Our weekly food diary shares on-trend ingredients, fun foodie events, Instagrammable restaurant dishes and must-try street eats.
What we ate in November…
Planning a trip to Hamburg? For a taste of something local, head to Rindermarkthalle, a huge foodie market full of shops, stalls, restaurants and cafes, including Vonmetzgers – a butcher-cum-restaurant, where we tried this labskaus. A traditional German dish, labskaus is a mix of salted or corned beef (or salted pork), mashed together with potatoes, onion and pickled beetroot (which gives it its pink hue). It’s usually accompanied by a rolled salted herring, pickles and topped with a fried egg. The dish was created long ago by sailors, using ingredients that would last on their ships without refrigeration – salted meats, potatoes, pickles, eggs – mashed together to create something appetising. Here, the traditional dish is elevated, using high-quality meat and topping with a fried quail’s egg.
Mars bar pancakes
Here’s three words guaranteed to get anyone with a sweet tooth salivating: Mars bar pancakes. In fact, it seems a sure-fire way to grab people’s interest on a sweet menu is to sneak one of the nation’s favourite chocolate bars into a dish. You only have to look at the popularity of recipes like our Ferrero Rocher hazelnut brownies, Mars bar galaxy cake and Malteser-studded Millionarie’s chocolate bombe for proof. We had this mammoth pancake stack at Josie’s in Petersfield – two thick but surprisingly light and fluffy pancakes with an ice cream cone stuffed into the centre, filled with creamy vanilla ice-cream before the whole thing is drenched in a Mars bar sauce. Need we say more?
Caramel & apple pie
Thanksgiving might be an American holiday but increasing numbers of restaurants, bakeries and cafes in the UK have started creating US-inspired menus, events and special bakes each year in a nod to the occasion. This year, we celebrated with three epic pies by pastry king Dominique Ansel (of cronut fame), including a gooey bourbon pecan pie, a super silky pumpkin pie, and this warm salted caramel apple pie, made with chunky apple pieces and sweet-salty pools of caramel in a buttery pastry crust. Are you drooling yet? If you can’t make it to Dominique’s London bakery, try one of our American-inspired pies – pecan, pumpkin or apple, or for a full feast, check out our Thanksgiving collection.
Whisky with a twist
Reading this with a winter cold? This is sure to warm your cockles. This week we tried the new range of small-batch liqueurs from Marvolio’s Nostrums. Whisky continues to grow as a trend thanks, in part, to people like Joel Gallagher, founder of Marvolio’s. Joel is making whisky more accessible by combining it with other ingredients like Arabica coffee (in his smooth Whiskoffy) and ginger in this fiery Whinger (left). The result is a range of drinks that stay true to the flavour of whisky but are far more quaffable than drinking it neat. Ideal for this time of year, Whinger combines a serious hit of warming whisky with punchy ginger, resulting in an almost medicinal, hot-toddy-style drink. If you’re struggling through the winter, try sipping on some Whinger.
Food on sticks
Whether it’s Turkish kofte, Japanese yakitori, Greek souvalaki or Italian arrosticini, right now we’re seeing a lot of food (more specifically, meat and seafood) on sticks. This week we tried these ‘hot sticks’ at new restaurant Hicce, founded by Pip Lacey (ex Murano chef and winner of BBC Two’s 2017 Great British Menu) and Gordy McIntyre (previously of the Conran restaurant group) in Coal Drops Yard, King’s Cross. These sweet, succulent wild red prawns are skewered and scorched on the grill, then served swimming in seaweed butter. Equally delicious are the flavour-packed grilled chicken thighs with spicy shisho and crispy chicken skin (also on a stick). And it’s not just Hicce making a big deal of their #hiccehotsticks – new Iranian restaurant Berenjak has a list of small kebabs on the menu and izakaya bar Jidori has a whole yakitori menu section.
The use of savoury ingredients in sorbets and ice creams isn’t a new trend, but seeing horseradish sorbet on a menu as a starter was a first for us. We tried this dish of cured seabass with cucumber relish and horseradish sorbet as part of a 10-course tasting menu at Heaneys in Cardiff – the new restaurant from chef Tommy Heaney, who shot to fame after appearing on BBC’s Great British Menu. An impressively well-balanced mix of flavours, textures and temperatures, thin slices of delicate cured seabass are paired with a refreshing cucumber relish to cut through the full-bodied, mustard flavours of the horseradish sorbet. Add to that a crunchy hazelnut topping and inky pools of dill oil and you’ve got a real stand-out starter.
Another week, another street-food favourite undergoes the vegan treatment. This time it’s the turn of Canadian classic, poutine. Arguably one of the world’s ultimate comfort foods, poutine is a dish from Québec, Canada, which takes French fries, tops them with cheese curds and then covers the whole lot in gravy. This week, we’ve been at Biff’s Jack Shack, self-professed purveyor of ‘filthy vegan junk food’ in Boxpark, Shoreditch. Here you’ll find flavour-packed, vegan-friendly wings, burgers and chilli, but it was this poutine that caught our attention, having not seen a vegan version before. The verdict? Super-saucy, well-seasoned and all-round delicious – the fries are topped with vegan ‘cheeze curds’ (made using coconut oil), seitan ‘bacon’ and an umami-rich porcini mushroom gravy. A must-try, vegan or not.
National Fry Up Day
Did you know it was National Fry Up Day last Sunday? Never one to ignore an excuse to eat, we headed down to MEATliquor in London’s Kings Cross to join their Great British Fry Up, touted as ‘the best fry up you’ve ever tasted’. Cooked up by David Rowland and Ben Hesketh of The Fry Up Police along with 2017 MasterChef runner up Steve Kielty, the focus was on independent UK suppliers – including sausages from family-led Powters, black pudding from the Fruit Pig Butchery and Cacklebean eggs from the Cotswolds. Along with A LOT of tea, we managed to put away the full plate, but it was a challenge for even the most seasoned fry-up fan…
Here’s an answer to that ‘what to have for lunch’ dilemma. They look similar to Hawaiian poke bowls – both involve raw fish and various toppings over rice – but while poke uses ingredients from a range of cuisines (including Japanese), the chirashi bowl is strictly Japanese. Chirashi translates as ‘scattered’, referring to how slices of raw fish are presented over sushi rice in a special chirashi bowl. We tried this one at brand-new Omoide in Bermondsey, London, with yuzu ponzu salmon, cured cucumber, sushi ginger, goma wakame (seaweed salad), pickles and crispy shallots. Omoide chef-founder Angelo Sato is from Tokyo and wanted to make his favourite elements of Japanese cuisine accessible in the UK. Omoide also specialises in dashi, a Japanese broth that’s made daily and comes with udon noodles – a comfort in cold weather. We’ve also seen chirashi bowls at Chirashi in London’s Old Spitalfields Market, Oshio in Brighton and Wasabi stores across the country.
Hosting a Halloween party this weekend? Up your cocktail game with spookily good concoctions by Guy Mazuch, head bartender at boutique hotel and cocktail lounge Zetter Townhouse in Clerkenwell, London. We love the vampiro, an amped up version of a Bloody Mary in which Guy has swapped the traditional vodka for tequila and mescal and dressed the glass up for the occasion with a veil of smoked sea salt. For something simpler, the nosferanti is a ghoulish twist on a classic martini, decorated with fake blood. Or, for a revamp of the old-fashioned, Guy has used candy corn (bright orange, striped sweets traditionally eaten in the US at Halloween) in place of the classic sugar gomme in his candy corn old-fashioned.
Bento box brunch
Forget eggs on toast – brunch has exploded as a trend and there’s no limit to what you can feast on. The Pan-Asian ‘bruncho box’ is the latest exciting option, created by chef Scott Hallsworth at Soho’s Freak Scene. It’s inspired by bento boxes (Japanese lunchboxes usually made up of meat or fish, and rice), but like the dishes on the main menu, the elements of the bruncho box aren’t limited to Japanese cuisine – they take inspiration from all over Asia. There’s super-crunchy Singapore fried chicken served in a lettuce cup with sushi rice and Korean kimchi or succulent lamb chop marinated in spicy Korean miso then tea-smoked. Crispy Jerusalem artichoke ‘chopsticks’ come with a zingy Japanese ponzu and truffle sauce.
Mille crêpe cake
We have reached the peak of pancake art! Mille crêpes are having a moment in the patisserie world, made up of many layers of the thinnest crêpes and flavoured pastry cream, or dairy cream, to create a delicate yet decadent cake that is carefully sliced to reveal its structure. Japanese patisserie Kova in Soho, Sakurado in Kensington and Menagerie in Manchester are renowned for their Grinch-green matcha versions, but newly opened Mille in Paddington is the first dedicated mille crêpe emporium, with eight flavours on offer. We especially love the lemon, passionfruit and chocolate flavours though purists may prefer the bitter edge of the traditional matcha. The joy of eating these cakes comes not just in the taste but also the feel of gliding your fork through the whisper-thin layers.