For a considerable amount of time now my good friend Neil has continually recommended several food establishments that are a 'must' visit. On my recent trip to London, I was able to witness first hand exactly what it was that stimulated his taste buds so significantly – several of them in one day!
The night prior to our food fest, a visit to The Coach and Horses where simple yet exquisite food and a couple of excellent real ales (this night the bar held pristinely well kept Timothy Taylors and Hooky) served as an excellent pre-cursor to the delights that were in store the following day. My starter of hash brown with chorizo and a soft boiled egg a particular highlight yet there wasn’t one dish on the menu that I dismissed as unattractive either to the eye or the palate.
Our day of grazing began at Moolis. On all my London sorties bar none, a pilgrimage to the Indian street food bar is a standing item on the agenda. Recently taken over and due for imminent expansion my keema mini mooli didn’t disappoint as is always the case. Discussions ensued and are still continuing on the similarities between proper Staffordshire oatcakes and rotis. But more on that at a later date. The first recommended stop on the Foodathon was Pitt Cue Co. The small but beautifully formed restaurant and bar near Carnaby Street tends to have queues throughout most of the day and it isn’t difficult to see why. The menu is simple yet astounding.
Pulled pork, burnt end mash, house sausage, chipotle slaw, a slice of sourdough bread, all accompanied by the house pickled cucumber and onion. Normally not a dessert fan, I agreed to ‘sample’ the Sticky Toffee Pudding with a bourbon and caramel sauce. Those three words, ‘Sticky Toffee Pudding’ normally induce horrific flashbacks to school dinners and clumpy, stodgy slabs of gloop that need a glass of paint stripper to suitably wash down.
How wrong such presumptions were in this case. The pudding was rich but unbelievably light and the sauce was a revelation.
‘Sampling’ led to an empty plate. However, for me this wasn’t the extraordinary experience of my visit to Pitt Cue Co. As we meandered through the ever-bustling streets of the capital, it had been casually dropped into conversation that I HAD to try a Pickleback. Intrigued, my initial enthusiasm was somewhat dampened by the description of it’s constituent parts. A shot of bourbon immediately followed by a shot of the house pickling vinegar. No – really. It is a phenomenon. The mixture of the shots turns two extremes of taste into what can only be described as a liquid Big Mac.
You have to try it. A bottle of Kernel Pale Ale served as a very favourable chaser.
Our tour continued with a brief stop at a pop up food stall in Soho and a sweet pastry - a char sui filled delight – I’m quickly running out of superlatives. Let’s just say an immense little snack.
Onwards then to MEATLiquor. What started as some guys selling burgers from a van has turned into a restaurant where once again, queues at the door are a regular feature.
The building used to house a refined Italian restaurant but now has a vibrancy and energy that is enhanced by a continual buzz of happy and fulfilled diners and the constant scurrying of attentive waitresses. Satirical sketches and highly amusing quotes and instructions adorn the walls. We had a Dead Hippie burger – MEATLiquor’s take on a Big Mac - and a chicken burger - deep fried chicken pieces in a very thin batter with Frank’s red-hot chilli sauce.
With all due respect to other burgers I’ve had the pleasure of consuming, these pair were probably the best I’ve had the good fortune to sample and were washed down with lageritas and cideritas. The clues are in the names so I’ll let you work it out. Some drinks are served in jam jars ensuring the cocktail making procedure is quicker, quirkier and original.
Our day of significant food consumption concluded at Tsuru and a spicy scotch egg with shichimi salt, a portion of chicken kara-age -Tsuru’s delightful take on chicken nuggets- all washed down with a bottle of Asahi.
A common theme to this truly outstanding day was the simplicity of the food at every stop of our London grazing. All of the dishes sampled were no nonsense yet unique and small touches of originality either in presentation or preparation, make them exceptional.
Stoke-on-Trent take note...