Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Ducksoup, Soho

Having been out of the country for 3 months at the end of last year, I'm trying to catch up on all the new restaurant openings that I missed. I'm usually pretty lame where this is concerned and it takes me a while to get to such places but I did make it to Ducksoup in early Jan a mere 3 months after it opened, woo! Head chef Julian Biggs and his team met whilst working at Mark Hix's Oyster and Chop House and have joined forces and gone it alone.

Things I loved before I even got there, they post the handwritten menu online (almost) every day, they have a natural wine list drawn on on the wall and I was going with my friend Emily, who I'd not seen since June.

We got slightly carried away and ordered more than we could eat, starting with cavolo nero with lemon and chilli (£3.50), rabbit rillette with cornichons (£5) and potato and celeriac gratin (£3.50).

The greens were great, sprinkled with cumin and a really lovely start. The rabbit was good too, we were offered some bread to have with it but the gratin was overly runny with a lot of fairly flavourless stock.

Next dish to arrive was the roast turbot with salsify (£14). This was brilliant, the fish delicate and almost creamy against the crunchy salsify, all topped with guanciale, a pig cheek bacon. My favourite dish of the night.

Last up were the lentils with wild mushrooms and more cavelo nero and another favourite of the night, bollito misto, a sort of stew with brisket, toulouse sausage, tongue and cock (both £14)! The latter was served with braised shallots and came topped with a tangy gremolata which made the dish.

We were getting pretty full by this point and agreed we would order 1 less large plate next time. The lentils were unnecessary and forgettable.

We had a couple of cocktails each and paid just over £40 each, worth it, I think, as most dishes - lentils and gratin aside - were excellent. Bottled tap water comes at £1 a bottle. With no room for pud or cheese, we hit the road but I'm looking forward to my next visit, perhaps at lunch when they offer a main dish and a glass of wine for £12.

I really enjoyed the evening, the mostly bar style seating is relaxed and convivial, the guys working here are all friendly and helpful and the menu is interesting and constantly changing, depending on what's in season and in the fridges. We had no trouble getting a seat at 6:30ish on a Monday but it can get really busy so be wise and go early or late.

40 Dean St

Ducksoup on Urbanspoon

Monday, 23 January 2012

Boo in Australia - Melbourne Breakfast/ Brunch (CBD)

My favourite brunch of all the places we tried in Melbourne has to be the meal we had at Seven Seeds, sister restaurant of De Clieu, and technically in the Carlton neighbourhood, but located on the edge very close to the CBD.

I found it hard to pick from the menu as everything sounded so good but ultimately went for the ham and cheese toastie with pickles on trusty old Dench Bakers bread. The sharp cheddar was brilliant, nice smokey ham and tomato chutney, one of the greatest sandwiches I've ever had. The coffee here is amazing too.

Dan and Megs had the breakfast bun and homemade beans, corn bread and avocado respectively. Thomas had the BBQ pulled pork with slaw in a brioche bun. Everything looked and sounded amazing. I loved the place.

The other central business district located brunch venue we tried was the much loved Cumulus Inc. I'll start with what I liked, we were seated at the bar overlooking the kitchen where the chefs were busy either cooking the breakfast dishes or prepping. I love watching what they're all doing, there was a particularly daunting amount of pretty courgettes in a box with a young female chef working her way through them, peeling and slicing. Cute. The place has an excited buzz about it and staff were nice. We didn't love the food though sadly.

I had the house smoked salmon, asparagus, sorrel and 65/65 egg. Expensive at $17, the egg was great, cooked for 65 minutes at 65 degrees, a really oozy yolk and the salmon was nice with a subtle smokiness, and the thickness was nice. The bread was a bit meh (not Dench!) and I found the lack of choice on the menu disappointing. There were only 5 savoury breakfast dishes and I'm not a fan of sweet breakfasts.

Thomas' baked eggs looked nice, presented in the cast iron skillet but he found them just ok. So in all we weren't impressed in the place, having had high hopes. I think perhaps the mistake was coming for breakfast not lunch or dinner. Like most places in Melbourne, decent coffee though.

Slightly dubious inclusion to this post is Earl Canteen. You totally could have brunch here but it's really a grab and go sandwich place and come lunchtime the masses from the offices of the CBD flock here.

I arrived after a particularly intense power Christmas shopping session, desperately in need of some food and water at around 4:30pm. I feared they would be closed but fortunately for me they were setting up for the following day already and they had only sold out of one sandwich, not the pork, the one I had come for, yay!

The list of available sandwiches is drool inspiring but I had read great things of the pork belly and hell, when pork belly is available who's going for anything else!? This usually comes in baguette but they had run out of baguette so they substituted ciabatta which didn't hold up to the job particularly well. The pork, particularly the crackling was sensational and I loved the crunch and the tang of the fennel and cabbage slaw. The addition of grated apple gave the whole thing a sweetness and more texture so I was just a teeny bit upset about the bread situation but everything else more than made up for it. I'd love this place to be my lunch local.

Seven Seeds

114 Berkeley St

Seven Seeds on Urbanspoon

45 Flinders Lane

Cumulus Inc. on Urbanspoon

Earl Canteen

500 Bourke St

EARL Canteen on Urbanspoon

This wraps up the Melbourne brunch posts, stay tuned for more Oz eats in the coming weeks,including Sydney.

Friday, 20 January 2012


I have to be THE last food blogger to try one of these burgers. Most raved about them in their previous guise at either the Meatwagon or #Meateasy. Yanni (Papoutsis, joint owner along with Scott Collins) has become a legend, that's how good these burgers are. People are queueing in January for god's sake. I can't believe it took me so long.

Poor quality pictures just don't do the food any justice but MEATliquor is all about mood lighting and cool. It's just brilliant, the queue went down quickly, we arrived at around 9:30 and were seated by 10 and part of that wait was at the bar with a St Thomas in hand (a brilliant gin cocktail).

To start we shared chicken wings and chilli cheese fries, which I dripped all down my white top, gah! I'm not usually a fan of chicken wings, I find the meat to bone ratio unsatisfying but these were magnificent, a mildly hot and sour sauce making them really very moreish.

Chilli cheese fries are pretty much the ultimate in sinful food. Sloppy yet crispy with a nice kick from the chilli.

I had to order the dead hippie, the double patty cheeseburger with special sauce, American cheese, pickles, lettuce and onion. It is incredible. For better pics take a look here at the hoards of other blogger reports, particularly good snaps of the dead hippie can be found here. It is sooooo good. Our table of 6 was silent as we all got stuck in, all in agreement that it's the best burger we've had in London. And these burgers only cost £7.50, they are very special.

We also tried the deep fried pickles and the onion rings, all very good but not as good as the burger, it's obviously all about the burgers, they're that good. Also, it was a really filling dinner for less that £20 a head with beers, the price is right too.

With the no reservation policy being de rigueur in London right now, and the huge buzz that exists around this place, you're likely to have to queue most nights, they're closed Sunday and Monday so best bet would be to go between lunch and dinner to avoid the wait, if it bothers you. Or, grab a can and have a drink whilst you wait, many do judging by the litter out front, and enjoy the scent of burgers that snakes down the street.

74 Wellbeck Street

MEATliquor on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Boo in Australia - Melbourne Breakfast/ Brunch (Fitzroy)

One of the things which greatly appealed to me during the planning of my trip to Oz was the idea of having a glut of breakfast options in Melbourne along the lines of Lantana and Caravan here in London. And the coffee, I was promised amazing coffee and Melbourne certainly does not disappoint on that front.

Being based in Fitzroy North for the duration of our stay in the city, Dench Bakers was my firm favourite in the area. Approximately 1 hour after landing, I was camped here, enjoying a latte and avocado and danish feta on sourdough with a large chunk of lemon and a sprinkling of chives. So simple and soooooo good. Dench are bread suppliers to many other Melbourne restaurants.

I also tried their veggie breakfast, (why don't I eat always spinach for breakfast?) and many of their sweets as dessert at our pre Xmas feast at Jamie and Tori's were from Dench. Some friends have heard reports of snotty service but I always found them to be more than pleasant and we never had to wait for a table. Dench - I miss you.

Perhaps our second most frequented brunch venue throughout the stay was Arcadia on Gertrude Street. They don't seem to have a website but Gertrude street is home to many small independent clothing/music/art type shops and is also where the Melbourne branch of Books for Cooks can be found. The above Arcadia eggs was lovely, I always marvel at the beauty of a perfectly poached egg having seen many failed attempts both at home and when eating out.

The Mexican eggs were fantastic, scrambled eggs with tomato, avocado and coriander on sourdough. They also have a bewildering array of lunch salads, sandwiches and sweets, though I never had lunch here, my visits were always early, whilst the lunch display were being assembled. Nice coffee and muffins too.

Just 2 doors down from Arcadia lives De Clieu, another real favourite of mine and many others, it can be tricky to get a table at weekends. On our 2nd day here we met Rob and Olly for brunch and were still completely jet lagged so I neglected to take any pictures. I had the Breakfast De Clieu, a board with boiled egg, smoked ham, gruyere, tarragon mustard butter and baguette with a selection of jams. Everyone else on the table had the Brunch De Clieu, a fried egg with pureed cauliflower and mushrooms with truffle oil, veal jus, bacon and sourdough. They all raved.

Other popular dishes include a pork neck roti and a Reuben's special. Everything on the menu sounds lovely actually and I returned to try more but it was too late in the day and they had stopped serving food (at 3pm daily). Still in time for a great latte though!

De Clieu is the newest opening from the team behind Seven Seeds and Brother Baba Budan, both in Melbourne's CBD, see my next post for my thoughts on Seven Seeds.

Also very close to where we were based, with Megan and Dan was Jorg. We went here on day 3 of our trip, the sun was shining and we had a lot of travelling ahead of us to look forward to. The food was not of the standard to which, by day 3, we had become accustomed! Megs and I both had baked eggs, mine with tomato, peppers and cannelini beans, the other option with puy lentils and feta. I was disappointed that the yolks were hard and, as always with baked eggs + greed, we burned our tongues. Other dishes were on the small side and with Dench just around the corner, I can see why we were the only diners on a Sunday morning.

Across the road from Jorg sits the Tin Pot Cafe. They are a slightly cheaper option (most breakfast dishes will cost around $20, around £15 when we were there, and Dench increase prices by 10% on a Sunday??!)

The above bacon with scrambled eggs was okay, I had an english muffin topped with poached eggs, mushrooms, tomatoes and spinach, yay. Good coffee but a distinctly average breakfast by Melbourne standards. They open evenings too which many do not and the menu read very well, friends concurred that they had heard good things of the dinner dishes.

Rounding up the Fitzroy selection is Atomica Cafe. I was hungover and in need of serious sustenance so I ordered the veggie breakfast with extra corn fritter and an iced latte (it was a scorcher and we walked there). The smoked tomato was a revelation and this was just what I needed to prepare me for the pub crawl ahead of us.

I hope you can see that breakfast and coffee is something the Aussies really take pride in and do well. It's one of my absolute favourite things about Melbourne and the average quality is far superior compared to the standard greasy fry up available here. Unfortunately for us Brits, the Australian dollar is very strong at the moment so you'll need to take plenty of money, but it really was worth every penny for me.

Dench Bakers
109 Scotchmer St

Dench Bakers on Urbanspoon

193 Gertrude St (Fitzroy border Collingwood)

Arcadia on Urbanspoon

De Clieu
187 Gertrude St

De Clieu on Urbanspoon

203 St Georges Rd

Jorg on Urbanspoon

Tin Pot Cafe
248 St Georges Rd

Tin Pot Cafe on Urbanspoon

268 Brunswick St

Atomica Caffé on Urbanspoon