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Monday 12 January 2015

Rabbit - Delancey & Co - Babaji Pide - Den Udon - Paul

Today on the blog - a rapid round-up of recent eats.

Click to scroll down: Rabbit // Delancey & Co // Babaji Pide // Den Udon // Paul
Tuesday 16th December - First up, a leisurely lunch on King's Road at Rabbit, the Gladwin Bros' stellar sequel to The Shed in Notting Hill.

Once again, most of what arrives on the table comes from Nutbourne, the Gladwin family farm and vineyard.  An excellent cocktail list shows off the best of British spirits, including Chase, Sipsmith, Sacred & Compass Box booze.  The Negroni twist with Kamm & Sons British Aperitif in place of Campari is a great success, as is the no nonsense Peat Monster Old Fashioned.

Peat Monster Old Fashioned

The menu ("British Tapas" designed to be shared) is split up into mouthfuls, slow cooking, fast cooking, and puds.  Two plates, a few "mouthfuls" and dessert each is more than enough for the table, but you won't be able to resist any less.  Here's what we went for:

All of the outstanding mouthfuls (£1.50 each) plus noteworthy bread...

- Brown Crab Bomb, Lemon, Dulse
- Woodcock Pate, Smoked Potato, Medlar
- Beetroot Crisp, Goats Cheese, Pear Jam
- Mushroom Marmite Eclair
- Rabbit Wild Yeast Bread, Shallot Butter

A spot of slow cooking...

- Lamb Chips, Harissa, Parsley, Lemon
- Turnips, Carrots, Red Cabbage, Chestnuts, Tahini, Cranberries, Walnuts
- Veal Blade Hot Pot, Cep, Tunworth Cheese

Fast cooking...

- Dorset Crab, Chilli, Garlic, Tagliatelle
- Calves Liver, Nutbourne Spare Rib, Potato Skin, Green Peppercorns
- Grilled Venison, Onion Squash, Honey, Pumpkin Seeds, Reindeer Moss (?)

And a couple of puds...

- Jerusalem Artichoke Ice Cream, Chocolate Crumb, Wood Sorrel
- Maple Syrup Pudding, Preserved Plum, Rum, Buttermilk

Every section had standout dishes, but the cooking was superb throughout.  The Nutbourne vegetables threaten to steal the show on many occasions.  One of my companions was so impressed by the turnips that he attempted to purchase some from the kitchen to take home!

"Mouthfuls" at Rabbit

Rabbit Wild Yeast Bread, Shallot Butter

Dorset Crab, Chilli, Garlic, Tagliatelle

Veal Blade Hot Pot, Cep, Tunworth Cheese

Turnips, Carrots, Red Cabbage, Chestnuts, Tahini, Cranberries, Walnuts

Grilled Venison, Onion Squash, Honey, Pumpkin Seeds, Reindeer Moss

Jerusalem Artichoke Ice Cream, Chocolate Crumb, Wood Sorrel

Maple Syrup Pudding, Preserved Plum, Rum, Buttermilk

Sharing all of that cost less than many a pre-determined tasting menu, offering better value and more choice.  Win win.  

Go hungry to Rabbit and don't expect to get much done afterwards.  You might just about manage to order their cookbook on Amazon if nothing else.

Rabbit on Urbanspoon

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Monday 15th December - For a city that loves staying one step behind the Big Apple, it's surprising that we aren't awash with New York / Jewish style delis already.

Monty's Deli (Katz Deli size portions) and Hansen & Lydersen (Norwegian smokehouse rather than Russ & Daughters equivalent) have been dishing out salt beef sandwiches and smoked salmon to hungry Londoners over the last couple of years, but all too infrequently.  There's obviously the likes of Beigel Bake & co in Brick Lane, plus many Jewish comfort food spots dotted around, but there's definitely a gap there, especially for homesick New Yorkers living in the centre of town.

Enter Delancey & Co., a New York deli on Goodge Street aiming to fill the void.

Daniel Moosah is the man with the plan, and he was on hand to carve up the salt beef for our Delancey's Reuben, served with sauerkraut, swiss cheese & special house sauce on toasted marbled rye (made especially for Delancey & Co.).  The stunning bread is also put to good use in Delancey's Bird - oak smoked turkey, avocado, cheese, mustard, tomato & mayo.  A little more seasoning would have gone a long way for me, but that's an easy fix.  

We also tackled the Tokyo x Delancey - Smoked Salmon, Cream Cheese, Wasabi Infused Tobiko (Flying Fish Roe), Black Sesame Seeds and Seaweed Salad, all crammed in to a Black Rye Bagel. There are many simpler options but who can resist a special?  If you aren't in a sandwich mood, go for Bubba's Chicken Soup - Traditional chicken noodle soup, home-made to a secret family recipe served with shredded chicken, carrots, lokshen noodles, and optional Matzo balls.  The homemade cheesecakes are well worth a look too if you have any space left.

There are cans of Brooklyn EIPA and Prosecco on tap to wash it all down if something soft won't suffice.  

Daniel Moosah - the brains behind Delancey & Co.

Delancey's Bird - Oak smoked turkey, avocado, cheese, mustard, tomato & mayo on marbled rye

Delancey's Reuben toasted on marbled rye

Tokyo x Delancey - Black Rye Bagel with Smoked Salmon & Wasabi Infused Tobiko (Flying Fish Roe)

Monty's Deli still holds the London Reuben crown for me, but Delancey & Co. should do well in Fitzrovia, especially with the busy lunchtime footfall in the area.

Delancey & Co on Urbanspoon


Wednesday 17th December - The wait for Alan Yau's Duck & Rice Chinese gastropub goes on, but he did sneakily (and bizarrely) open his Turkish pizza and small plates joint Babaji Pide right before Christmas.

Before I continue, I must confess that I warmed up for dinner with a Salted Caramel & Banana Cream doughnut from Crosstown Doughnuts' new pop-up inside Piccadilly Circus.  It's a quite magnificent creation, now sold in a dangerously accessible location.

Back to Babaji (not to be confused with Baba G), the first night of soft opening filled up with food industry types, many of whom were drawn to the imposing (and possibly surplus to requirements) Black Eagle coffee machine, "the hottest espresso machine of 2014" apparently.  I settled down with a bottle of Efes (surely there's another Turkish beer worth drinking out there?) and a splash of Raki (aniseed flavoured aperitif distilled from grapes, often referred to as "Lion's Milk").

Black Eagle coffee machine

Meze, Pide and Stove & Grill sections make up the bulk of the menu.  From the former, we enjoyed Spinach Stems (with olive oil, garlic & lemon), Karides Güveç (shrimps, tomato, red pepper & kasar cheese cooked in a traditional claypot). Homemade Humus, and Fried Calamari (with lemon and Turkish red chilli flake).  

Spinach Stem

The eponymous pide were sadly in short supply, so we were left with Karides Pide (similar to the Güveç above) and the superior Kiymali Pide (with minced lamb, tomato & pepper).  £9 is possibly a little steep for the portion size when the ever-generous Pizza Pilgrims lie in wait a few streets away, but I'd go back for more.  Stay on the ground floor if you want a great view of the action.

Kiymali Pide - Minced Lamb, Tomato & Pepper

From the Stove & Grill section, Sumak & Chilli Chicken Wings and Manti (beef ravioli with yoghurt, chilli flakes & butter) made it to our table and were quickly dispatched.

Sumak & Chilli Chicken Wings

Manti - Beef Ravioli with Yoghurt, Chilli & Butter

Desserts were hit and miss.  Rice Pudding with Cherry was a success, but a Kagit Helva vanilla ice cream sandwich was all wafer and no filling, akin to the dregs of a 99.  I looked forlornly at a Rosehip & Hibiscus Poached Pear across the room.  I knew there was a reason I had that doughnut before dinner.

Turkish Tea
The verdict: Babaji Pide was perfectly enjoyable, but not a patch on similar offerings at Arabica Bar & Kitchen in London Bridge.  It was of course early days and it is bound to improve.  Either way, they have a prime Shaftesbury Avenue location that should see them succeed.

Babaji on Urbanspoon

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Thursday 18th December - Den Udon landed in the back streets south of King's Cross last month, down the road from the wonderful Queens' Head.  This was really a flying visit, so I'd like to point you in the direction of Rocket & Squash's first rate blog.

Den have gone a bit Wagamama with the décor - long tables and not a lot else, but it's a pit stop kind of place so that doesn't matter too much.  

Decide between white & black Dashi broth (the latter being soy heavy) if you are going for noodle soup. Pork Belly & Cabbage was a perfectly pleasing but uninspiring example of the genre.  It won't mark the end of the ramen rampage just yet with the likes of Kanada-Ya & Bone Daddies keeping the bar raised high, though I do actually prefer the fatter (yet supposedly healthier?) udon noodles. You'll have to let me know whether passing up "Carbonara" noodles was a mistake.

The Tsumami (small plates) were not available unfortunately, so the jury is out on the likes of Sake-Steamed Clams, Sizzling Beef Steak and Miso-Marinated Grilled Salmon. 

The drinks list is pretty strong, with six bottles from Crate & Asahi backed up by plenty of wine, sake, shochu, whiskey, and several simple cocktails in the reasonable £5-6 region.

Pork Belly & Cabbage Udon with Black Dashi Broth

Den is a fine place for a speedy spot of refuelling, but I wouldn't go out of my way for it.  Locals (including plenty of hungry students) will look after it.

Den on Urbanspoon


Friday 19th December - Paul's Covent Garden bakery & patisserie shop recently opened up Le Restaurant de Paul in the back serving up affordable French favourites.  A 3 course Pre-Theatre menu for £11.75 is particularly competitive!

Be sure to start with basket of assorted fresh bread for £1.75 - they know how to bake. It goes pretty well with the Curious Brew lager on draught.  From there, depending on how hungry you are, you may want to get the generous Onion Soup, oven baked Camembert and the Charcuterie Plate instead of dipping in to the less exciting mains.  Saucisse de Toulouse was fine but nothing more, and the Andouillette (intestines) was fairly terrifying, though Luke takes responsibility for not making better use of Google before ordering.  Confit de Canard and Coq au Vin would be safer options.

Classic French Onion Soup

They obviously aren't short of sweet options, offering Eclairs, Macarons, Tartes aux Fruits and more from the patisserie.  I went instead for the Pomme au Four - Baked Golden Delicious, sultanas, cassonade sugar, cinnamon and honey; an odd yet intriguing mix of hot and cold, attractively presented in a pan.

Pomme au Four

There's better French food elsewhere (e.g. Blanchette, Casse Croute, Brasserie Gustave, Chez Elles) but Le Restaurant de Paul does offer good value in the centre of town, which doesn't get said too often.

PAUL Covent Garden on Urbanspoon

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