than our cork boards to protect our table from the heat of the barbecue; they did protect the table but didn’t survive themselves!
  • The miso yakiniku marinade was super but I need to find a better recipe for the yakiniku dipping sauce. I might investigate some other tasty dipping sauces too.
  • We definitely need more vegetables and I’ll need to think harder about which ones will work well and whether they need to be par-cooked ahead of time.

 

Miso Yakiniku Marinade

Ingredients
100 ml light soy sauce
1 tablespoon miso
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon garlic, grated or pureed
1 tablespoon ginger, grated or pureed
1-2 teaspoons shichimi (Japanese seven spice mix) or half to 1 teaspoon chilli powder
1 tablespoon cooking sake
1 tablespoon mirin (slightly sweet Japanese rice wine) or additional tablespoon of sake plus teaspoon of sugar

Method

  • Mix all ingredients together.
  • Either heat gently in a saucepan or for 10 to 20 seconds in a microwave. This helps all the ingredients to melt and combine more easily.
  • Add sliced beef to marinade about 30 minutes before cooking.

Note: As we were using this as a marinade, the slightly runny texture suited us well. However, if you’d like a thicker yakiniku sauce, continue to heat gently to reduce and thicken.

 

* Read more about the history of yakiniku in Japan and what to expect at a yakiniku restaurant.

Kavey Eats received samples of New Zealand grass fed wagyu from Provenance Butchers.

 

Just Eat, the online takeaway ordering service I reviewed a few months ago, have asked me to share their Tried & Tasted 2014 Awards with you. They are calling for votes to decide the best Just Eat Chinese, Italian, Turkish (and so on) in each region of London. They have created shortlists based on customer feedback, and now it’s up to Londoners to vote for their favourites.

Just click on your region of London, view the shortlist of restaurants and give your vote to your favourite for each cuisine listed.

As a thank you (or incentive) for voting, you will also be entered into a draw to win a prize – these include a £25 Just Eat voucher, an iPad Mini 16GB, a Kindle Fire HD, a Samsung Galaxy Tablet and, erm, Just Eat branded onesies. I guess those’ll keep you warm while you sit on the sofa enjoying your next takeaway!

JUST EAT T&T 2014 Logo v1

Yahe Garden, the Chinese restaurant we order from regularly, is shortlisted for best Chinese in North London, and I’m very happy to give it my vote. We find the food, service and delivery time consistently good and the prices are reasonable. We sometimes order from Xian, which isn’t shortlisted for an award – their food is the best but their prices are really high and the delivery times can be shockingly inconsistent.

I’m not familiar with either of the Turkish restaurants listed for North London. We really like Aamu, which sells Turkish, Persian and Afghani dishes, including some that are less common on ocakbasi menus. If they had made the shortlist, they would definitely get my vote.

To view and vote for your favourite London Just Eat takeaway restaurants, visit the Tried & Tasted 2013 Awards London page. Just Eat are also on Facebook and Twitter.

 

This is a sponsored post. Kavey Eats has received payment to share these awards with you. All opinions expressed about individual takeaways in my local area are my own.

 

It’s that time of the year again when the supermarkets line shelf after shelf with Easter eggs, bunnies and chicks. But although there are some decent quality items on the shelves, much of the chocolate is cheap, full of vegetable oil (rather than cocoa butter) and ultimately pretty unsatisfying. The chocolate eggs are often so thin that it feels like there’s more cardboard and plastic packaging than chocolate; the prices can seem cheap but I seldom find them good value.

If your budget allows, I’d suggest choosing something better.

When I attended Hotel Chocolat’s press preview of this year’s Easter range, I found lots that appealed.

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Your Eggsellency Extra Thick Easter Egg, The Facet Luxury Dark Chocolate Easter Egg and The Splat Caramel Chocolate Easter Egg

As always, I was struck by their new packaging design for 2014. The pattern is wonderfully curvaceous and the gold detailing is marvellously opulent. I was told that the Hotel Chocolat design took inspiration from 20th century British artist Paul Nash, though I’m not sure I see any similarities. For me, the organic nature of eggs and leaves or petals, has a retro feel that reminds me of Art Nouveau.

Also new this year is the Facet egg, available in dark and milk chocolate versions, with bold geometric designs in both the packaging and the chocolate.

Extra Thick eggs come with a variety of different chocolates inside, in beautiful arch-shaped boxes. There’s also a Rabot 1745 version in the same shape of box but with the signature black and gold branding. And if you’re really pushing the boat out, look at the Ostrich egg, an enormous arch-shaped box containing two thick shells and lots of chocolates.

Although the big eggs are always striking, there are lots of lower priced items in bags and small boxes: the egglets are still in force as are the fried egg slabs and egg and soldiers sets; adorable pastel bunnies in pink and yellow use only natural colourings and flavourings; chocolate chicks come in white, milk or dark; choc cross buns that bring the flavours of easter baking to chocolate; Danny the City Bunny (presumably because of his bowtie, but leaves me wondering if a country bunny would have a straw hat) and a number of sandwich eggs. Go up just a little more in price and choose from the new Splat eggs; a bird’s nest of egglets; goose eggs in pretty pastels or larger bags and boxes of the chocolates above.

As has become a tradition on Kavey Eats, instead of offering one big prize, I liaise with Hotel Chocolat to choose three of my favourite items so that not one but three readers can win an Easter treat.

 

COMPETITION

Hotel Chocolat are offering three wonderful Easter egg prizes to readers of Kavey Eats. Each prize includes delivery within the UK.

First Prize: Your Eggsellency Extra Thick Easter Egg
375 grams £28 – An extra thick egg with one 40% milk shell and one 70% dark shell, filled with real cream truffles with champagne, port, amaretto and other delights.

Second Prize: The Facet Luxury Dark Chocolate Easter Egg
200 grams £20 – A dark chocolate egg in a beautiful new geometric design, with matching packaging,

Third Prize: The Splat Caramel Chocolate Easter Egg
150 grams £12.50 – With a design based on the idea of an explosion in a chocolate factory, this caramel milk chocolate egg features a colourful white chocolate splat.

 

HOW TO ENTER

You can enter the competition in 3 ways:

Entry 1 – Blog Comment
Leave a comment below, sharing one of your favourite childhood memories about Easter chocolate.

Entry 2 – Facebook
Like the Kavey Eats Facebook page and leave a (separate) comment on this blog post with your Facebook user name.

Entry 3 – Twitter
Follow
@Kavey on Twitter. Existing followers are, of course, welcome to enter! Then tweet the (exact) sentence below.
I’d love to win one of three @HotelChocolat Easter Eggs from Kavey Eats!
http://goo.gl/hbFOyh #KaveyEatsHCEasterEggs
(Please do not add my twitter handle into the tweet; I track entries using the competition hash tag. And you don’t need to leave a blog comment about your tweet either, thanks!)

RULES & DETAILS

  • The deadline for entries is midnight GMT Friday 4 April 2014.
  • Kavey Eats reserves the right to alter the closing date of the competition. Changes to the closing date, if they occur, will be shown on this page.
  • The three winners will be selected from all valid entries using a random number generator.
  • Entry instructions form part of the terms and conditions.
  • Where prizes are to be provided by a third party, Kavey Eats accepts no responsibility for the acts or defaults of that third party.
  • There are three prizes, which will be awarded to the winners in the order that the names are picked out. Each prize is a Hotel Chocolat Easter Egg, as described above and includes free delivery within the UK.
  • The prizes cannot be redeemed for a cash value.
  • The prizes are offered and provided by Hotel Chocolat.
  • One blog entry per person only. One Twitter entry per person only. One Facebook entry per person only. You may enter all three ways but do not have to do so for your entries to be valid.
  • For Twitter entries, winners must be following @Kaveyat the time of notification. For Facebook entries, winners must Like the Kavey Eats Facebook page at time of notification.
  • Blog comment entries must provide a valid email address for contacting the winner.
  • The winners will be notified by email, Twitter or Facebook. If no response is received from a winner within 7 days of notification, the prize will be forfeit and a new winner will be picked and contacted.

 

Kavey Eats attended the Hotel Chocolat Easter preview event and received a selection of sample products.

The winners of this competition, in order of prizes, were Yasmin Jafri, Lianne Walsh and Jan Beal.

 

Friends of mine have recommended Spanish brand Lékué to me before; they are fans of its innovative silicone cookware. The range includes steaming, baking and storage containers, including a large selection for microwave cooks and cake makers and decorators.

Bread Maker 4 Bread Maker 1
Bread Maker 2 Bread Maker 3
Lékué images

The item that intrigued me most was the Lékué Bread Maker, a flexible silicone bowl that can be used from start to finish of the bread making process – mix and knead the dough in the bowl, let it rise, knock it back, let it rise again and then pop the whole thing into the oven to bake.

Thus far, we’ve found it a little tricky to mix and knead the dough inside the bowl – its flexible and lightweight nature means that an attempt to lift the sticky dough before pushing it back down ends up lifting the bowl itself. We’ll experiment with different kneading techniques to see if we can overcome this.

However, where the Bread Maker comes into its own is for rising and baking wet, sticky doughs:

The dough needn’t be disturbed after its second rise, thus avoiding the risk of knocking out some of the air. Of course, this can equally well be mitigated by transferring dough from a regular mixing bowl into the final baking container ahead of the second rise.

For baking, the bowl has an ingenious design that allows it to be very easily fastened at the top, leaving it open at each side. The shape of the Bread Maker when fastened, provides both a pleasant rounded shaping of the final loaf as well as an environment in which the bread can create steam as it cooks, which makes for a lovely crisp crust.

The instructions also mention the option of baking the bread in a microwave (and finishing with a few minutes in a regular oven to provide crispness), though we’ve not tried that yet.

Lastly, the bowl is also dishwasher proof, which may be helpful for some, though its silicone nature means it’s a doddle to clean anyway, since nothing sticks to it.

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My images

COMPETITION

Lékué have offered a Bread Maker as a competition prize for Kavey Eats readers. The prize includes delivery within the UK.

HOW TO ENTER

You can enter the competition in 3 ways:

Entry 1 – Blog Comment
Leave a comment below, sharing your favourite memory of baking or eating freshly made bread.

Entry 2 – Facebook
Like the Kavey Eats Facebook page and leave a (separate) comment on this blog post with your Facebook user name.

Entry 3 – Twitter
Follow
@Kavey on Twitter. Existing followers are, of course, welcome to enter! Then tweet the (exact) sentence below.
I’d love to win a @Lekue Bread Maker from
Kavey Eatshttp://goo.gl/LyjJ5x #KaveyEatsLekue
(Please do not add my twitter handle into the tweet; I track entries using the competition hash tag. And you don’t need to leave a blog comment about your tweet either, thanks!)

RULES & DETAILS

  • The deadline for entries is midnight GMT Friday 21st March 2014.
  • Kavey Eats reserves the right to alter the closing date of the competition. Changes to the closing date, if they occur, will be shown on this page.
  • The winner will be selected from all valid entries using a random number generator.
  • Entry instructions form part of the terms and conditions.
  • Where prizes are to be provided by a third party, Kavey Eats accepts no responsibility for the acts or defaults of that third party.
  • The prize is a Lékué Bread Maker. The prize include free delivery within the UK.
  • The prize cannot be redeemed for a cash value.
  • The prize is offered and provided by Lékué.
  • One blog entry per person only. One Twitter entry per person only. One Facebook entry per person only. You may enter all three ways but do not have to do so for your entries to be valid.
  • For Twitter entries, winners must be following @Kavey at the time of notification. For Facebook entries, winners must Like the Kavey Eats Facebook page at time of notification.
  • Blog comment entries must provide a valid email address for contacting the winner.
  • The winners will be notified by email, Twitter or Facebook. If no response is received within 7 days of notification, the prize will be forfeit and a new winner will be picked and contacted.

Kavey Eats received a selection of sample products from Lékué.

 

I really wanted to like Fable Bar & Restaurant. I really, really did. But it wasn’t to be.

The venue takes inspiration from “fairy tales and the fabulous fables of Aesop” and is described as an all-day bar and restaurant and event space. It is certainly an attractively decorated venue, spread across three floors. There are fairy-tale touches from walls papered with pages of books to a glass bell jar over a pair of shoes filled with succulents. And there’s lots and lots of light spilling in from enormous windows. Much of the seating on the top floor is at tall bench tables with tall stools to match, but if (like me) you prefer regular tables and chairs, there are plenty on the other two floors.

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Middle floor, where we were seated

Our visit was exactly a week after opening, for a weekday lunch, so the place was still quiet, though the few regular tables on the top floor were taken. Declining the bench we were initially shown to, and the enormous table for eight we were offered next, we were eventually offered seating on the floor below, though I don’t think it was really open and no one else was seated here during our visit. I found the lack of cloakroom or coat hooks annoying; the stools provided (I assume) for our bags weren’t an ideal resting place for our pile of winter coats, scarves, hats and gloves.

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Middle floor

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Top floor, where we transferred for lunch to make way for an event being hosted on the middle floor

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Bottom floor, which also provides an alternative entrance, on Farringdon Road

Fable’s cocktail offering is fun! I like the Cocktail Bull’s Eye wheel that helps you pick cocktails that best suit your tastes, but wish it listed more of the menu’s offerings. I definitely enjoyed my Russian Rose Martini (£7.25) which features vodka, lychee liqueur, ginger syrup and a rose petal garnish. Better described as lychee than rose, though.

The beer menu invites customers to “ask about our collection of small batch, artisan craft beers” so we were disappointed to be offered Meantime London Lager, Goose Island IPA and Brooklyn Lager; none of these can be described as “small batch” and “artisan craft” is meaningless marketing spiel. The international draft beer selection is more extensive, though heavily lager-based. At a time when another new London brewery is opening every few months, it’s a huge shame not to see more genuinely small and local breweries represented, and some proper British ale.

FableBarRestau-4872 FableBarRestau-4859
FableBarRestau-6063 FableBarRestau-4862

I found the menu confusing.

The very limited selection of starters feels forcedly global with satay chicken, tempura squid and chilli and soy prawn lollipops next to soup, mushroom pesto and goat’s cheese bruschetta and lobster parmesan croquettes. I don’t entirely understand what most of the flatbreads or sharing plates actually consist of, though they too offer that same odd combination of Asian and Mediterranean influences. And then when you get to the (enormous) list of mains, the Asian influences virtually disappear – there’s a sandwich and burger section, a steak section and a posh pub grub section. Salads, “tatties” and sides make up the rest.

It’s not that there aren’t appealing dishes here, but rather that the menu appears to have been designed by committee and lacks coherency because of it.

FableBarRestau-6077 FableBarRestau-6074

Lobster & parmesan croquettes (£5.95) looked glorious but were shockingly bland. Though I did spot one tiny piece of lobster in one of them, the taste of lobster didn’t come through at all. The best thing on the plate was the grated cheese underneath and the greenery on top.

Chicken satay with peanut sauce and prawn crackers (£5.95) was similarly disappointing. The chicken hadn’t been marinated first, so it was plain Jane, and really needed smothering with a rich, intense sauce. Sadly, the peanut sauce was very thin, didn’t adhere to the chicken and failed to contribute much flavour. This time, the prawn crackers were the most flavoursome items on the board and the mixed leaves under and over the chicken. My suggestion is to serve this as a chicken satay salad – that runny sauce would work far better as a dressing, tossed through the meat and leaves.

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To the basic d&m beefburger (£8.45) Pete added crispy bacon and cheese (£2.55) and chips (£2.95). He deemed it a decent burger that had retained its juiciness, though it lacked a real beefy taste.

There was a steak and lobster deal on the specials menu for £15 but no information on cut of beef or size. When I asked, I learned that it was sirloin, but decided to order my usual rib eye from the regular menu instead. To my 10 oz rib eye (£18.95) I added half a Scottish lobster (£12.95) and Bearnaise sauce (£2.95). Though my steak came with onion rings, tomatoes and mushrooms, chips were not included. It was an awful steak, incredibly tough and chewy (I usually order rib eye so I wasn’t expecting the tenderness of a fillet) and a tendon running along one edge was difficult to cut away, too. And the lobster was murdered by overcooking; I’ve never actually had such dried out lobster before. The onion ring batter was super crispy and tasted good but what a shame the onions inside were stone cold.

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Tendony steak; nicer details

By this point, we were on our own. The manager who looked after us initially was busy rearranging all the tables around us for an event (which was somewhat off-putting) and no one else had been assigned to look after us. When I was eventually able to ask for some wet wipes or a bowl (having dirtied my hands cracking lobster claws open), there was an extremely long wait before a waiter first brought me a teapot of water. After another wait, he came with a bowl of water and napkins; but he’d poured boiling water into the bowl, which would have scalded me badly had I not spotted it and checked. I gave up and headed to the Ladies instead.

We moved upstairs for the last course.

I asked for Pete’s coffee to be served at the same time as dessert. After another very long wait, coffee and my drink arrived, but the dessert didn’t materialise for quite some time again. It was sloppy and frustrating.

Instead of dessert I chose a coke float (£7.25) described as coca-cola, ice cream, spiced rum and pedro ximinez sherry. The rum came through nicely but I failed to detect even a hint of my beloved PX.

The mini pudding shots (£7.95) came in three pretty green glasses that made the tiny portions look even smaller. White chocolate crème brulee was entirely the wrong texture, had no crunchy sugar layer on top and no white chocolate flavour. The chocolate brownie was alright, but far too sweet for me and too hard to cut through with a  spoon. And the Knickerbocker Glory was completely unbalanced by a sharp frozen yoghurt in place of the usual ice cream.

FableBarRestau-6090 FableBarRestau-6092 FableBarRestau-6096

Having only been open a week, it’s not surprising that staff lack training, though many of them seemed utterly lost and confused by it all. All but the two members of the management team spoke so quietly we had to ask them to repeat themselves several times. I hope this will improve as they are given more training and gain confidence.

Given the central location, with many offices all around, I imagine Fable will be popular with the office crowd. It’s a lovely space and if I worked nearby, I’d definitely pop in for drinks happily. But the menu and the food itself need a lot more work. As it stands, Fable fails to transport me anywhere but the mundane.

Kavey Eats dined as guests of Fable Bar & Restaurant.
The Fable on Urbanspoon
Square Meal

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