Sunday, July 13, 2014

London Eats more: Christopher's Grill

I have a List of things to Do and Places to Visit in London.
It has hot restaurants, cool shopping districts, hip markets, top shows and events.

But it all went out the window when I got this overseas gig and had to spend a panicked week organising airfares and accommodation (for both myself and Tabitha cat - she's in a cat hotel, sob!).

Anyway, by the time I emerged from the fog of bookings, I was due to leave and there was no time to book anything on my list - and all my must-visit restaurants were booked out up to 2 months in advance anyway!

My main worry was Wills' birthday was 2 days after we arrived in London. He always looks forward to his birthday dinner (usually it's at the now-closed Ocean Room). Luckily, I remembered Christopher's, an American restaurant and bar in Covent Garden. They have several rooms to choose from, so a quick and easy online booking was made. Relief! 

Christopher's is opposite the Lyceum, where Lion King is on. 

The Dining Room has a clubby, masculine feel. We were seated in an ante-room to the main dining area. I liked it because I had requested a window seat and I got the banquette as a result.

This is the food we enjoyed...

My starter: Fois Gras with pata negra (Iberian ham), mango, quince jelly and much more. Two large discs of fois gras and some light and crisp shards of cracker. 

His starter: Blackened Shrimp with black bean salsa, tomato confit, zucchini corn cake. 

My main: Prime Rib-Eye Steak (6oz). The steaks at Christopher's are from Black Angus cattle, bred in Kansas. Served with Béarnaise sauce.
My steak was perfectly cooked and the ribbons of fat through it made it extremely tender. 
There was a table of American and English gents next to us (banker types), and when asked how he wanted his steak cooked, one of the Americans said "Since I'm over here, make it Medium". I wonder what he's worried about...

Birthday boy's main: Surf 'n' Turf steak. This is a 6oz Rib-eye steak with half a grilled Maine lobster.
I didn't taste this, but it sure looked swell. The lobster half was large and meaty and if you like poking about with those lobster crackers and picks, then you'll love this dish. 

We also shared a House Salad and Parmesan Truffle Fries. This is the first time I've had truffle fries with real truffle rather than truffle oil. These fries were incredible. They leave the skins on, and they taste incredibly potato-y. 

Dessert time!
This is a shared dessert plate.
Take a look: 
There was: chocolate fudge brownie with vanilla ice cream, New York cheesecake, pecan maple pie with caramel ice cream, key lime tart, and peach Melba. 

Let's take another look: 

And here's the choc fudge brownie because you can't see it in the other pics:

I'll admit that I couldn't finish my half of the dessert, so birthday boy obliged and polished it all off. I did have a small taste of everything on the plate, though, which is why I will ensure next time to leave MORE room for dessert.

For me, there's always room for hot English Breakfast tea. I even asked for the delicate glass pot to be refilled, the tea was so good. 

So that's another birthday done and dusted.
Glad it was in London and super happy that Christopher's made it such a satisfying experience.
By the way, service was friendly and professional. I like how they take your name when you arrive, then after you walk up the staircase to the dining room, the maitre'd knows who you are and takes you to your table. Simple things that make the evening.

Christopher's is at 18 Wellington Street, Covent Garden, London, WC2E 7DD
ph: + 44 (0) 20 7240 4222

Sunday, July 6, 2014

London eats - Shake Shack and Brick Lane

London really is a fantastic city for food.
I've been spending all of my time in the centre of town, and from a daily sandwich lunch at Pret a Manger to higher-end restaurants, I've yet to have a bad meal.

The summer festivals are in full swing at the moment, and although the weather isn't exactly 'summery' (it's often the same temperature as Sydney in winter), a sunny day will bring out the tank tops and shorts and a wander to the nearest markets.

The Brick Lane Market is a collection of different markets, all located in the Brick Lane area of East London. The Boiler House Food Hall is packed with stalls selling tasty dishes from the Caribbean, Asia and Africa.

It's possibly the same food that you could get from your standard food court or mall, but everything is served from these large heated pans that makes the food look so colourful and appetising.

On the Sunday that we visited, the main street was crowded with tourists, and music blared from performers and ghetto blasters on the footpath. Also lots of stalls selling vintage gear and the usual treasures (or junk, depending on how you look at it).


From one tourist area to another.

On the following (rainy) Saturday, we headed to Covent Garden
Because Shake Shack is there.

This is the closest I've gotten to this legendary burger joint and it did not disappoint.
It's pricey but worth it. The burgers were GBP 5 and  7. 
While we were waiting for the food to arrive, there was a massive thunderstorm, but I wasn't going to give up my table for some piddly English summer shower. So we just scooted in a bit and enjoyed our burgers and fries under a leaky market umbrella. Yum!

After, we joined the tourist throng, and intermittent showers, and walked up to Piccadilly Circus via Leicester Square.
I love how English pubs (and even banks!) have those vibrant pots of petunias sprouting from windows and hanging from the awnings.
Even this branch of the Slug and Lettuce chain of bars has classic architecture. 


It's also my mission in London to check out as many phone boxes as possible.
These two are in Carnaby Street.
rating for these is 4 out of 10 (a bit funky smelling)

Sunday, June 29, 2014

London: it's all Buses and Roast rolls

I am living and working in London UK for a couple of weeks.

Most of my week is spent at work, and I am already blending in, jostling with thousands of London pedestrians during the morning and evening commutes. My walk to work takes less than 15 minutes, and I am constantly thrilled at the sight of St Paul's cathedral on the way in and glimpses of the Walkie Talkie, Cheesegrater and Gherkin on the way home.

I'm hoping to find time on weekends to blog a bit, so here's a 'taster' of what I had today: the amazing 'pork belly with crackling and bramley apple sauce' roll from the Roast counter at Borough Market.

See you soon!
Bel xx

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Lights, camera, pizza!

Welcome to another action-packed post!

This is what I've been up to since we last met.

Vivid Sydney is a spectacular festival of lights around Sydney Harbour. We checked it out on opening night to avoid the crowds, but it was still pretty busy, though the mild autumn weather probably contributed.
Music and narration accompany some of the lights, like this installation on the Customs House building. 

We watched the lights being turned on at 6pm, then popped off to grab something to eat - can't ooh and aah on an empty stomach, can we? I wanted to go to my old favourite, Masuya, but they were predictably booked out on a Friday night. A quick look at Urbanspoon for nearby restaurants uncovered Hokkaido, just up from Circular Quay.

The food here is standard Japanese, and very fresh and attractively plated. We started with some Gyoza ($9) and spicy fish rolls ($12). Then I had a sushi bento box ($23) that had tuna on rice with edamame, tempura and a bowl of udon. Very good vinegared rice underneath the fish.
We also had a sushi plate ($23) because we can't get enough of sushi, and it came with a good selection of rolls and fish on rice (which is what sushi is).

Okay, now well-fortified and quite full, we ventured back to the Quay to look at the lights on the MCA and Opera House. Honestly, you could spend all night watching the lights change on the Opera House. Or you could take billions of photos, which is what I did, so be thankful that only 2 pictures are shown here.
PS: For a great view and to hear some anecdotes on Sydney history, park yourself at the Overseas Passenger Terminal (outside Peter Doyle restaurant). The projector onto the Opera House is just on top of the terminal. Vivid Sydney is on until 9th June.


If you live in Sydney or the east coast of Australia, you're probably talking about the weather. How warm and lovely has it been? It hasn't stopped me from making a cool weather dish, however, like this pumpkin soup.

I made a batch and froze some for future use. However, I overfilled the soup in the plastic containers and the soup expanded so the lids almost popped off. There were no complaints, though, when we had to have the soup for a midweek dinner - it's a most fantastic soup.

Creamy Pumpkin Soup
serves 6-8

1. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add 1 roughly chopped onion and cook 2-3 minutes until soft.
2. Add 2 chopped garlic cloves, 600g peeled and chopped butternut pumpkin, 1 chopped potato, 2 chopped carrots and 1 chopped leek and toss to coat with the oil.
3. Add 3 cups (750ml) chicken stock and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to low , cover and simmer for 25 minutes until vegetables are tender.
4. Take off the heat and blend in batches, or use a stick blender, until smooth. If you want to freeze the soup, transfer to a container to cool before putting into the freezer.
5. Return soup to the stove to reheat and stir in 1 tablespoon of cream, if desired. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
6. Serve the soup sprinkled with pepitas (pumpkin seeds) and dried cranberries.

recipe adapted from delicious (April 2013)

There's been a flurry of internet action on gluten-free pizzas, and here I am getting in on the act.
However, this recipe is from my hardcopy of delicious mag (just a reminder to myself next time not to look for it in my magazine app!)

Cauliflower-crust pizza
makes 2 small pizza bases

1. Preheat baking tray in a 200C/400F oven.
2. In a food processor, whiz half a small cauliflower until it resembles rice grains, but not mushy.
3. Take 2 cups of the cauliflower and combine with 1 cup almond meal, 1/3 cup parmesan cheese, and 1 lightly beaten egg. Season well with salt and pepper.
4. Place a sheet of baking paper on your bench, then use half the cauliflower mixture to form a round pizza base, about 5mm (1/4") thick and 16cm (6 1/2") diameter.
5. Transfer the baking paper onto the hot baking tray and bake for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown and firm.
6. Top the bases with whatever you like - shaved zucchini, prosciutto and ricotta used here - then return to the oven and heat for 5 minutes. Serve. 

recipe adapted from delicious (April 2014)

These 'pizzas' are small but quite rich, so small is probably better in this case.
You can use any leftover crumbled cauliflower in 'fried rice', which is another popular new use for cauliflower. Just use it quickly after sealing it well in the fridge - it does pong a bit!

till next time,

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

A week in the life - food and flowers

It’s been a week of quick and simple meals here at Casa Ooh, Look.
Some were better than others, and in between, there were a couple of repeats (this risotto is my go-to, so have to have this at least once a week).

Here’s what we had:

Monday was leftovers, so nothing to see here.
Tuesday was a surprisingly delicious Honey Mustard Chicken.

I normally do honey soy chicken with drumsticks, but I found this recipe and thought I’d shake things up a bit. Here is my version:

Honey Mustard Chicken (serves 2)
1.    Generously season 4 chicken thigh cutlets (bone in, skin on if you can find it) with salt and pepper. Place into an ovenproof/flameproof frypan or baking dish. Cook on the stove over medium-high heat until golden brown all over (about 5 minutes). Preheat the oven to 170C/340F.
2.    Combine in a bowl: 1 teaspoon seeded mustard, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, 1 teaspoon crushed garlic, 4 tablespoons honey.
3.    Spread the honey mustard mixture over the chicken in the pan. Cook in the oven for 20 minutes. Serve with green vegetables.

Wednesday was an old favourite that I’m surprised I haven’t blogged about before.
This recipe is a good way to use up that old white sliced bread. Just crumb the just-about-to-expire bread in a food processor (crusts and all) then seal in a zip-lock bag and store in the freezer. Whip out a cup of breadcrumbs to make this pasta and your life will be better.

Breadcrumb Anchovy Pasta (serves 2)
1.   Cook your preferred pasta in boiling salted water. Three minutes before it’s cooked, add the florets from half a small cauliflower (or broccoli). Drain the cooked pasta and cauliflower and keep warm.
2.   Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. When hot, throw in 5 or 6 chopped anchovy fillets. Stir them around until they are almost melted into a paste. Sprinkle over 1 cup of breadcrumbs and spread out evenly in the pan. Leave to toast for 2 minutes or so, until the crumbs are golden and kind of dried.
3.   Sprinkle the anchovy breadcrumbs over the pasta and serve.

Thursday was probably risotto. Told you it was a favourite.

Friday nights mean a bit more time to spend on dinner before settling down for some tv time (Escape to the Country is my Friday night must-view, how old does that make me seem?).

I normally do this lemongrass pork with beef, and ‘un-pattied’, but this time I used pork and pattied them up before frying.

Lemongrass Pork Patties (serves 3-4)
1.   In a large bowl, combine 500g (1lb) pork mince, 2 tablespoons chopped lemongrass stalks, ½ cup breadcrumbs, 1 egg, 2 tablespoons chopped chives, ½ chopped onion, 1 teaspoon crushed garlic, 2 teaspoons fish sauce, 1 teaspoon caster sugar, and a pinch of chilli flakes. Mix well and form into about 16 little patties.
2.   Heat 1 teaspoon of oil in a non-stick frying pan. Cook the patties for about 3 minutes on each side, until browned and cooked through.
3.   Serve with sweet chilli sauce, mung bean vermicelli and sliced cucumber.

Sunday was Mother’s Day. I spent Saturday at the supermarket, trawling through the buckets for some tulips and this massive chrysanthemum. Mum really loved the 'mum, thank goodness!
I also made some muffins to take over, and they went down a treat.

Cheesey Vegetable Muffins (makes 12)
1.Sift together 1½ cups plain flour and 3 teaspoons of baking powder.
2. Grate one carrot and one zucchini into the flour. Add ½ cup of tasty cheese. Season with salt and pepper; maybe add a pinch of paprika if you like it spicy. Combine well.
3. Stir into the dry ingredients: 2 lightly beaten eggs, 1/3 cup olive oil, ½ cup milk. Mix gently until just combined.
4. Pour mixture into 12 paper-lined muffin pans. Sprinkle some more cheese on top. Bake in a preheated 180C/360F for 25 minutes or until golden. Remove from pan to cool.

Also, I missed most of Eurovision. Dooze pw’un goes to Austria!

That, in a nutshell, was last week.
The food was pretty basic (but tasted good) and I’d love to spend more time cooking, but getting home at 7pm after a gruelling work day doesn’t leave me much interested in menu planning, unfortunately.
Must try harder!

Here is a final word from Tabitha cat:

Till next time,