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Friday 16 January 2015

Portland - Bad Egg - Little Yellow Door

Three different dining experiences on the blog today.  Click below to scroll down:

- Lunch at Portland, a relaxed new restaurant round the corner from the BBC
- Dinner at Neil Rankin's Bad Egg diner near the Barbican
- An Italian dinner party in The Little Yellow Door's fictional flatshare popup in Notting Hill

Monday 12th January - Dad The List and I started the week in style at Portland, a new restaurant in a "long-forgotten clothes showroom" on Great Portland Street.  

Will Lander (Quality Chop House) and Daniel Morgenthau (previously at 10 Greek Street) were all smiles on the restaurant floor, whilst Merlin Labron-Johnson (ex-sous chef at Belgium's In De Wulf) and co. made the most of a pretty small kitchen.  Portland has a simple but stylish setup, with room for 45 covers, not counting the private room for 16.

Exterior shot taken from Portland website

I got Dad The List along with the promise of Portland's Lardy Cakes for afters, but sadly they didn't make the cut.  Luckily, a 60s soundtrack featuring the likes of Brenda Lee and Dinah Washington, and some superb, neon soft drinks kept him on board.  

Sorrel & Apple Juice and Lemon Iced Tea with Tarragon

Fresh bread arrived from the Little Bread Pedlar with the now customary whipped butter on the side. We followed this with a few snacks and starters:

- Pigs Head Croquettes, Kimchi Mayonnaise - £2 each
- Ox Tongue Sandwich, Sauerkraut, Mustard - £7.50
- Charred Brassicas, Smoked Egg Emulsion, Soy and Perigord Truffle - £8
- Hand-dived Scallops, Jerusalem Artichoke - £12

In the pick of the bunch, the "diamond of the kitchen" played second fiddle to a gloriously smoky pool of egg emulsion, alongside charred brussel tops.  Scallops and Jerusalem Artichoke were concealed in an unattractive sludge - never judge a book by its cover.  An Ox Tongue Sandwich and the Pigs Head Croquettes were perfect for sharing, though you may want one to yourself.

Little Bread Pedlar slices with whipped butter

Pigs Head Croquettes with Kimchi Mayonnaise

Ox Tongue Sandwich with Sauerkraut and Mustard

We usually aim to sample a range of mains, but we couldn't resist the Wild Game Pithivier with Black Truffle and Game Sauce for Two.  Will brought over the finished puff-pastry enclosed pie, filled on this occasion with mallard, before serving it in quarters alongside red cabbage and apple chips.  It appeared small at first, but we were almost defeated by that little beast.  Almost.

Wild Game Pithivier with Black Truffle and Game Sauce

To finish, it was always going to be the Hazelnut Eclair, although I have seen some enticing photos of the Chocolate Bar with Peanut Butter Praline and Peanut Ice Cream.  A fiver was a steal for a New Year resolution-ending delight that would sell for twice as much in La Patisserie des Reves a couple of roads over.

Hazelnut Eclair

Portland was full by the time we left at 2 p.m. - not bad for their first lunch service.  Some staff are finding their feet, but they've got a strong team behind them.  The cooking is classy, and it will only get better.  Two thumbs up for Portland.

Square Meal

Tuesday 13th January - I've harped on about The Good Egg a great deal recently, so it's only fair that I give Bad Egg a shout-out too; not that I need an excuse. Note: I didn't say eggs-cuse. One down.

Neil Rankin got everyone's attention as Head Chef at Pitt Cue Co., before teaming up with Noble Inns to launch the outstanding Smokehouse in Islington; a second branch in Chiswick is imminent. Just before Christmas, he opened up Bad Egg in Moorgate, an area full of uninspiring chains.

Bad Eggs

Let's get one thing straight - this is not an egg trend.  Neither Joel Braham's The Good Egg nor Neil Rankin's Bad Egg are eggy concept eateries - they just have a fondness for the versatile little blighters. 

Bad Egg's menu has its fair share of Shakshuka, Huevos Rancheros and Hash showcasing the Arlington White Eggs (from Cackleberry Farm in the Cotswolds), but there's also all manner of Tacos, Fried Pork Belly Ribs and Burgers to choose from.  Neil himself describes it as a modern all-day diner, taking inspiration from Chicago's eclectic fusion scene.

Let's start with the booze first though.  Camden Pale & Hells are the limited draught options (a couple more would be nice), but there are some top canned beers in the fridges from Beavertown, Fourpure and Kona.  There's also prosecco at £7 a glass, and six white and red wines by the glass and bottle, starting at £3.25 for 125ml.

Considering the diner environment, I wasn't expecting much of a cocktail list, but there are some cracking options on there.  Misplaced American Arrogance is a must with Ilegal Mezcal, Cocchi Americano and Mesquite Peach.  Then there's Argy Bhaji with Kamm & Sons, curried apricot and ginger beer.  And if you need something stronger, go for either a Sweetcorn Old Fashioned or a Smoked Olive Martini.  Prices go from £8.50 all the way up to £12, which some may think too much for the setting, but the Moorgate locals can probably handle it.

Misplaced American Arrogance - Ilegal Mezcal, Cocchi Americano, Mesquite Peach

Fourpure Brewing Co. IPA

Egged on by our fantastic server Chris, we ordered a range of dishes:

Nduja Cheese & Fried Egg Fries - full on food porn here with a bit of Heston-style science thrown in to create that gooey Nduja Cheese.  Order it when you walk through the door.

- Fried Pork Belly Rib - after a risqué discussion about whether to go Peking or Naked, we opted for the former, covering the double fried rib in soy, hoisin & ginger sauce. DOUBLE FRIED RIBS.

- Chicken Fried Fish Tacos - more food science here to make the fish appear KFC style alongside salsa, chipotle and guacamole.  There are three per portion so this is an easy one to share.

- Pulled Pork & Kimchi Hash - with gochujang and a fried egg.  It's fairly spicy, and the flavour is full on, so you may want to mix it up with some other dishes rather than take it on by yourself.  The salads & slaws help to balance it out.

- Nduja, Black Pudding & Pork Belly Hash - one of Neil's favourites for a reason.  This was the winner of the two hashes we tried; very moreish and comforting, with mild spice from the nduja.  The hash portion sizes are generous for the £8 price tag.

- Chilaquiles - Fried corn tacos, green salsa, chipotle, guacamole, peppers, chillies and a fried egg.  It's a traditional Mexican dish, often eaten for breakfast or brunch.  It was served colder than we were expecting, but was enjoyable and a nice veggie option on the table.

- Sides & Slaws - Potato & Dill Salad was better than your average; Cucumber, Avocado & Grapefruit added some colour (and health benefits) ; and Fennel & Apple Slaw was refreshing and worked well with the full flavoured ribs and hash dishes.

Nduja Cheese & Fried Egg Fries

Pulled Pork & Kimchi Hash

Fried Pork Belly Rib - Peking Style

3 salads / slaws for £10

We didn't dip in to the burger section as there's so much of interest elsewhere on the menu, but I would get involved on a second visit.  The home made cheese fondue with Raclette & Red Leicester sounds to die for.

Desserts are yet to make an appearance on the menu, but there are plans afoot to bring in milkshakes and one or two simple options that don't complicate things in the kitchen too much.  If our tasters of a Cornflake Milkshake prototype are anything to go by, they are on the right track.

Verdict: Bad Egg = Good Diner Dinner.  The location will limit my visits, but Bad Egg will be of great interest to the local work force who don't have much else to choose from.  It's a clever spot for a quick bite to eat either side of a trip to the Barbican, and don't forget it is open for breakfast from 8am. A No Reservations policy makes sense here as tables will turn around quickly.  Finally, a big shout out to the outstanding service across the board - there was a real sense of fun and Chris in particular brought the menu to life.  Be sure to get a Bad Egg sticker on your way out.

Square Meal

Bad Egg on Urbanspoon

Wednesday 14th January - Last year, Roxx was King of the popups in Notting Hill - a rowdy, rock'n'roll den which has since moved house.  In its place (from the same folk plus Press Play) is The Little Yellow Door, a quirky popup bar in the guise of a fictional flatshare.  

Before you go all anti-hipster concept on me, bear in mind that most of the owners do in fact live upstairs. Flatmate Kam has even opened up his personal Whatsapp number to take bookings informally, and his phone reveals a number of comedy conversations.  This cheeky process breaks down the social barriers between hosts and guests before they even meet, and really encourages you to become a regular.

The décor is fun, with all sorts of student accommodation odds and ends on the shelves and tables that Lalie has sourced from various markets, including some pictures of complete strangers in place of family photos.  Board games are strewn all over the place, goldfish struggle to survive, DVDs are piled up, The Big Lebowski is playing silently in the background, and magazines (doubling as menus) range from Timeout to Tatler. It's a versatile space which can quickly be reset after dinner parties to open up the room as a bar, and there's even a little outdoor snug that you should grab if it's free.

Full photo set on Matt The List : Facebook

The Wandering Chef is of the real flatmates, but one floor down he masquerades (loosely) as tenants of various nationalities, depending on the menu each week.  We were treated to Luigi's dinner party in the living room which takes place every Friday on their Eat + Meet, Drink + Play evening.  £35 (book ahead) gets you a tonne of delicious food, plus a welcome cocktail on arrival, which on our visit was the very drinkable Libertine Earl Grey gin sour, served with a jammy dodger.

They are planning to launch a different dinner night on Wednesdays, with three shorter sittings (probably two courses for £20) open to whoever is in the flat and feeling peckish.  There is also always the bar menu, with plates fitting into categories like Mr "Overheard in Waitrose", Corner Shop Bandit, and The Fridge Raider.  A handy blackboard count tells you how many portions of each are left.  

We settled down for all of this:


- Burrata with Mint Pesto, Cured Tomatoes, Smoked Aubergine, Confit Onions and Rye Crisps
- Prosciutto, Lardo, Peach, Basil & Almonds
- Smoked Beef Carpaccio with Mustard Dressing, Crispy Capers and Salted Ricotta
- Arancini of Mushroom and Asparagus with Truffle & Porcini Mayonnaise


- Egg Tagliatelle with Spiced Duck Ragu


- Belly Porchetta with Caponata, Pickled Baby Vegetables, Sultanas, Capers, and Pine Nuts


- Sicilian Cannoli with Pistachios
- Pine Nut Caramel Tart with Marsala Raisins
- Chocolate and Tiramisu Panna Cotta


- Coffee & Cigarettes (Grand Brulot, Espresso Coffee, Tobacco Gomme)


Mushroom & Asparagus Arancini with Truffle and Porcini Mayonnaise

Tagliatelle with Spiced Duck Ragu

Belly Porchetta with Caponata, Pickled Baby Veg, Sultanas, Capers, and Pine Nuts

Various Dolcetti

Pint Nut Caramel Tart with Marsala Raisins

Sicilian Cannoli with Pistachios

Chocolate & Tiramisu Panna Cotta

Coffee & Cigarettes

Coffee & Cigarettes

Aside from a couple of misfires in the Dolcetti department, dinner was a huge success.  The Antipasti stole the show, with the Smoked Beef Carpaccio being a particular highlight.  We playfully served our own Duck Ragu into large mugs, but this was a serious dish.  I didn't leave much room for the excellent Belly Porchetta - the old Italian Secondi always catches me out.  A sweet Espresso Martini was a fine way to seal the meal before we made our way back over to the bar for a bit of house punch.

To end the evening in style, a blender of booze known is the Towering Inferno was impressively set on fire. Probably not something to try in your own flat.  It all happened in a flash, so you'll have to use your imagination, or order one yourself!

Flame fun in the bar after dinner

The Little Yellow Door is a charming concept, wonderfully realised, in an area that doesn't have anything else like it.  I highly recommend going along for the full dinner party experience with a few friends.  I'll be heading back when they launch their games night. Is there a better way to spend an evening than with Mario Kart, Hungry Hippos and a few beers?


Matt The Tips - January got off to a slow start, but the popups and events are starting to rear their heads.  I hope to get to When Mac Met Cheese's three month popup that starts today (Friday 16th) at The Shop in Kensal Rise.  Kerb's Clubhouse is getting back underway tonight in Hackney Wick after a Christmas break.  Beer fans should head tomorrow (Saturday 17th) to The Finborough Arms for a first look at The Park Brewery beers, and to Brewdog Shepherd's Bush for a Colorado Tap Takeover. 

The Cornish Grill is currently soft launching at The Three Crowns in Stoke Newington. Street Feast's Hawker House is scheduled to return in a new venue over three floors on 30th January. And that same evening, The Bottle Shop is launching a new popup in Scandal Coffee in Waterloo. That should be enough to keep us busy.

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