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Thursday 28 August 2014

Kerbisher & Malt - Arabica Bar & Kitchen - Polpo

It's been a quiet 2 months for Matt The List.  At least, that's what the blog activity suggests.  In fact, a brave select team recently returned from a 24 day food & drink tour to New York. Toronto, Chicago & Minneapolis, fatter, poorer, happier.  This was swiftly followed by a trip to Edinburgh, Inveraray & Islay for haggis, seafood & whisky.

However, we can talk about all that another time (i.e. once all the maps, photos & notes are sorted out).  If you are heading to any of those cities soon and need tips, leave a message - we ate everything.

In the meantime, here is a round-up of three excellent meals that I had all the way back in June in quick succession.  Warning: Photos may cause salivation, especially Arabica's Knafeh.

Wednesday June 25th - One of the rare outings to be made at the same time as a World Cup fixture (remember that?) was a trip to Kerbisher & Malt's latest "modern fish & chips" outpost in Clapham South. Locals would probably rather I kept quiet about the lovely stretch of food & drink on Abbeville Road, but a spate of openings including Comensal & Bottle Apostle suggest that the secret is already out.

The front of K&M doesn't scream chippie so you may well walk past it if you aren't careful.  I suggest getting a pint in The Abbeville opposite beforehand to get your bearings.  Much like The Fish & Chip Shop, K&M has gone for a sleek but slightly too dark interior for my liking - a little more natural light wouldn't hurt in both.

I found my way to a corner table with fellow foodie Leyla (of The Cutlery Chronicles) and we promptly ate our way through the tempting menu.  Battered haddock, breaded plaice, fish finger butties, onion rings, chips, mushy peas and a fennel & dill salad all got washed down with Meantime beers & cups of wine in no time. 

It's all reasonably priced with the options of haddock, cod, plaice, pollock & coley ranging from £5.80-6.90. The fabulous butty and the sides (particularly the onion rings) impressed more than the fish itself which could have done with more seasoning, but it's all definitely a cut above your local chippie.  Calamari & whitebait are left for us to try another time.  Tartare sauce & lemon mayonnaise added some extra flavour, whilst red curry sauce didn't quite do it for us.

Kerbisher & Malt is simple, filling, tasty, family friendly, easy to recommend and it won't break the bank. Most of the time, that's all you need!

Browse the menu and follow Matt The List on Zomato

Friday June 27th - Two days later, I found myself eating out again, this time at the new permanent home for Borough Market regulars, Arabica Bar & Kitchen.  They have got themselves a wonderful, large, airy room right that opens out on to the heart of the market, round the corner from the superb Rake pub (which we may or may not have retired to after the meal).

Where to start? Well, I could talk about every delicious dish but I would soon be out of my foodie adjective depth.  My companion from the previous meal at K&M goes in to more detail on Arabica on her blog here

The exciting range of Lebanese 961 beers were sadly not available so we turned to the excellent wine list instead.  A few minutes in, and our table was full of small plates, including a Lebanese Lamb & Beef Tartare (Kibbeh Nayyeh) bursting with flavour, delicious air-dried Hereford beef (Basturma) and some delicious dips.  The Hummus and Smoked Aubergine dips were a little on the stingy side, as was the bread, but there was plenty else to go around.

Kibbeh Nayyeh - Lebanese lamb and beef tartare, olive oil, red mustard leaves, tropea onion and mint - £9

Basturma - Anatolian-style air-dried Hereford beef with baby leaves, flowers, olive oil and lemon - £8.50

Moutabel - Smoked Aubergine, Tahini, Garlic, Olive Oil, Lemon - £5.50

After several good decisions from the Dips and Raw / Cured parts of the menu, many more plates arrived from the Fried, Charcoal, Stove / Grill, Salads and Veg / Rice / Pulses sections.  Healthy portions of semolina-crumbed squid and whitebait didn't last long.  Lamb and Spinach Kibbeh (croquettes) were hard to share for more than one reason.  And Chicken & Pistachio kebabs & Beef Onglet on a smoked barbecue salad managed to impress even when split 5 ways.

Semoline Crumbed Cornish Squid - With Fennel and Sumac - £9.50

Makale Samak with Tarator - Crispy whitebait dusted with roasted cumin - £6

Chicken and Pistachio Taouk - Marinated in cardamom, honey and green chilli - £9

Sugar Cured King Prawns - With smoked garlic oil, urfa chilli and fennel salt - £11

Beef Onglet - With Smoked Barbeque Salad & Watercress - £9.50

Mjederah - Warm lentil and bulgur wheat pilaf with crispy onions and tahini salad - £6

Sayadieh Royale - Pan fried pollack with rice, tahini salsa and toasted pine kernels - £10
Three options from the Clay Oven section of the menu arrived last and nearly finished us off.  The standout was the Armenian-style Lamachun, a beautiful flatbread smothered with spiced lamb, tomato, onion, peppers and pine kernels.

Armenian Style Lamachun - Flatbread with spiced lamb, tomato, onion, peppers and pine kernels - £6

Suzuk Pide - Turkish pizza with smoked red pepper sauce, spicy sausage, haloumi cheese - £7

Three cheese Man'ousheh - Flatbread with haloumi, akawi and Westcombe ricotta - £6

18 plates or so later, we made it to dessert. Make sure you do too, and order the eye-catching Knafeh - warm, melt-in-mouth Levantine cheese pastry with orange blossom honey and crushed pistachio. There was a bit of a spoon scrum for this one, though the Levantine ice cream (Booza) provided a distraction. I have also heard good things about the Arabica Affogato and the Baklawa, but we had run out of space. A Turkish Coffee was the fitting way to finish, with a Pistachio Delight on the side.

Knafeh - Warm Levantine cheese pastry with orange blossom honey and crushed pistachios - £6.50

Booza - A unique Levantine ice cream made with Chios mastica, delicately perfumed with orange blossom water and served with lashings of green pistachios - £5

Turkish Coffee with Pistachio Delight
The menu is packed full of things you will want to eat, so I suggest going with a few friends and getting as much as you can!  As you can see from the multitude of photos, it is a feast for your eyes as well as your stomach.  Portions are small for the price, but the quality is definitely high enough to make one forget.  Highly recommended.

View the photos on Matt The Tumblr - Set 1 / Set 2

Browse the menu and follow Matt The List on Zomato

Arabica Bar and Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Saturday June 28th - Last but not least, ahead of my trip to Venice, I squeezed in a lunch time visit to Polpo in Notting Hill to sample Russell Norman's take on a bacaro (Venetian restaurant / bar that mostly serves small plates or cicheti).

After a Negroni & a Cynar Gin Fizz passed the first test, we ordered some food.  The table of 6 split neatly into meat eaters and veggies, and there was plenty on the menu to keep both parties happy.  The mixed Cicheti plate is definitely the way to start, covering fried stuffed olives, arancini (fried rice balls), crostini ("little toast" in Italian) and more.

Be sure to also dip in to the excellent meatball section - I especially recommend the spicy pork & fennel variety.

The veggies' Spinach, Parmesan & Soft Egg Pizzetta made me temporarily jealous but we retaliated with scallops supported by peas and rabbits hidden in endive, not that they cared.  The menu changes so you won't necessarily find all of these dishes if you visit, but I'm sure the replacements will keep you happy.

After just the right amount of savoury snacking, we moved on to dessert.  Feeling indecisive, we decided it was safest to order pretty much everything on the menu.  Small pots of strawberry and basil pannacotta & tiramisú soon made way for flourless orange & almond cake and a stunning nutella pizzette.

There are now four Polpo branches in London, but the quality doesn't seem to be diminishing.  The food was hard to fault, service was exemplary and prices are very competitive.  It doesn't manage to capture the atmosphere of eating out in Venice, but they've certainly nailed the cuisine.  Arabica Bar & Kitchen may have been slightly more thrilling, but you will leave Polpo content with more cash to spare!

View the Polpo photos on Matt The Tumblr

Browse the menu and follow Matt The List on Zomato

Polpo on Urbanspoon

Matt The Tumblr latest:

Wapping Market (organised by the clever folk behind Brockley Market) is now open every Sunday from 10am-2pm - Wapping Wall, E1W 3SG - Photo Set 1 / Photo Set 2

First look at cosy new café in Battersea - La Moka Café

New salads & specials at fantastic deli in Battersea - Park Road Kitchen

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