Tossed Salads and Scrambled Eggs

Posts Tagged ‘bread

I’m comfortable with dining alone. If I’m out and about on errands during the day I will have lunch by myself. There are many restaurants with counter seating which is perfect for one. I will perch on a stool and scroll the news headlines on my mobile as I eat. These contemplative meals tend to be at casual eateries so I was apprehensive about my booking at The Ledbury in London.

Chef Brett Graham is Australian and The Ledbury piqued my interest during the London riots. The restaurant was attacked by a mob and the staff armed themselves with kitchen accoutrements to defend patrons. There is an Aussie larrikin spirit to that!

I browsed the shelves of Books for Cooks, had coffee and brownie at Ottolenghi, and whiled away the morning wandering the streets of Notting Hill.

With two Michelin stars, The Ledbury has a prix fixe lunch menu at the bargain price of £35 for three courses. The stately dining room was decorated in warm tones with chandeliers, mirrored walls draped with curtains, tablecloths and upholstered chairs.

It was a full lunch service. There was a group in a business meeting, a family celebrating a birthday, and tourists in shorts and visors.

An amuse bouche of foie gras mousse on hemp biscuit was the centrepiece on a rustic ceramic plate.

Speyside and Glenlivet are words I associate with Scotch but the area is also a pristine source of natural spring water.

A wicker basket cocooned warm onion and bacon, sourdough, and malt bread rolls. The onion and bacon scroll was dense and savoury.

The first course was a salad of spring vegetables with crisp pheasant egg and Parmesan. There was a collective gasp from the adjacent table when this was presented. It was an artistic arrangement of tender batons. Vibrant radishes, carrots, asparagus, beans, peas and micro greens complemented the richness of the Parmesan encased pheasant egg.

My entrée silverware with replaced with a spoon. I was pondering how to cut hogget with the blunt, round edge when a shallow bowl was served. The waiter announced it was a pre-course of Cornish brill with radishes, barley, shellfish consommé and cream of white beer. Delicate and flaky, the white filet paired well with the briny broth. This was an ode to the ocean.

A serrated knife was swiftly set. The waiter wryly described hogget as middle aged sheep. The plate was a kaleidoscope of shapes and colours. A wedge of aubergine glazed in black sugar and garlic, dots of green tomato juice and flecks of dried olive were in a jus with three cuts of unctuous heritage prime biodynamic hogget.

A shot glass was layered with passionfruit jelly and vanilla cream, a sweet and tart palate cleanser.

Dessert was a vivid parfait of dried flowers topped with gariguette and wild strawberries, and white chocolate. A puddle of warm tapioca was textural and temperature contrast to the icy smooth parfait.

Petit fours from left to right: eucalyptus chocolate, earl grey biscuit and mandarin jelly.

Lunch was nearly three hours and I read that day’s Guardian newspaper in between courses!

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I like cooked vegetables. I grew up eating leafy greens sautéed in garlic and ginger, steamed cauliflower and broccoli, blanched lettuce steeped in oyster sauce, and stir-fried carrots and peas. Salads were not in my diet as a child.

As an adult I have learnt to appreciate the healthfulness of salads. Roasted beets, chèvre and pistachio. Arugula, pear, pine nuts and balsamic vinegar. Spicy Thai salad with nam jim dressing. These are on regular rotation at home.

I have a copy of Yotam Ottolenghi‘s sumptuous Plenty and having dined at Nopi earlier in the week so I was keen to visit the original Ottolenghi in Notting Hill. Located on Ledbury Road, a manicured hedge and distinctive red font marked the entrance.

Tiers of buttermilk scones, viennoiseries, cakes, cookies, tarts, cheesecakes and brownies were displayed at the front window enticing passers-by. Tuck your elbows in and shuffle sideways as the front room is narrow!

Platters of vibrant salads lined the counter. A daily menu is published in the morning and on this May day there were:
* Roasted aubergine, sorrel and wild garlic yoghurt, roasted cherry tomatoes, parsley and pine nuts
* Mixed green beans, shaved asparagus and peas with spinach, chilli, garlic, tarragon, lemon zest and chervil
* Chargrilled broccoli with chilli and garlic
* Roasted squash with green olive yoghurt, roasted red onion, mint, capers and sumac
* Cucumber, celery and radish with nigella seeds, coriander and mint
* Butterbean hummus with roasted red pepper, hazelnut, lemon and parsley salsa
* Red rice and quinoa with cranberries, lemon, fried onion, mixed nuts, herbs, radicchio and arugula
* Heritage carrots with cumin seeds, garlic, lemon, coriander, pea shoots, arugula and pomegranate
* Beetroot and poached rhubarb salad with gorgonzola, red onion, and mixed herbs and leaves

There were also a selection of mains:
* Seared beef fillet with watercress, whole grain mustard, horseradish and sour cream
* Beef lasagne
* Seared sesame crusted tuna with coriander, ginger, chilli and sweet chilli, soy, pineapple and spring onion sauce
* Roasted chicken marinated in yoghurt and honey with mixed spices, chilli and coriander
* Grilled salmon with artichoke, pink peppercorn, preserved lemon and parsley salsa
* Smoked bacon quiche with sautéed leeks, parmesan and thyme
* Roasted tomato quiche with caramelised onion, goat cheese and thyme

Bold, herbaceous flavours with Mediterranean and Middle Eastern influences, my eyes feasted on the mounds of fresh salads.

Packages of bread sticks and Madeleines, and tubs of roasted spicy nuts cluttered the register as impulse purchases.

Shelves along the short set of stairs were laden with trays of produce, bottles of olive oil, jars of house made sauces and loaves of bread.

Downstairs was an all-white dining room with a communal table and Panton chairs, and an espresso nook. A grand mirror the size of the back wall created an optical illusion that widened and brightened the basement.

Pots of jams and cubes of butter were on a rustic wooden board.

I sipped a coffee.

And nibbled on a decadent chocolate and hazelnut brownie.

I did not order any salads because I had a special lunch booked at The Ledbury but my morning tea at Ottolenghi was splendid!

din·ner
(noun)
The main meal of the day, taken either around MIDDAY or in the EVENING.
A formal evening meal, typically one in honour of a person or event.
From Old French disner

I’m a frequent snacker. I enjoy long, leisurely meals but at home I munch on McVitie’s, fruits, nuts and muesli bars throughout the day. It’s both sustenance and habit.

With a 9:45pm reservation for our anniversary dinner, I had to prepare for a late night meal. I had a substantial lunch, potato crisps from the minibar and a Kind bar in the afternoon, and napped prior to going to the Mandarin Oriental for Dinner by Heston Blumenthal. We waited for our table at the bar with a glass of wine and nibbled on a bowl of rice crackers in a lively atmosphere.

Dinner is the younger sibling of Heston Blumenthal‘s famous The Fat Duck. It has one Michelin star and debuted at number nine, the highest new entry, on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. Named for ‘British quirky history and linguistic playfulness’, Dinner’s menu is a homage to traditional recipes cooked with modern techniques and local ingredients.

An elegant dining room with a panoramic view of Hyde Park, chocolate furniture and ivory walls complemented the high ceiling.

Clusters of jelly moulds made whimsical lights on pillars.

Nearing 10pm and feeling hungry, I was delighted to nibble on complimentary bread. I love the succinct menu in the format of dish, year originated, components and price.

Circa 1730, the hay smoked mackerel was garnished with lemon salad and gentleman’s relish, and drizzled with olive oil. The greens tempered the pungent, oily fish.

A couple of seasons ago MasterChef Australia contestants had to replicate several of Heston Blumenthal’s signature dishes and I was fascinated by meat fruit, circa 1500. A sphere of chicken liver parfait is dipped in glossy mandarin jelly. I discarded the authentic stem, and cut into the skin and flesh of the meat fruit. Spread thickly on grilled bread, the silky smooth parfait was tinged with citrus notes. It was soft and rich, best shared with the complimentary bread.

The Hereford ribeye, circa 1830, was the star of the plate. A tender cut, the beef was seasoned and perfectly medium rare.

The steak was paired with triple cooked chips and mushroom ketchup. Crunchy and luscious, the chips were starchy batons of joy.

Our waiter explained that umbles are offal and the phrase ‘eating humble pie’ is derived from the medieval specialty of umble pie. Morsels of umbles dotted the powdered duck breast, circa 1670. Portions of succulent duck and supple confit fennel were in a pool of savoury jus.

Fresh and bright, a side of green beans and shallots was the requisite vegetable.

On a wooden board was a Staub cocotte of brioche and a strip of spit roast pineapple. Circa 1810, the tipsy cake was ethereal and aromatic. Sweetly caramelised, the tropical fruit was a textural contrast to the custard soaked brioche.

We had watched the nitro ice cream trolley being wheeled from couples to groups all evening and I gleefully replied ‘yes please’ when asked. Liquid nitrogen is poured with a flourish and the handle cranked to churn the vanilla ice cream. Scooped into a dainty thin sugar cone, the ice cream was dipped in a selection of toppings. The freeze dried raspberries had a concentrated flavour and the popping candy was fun!

Our celebration concluded with chocolate ganache and caraway biscuit, courtesy of the chef with exquisite penmanship.

It was midnight, and patrons lingered at the restaurant and bar as we exited into the cold London spring, contented by the Heston Blumenthal experience.

I have a vivid mental image of poutine. Mr S had queued patiently for forty minutes at Skillet Street Food and sent me a photo of his lunch. The poutine was a gloopy mess. Brown food is ugly and being doused in gravy makes it difficult. Appearance can be deceptive and the Quebec specialty is a classic example.

The pioneering food truck has since expanded to a bricks and mortar eatery opposite the recently relocated Restaurant Zoë in Capitol Hill. On a leafy corner, the eponymous skillets are on the Skillet Diner sign.

Mint seating and lemon walls, the interior is reminiscent of a classic American diner.

Stainless steel tables and an exposed loft ceiling render an industrial feel.

The all day menu is categorised into breakfast, greens, burgers, sandwiches and sides.

A creamy blend in a mason jar, the seasonal shake was flecked with desiccated coconut. The beverage evoked tropical memories!

Shirley and I split two sandwiches. The daily special was a meatloaf sandwich with chipotle caramelised onion and cheese. A stout bun supported a thick slab of well seasoned meatloaf, a respectable homage to American cuisine. A generous mound of French fries were crunchy batons of starch.

The second was the fried chicken sandwich. Two squares of pillowy potato bread contrasted with the crispy fennel seed crusted chicken. Tender and herbaceous, the poultry was paired harmoniously with tangy jalapeño aioli and healthful kale. A salad of mixed greens was tossed with a vibrant vinaigrette.

Skillet Counter is under construction in the Seattle Center Armory, adding culinary gravitas to the ‘food court’.

So I finally dined at Sitka & Spruce. Sunday closure, long waits and a forgotten scheduled delivery had foiled previous attempts and this was remedied by an early weekday lunch. Located in Capitol Hill’s beloved Melrose Market, Sitka & Spruce is charmingly rustic. A narrow corridor adjacent to Rain Shadow Meats is a compact pantry stocked with breads, spices, olive oils and salted caramels.

Red perpendicular sliding doors mark the entrance to the restaurant.

Eight by six glass panes saturate the dining room with natural light. There is counter seating by the window, half a dozen tables and the centrepiece is a wooden communal table adjoining the open kitchen.

The galley is along the back wall where bread was sliced and beverages were poured.

We perched on stools next to the terracotta mise en place where chefs plated dishes.

The local and seasonal ‘elevenses and lunch’ menu is sized to share.

Sparkling water is served in a mason jar with a wedge of lime.

A pot of butter sprinkled with Maldon salt flakes and Columbia City Bakery baguette.

We selected four items for our threesome. First was asparagus, Iowa smoked ham, hazelnuts and poached egg. A golden stream of yolk cascaded from the white cocoon. Flecked with dill, the buttery salumi, tender spears and crunchy nuts were a symphony of flavours.

Three portions of Pacific coast farmstead cheeses were drizzled with honey, its delicate sweetness accentuated the cow, sheep and goat notes.

Scattered with walnuts, a mound of peppercress shrouded a generous mass of chicken liver pâté and mustard. Silky on the palate, the intense richness of the pâté was moderated by the spicy mustard and greens.

Last was pan fried soft shell crab with aioli, radish and greens. The diminutive crustacean was cooked whole and the meaty morsels were unctuous and briny.

A glass cloche displayed a cake that we admired throughout our meal. We shared a wedge of gâteau Basque, crème pâtissière encased in an almond crust and topped with caramel and cacao nib crumble. It was an ethereal dessert, a fine balance of textures.

Fifteen months in Seattle and I can now recommend Sitka & Spruce!

The renovated Westfield is at the heart of the Sydney shopping district. Mirrors and polished metal feature throughout and the intersecting levels are just as confusing as the old one. Sydneysiders are shopping at the flagship stores and eating at the restaurants. From burgers to fish and chips, I love its interpretation of a food court.

On a gloomy morning I rolled up my jeans and splashed in puddles in flip-flops en route to Bécasse Bakery. Justin and Georgia North have relocated their two hatted restaurant to Westfield Sydney and expanded with a bakery and Quarter Twenty One, a restaurant, store, cookery school and catering business.

Conveniently positioned near the express escalator, Bécasse and Quarter Twenty One is on the left as you alight and the bakery is on the right. There is a long narrow window with a view of the bakers kneading, shaping, glazing and piping. An L shaped glass counter was lined with delectable sweet and savoury items.

A hessian sack and coffee beans on display.

From left to right: petit gateau opera, petit carrot cake, petit pistachio friand and pear tart.

From left to right: lemon tart, and banana and salted peanut brittle tartlet.

From left to right: gateau Saint Honoré, vanilla bean and passionfruit cheesecake, and mille feuille.

From left to right: pineapple and coconut muffin, gluten free brownie, and brioche flower.

From left to right: almond croissant, mixed berry danish and danish sultana snail.

Bread loaves and rolls.

Chocolate and hazelnut are a perfect pairing and a favourite of mine. The snail was dense and spread with a thick chocolate hazelnut paste.

The cinnamon sugar twist was fragrant and flaky. It was a delight to uncurl the pastry with sticky fingers.

I meandered across to Quarter Twenty One afterwards. The name is a reference to the purported weight of the human soul and Quarter Twenty One ‘put our soul into the food we prepare’.

A glass wall and a row of bright lights flaunted the wine racks.

The store stocked a selection of local and imported artisan produce, house cured charcuterie and take-home meals.

We shall have a meal at Bécasse or Quarter Twenty One on our next trip home!

We had a full schedule for our recent trip home to Australia. We gallivanted from Sydney to Darwin and Brisbane over two and a half weeks. Our gatherings with family and friends oscillated between sentimental favourites to new recommendations. On our first day in Brisbane, we sought reprieve from the humid heat at The Gunshop Café.

Located in West End, an eclectic neighbourhood on the edge of the city, The Gunshop Café is renowned for breakfast and it was busy on a Friday morning. A handful of tables were positioned on the footpath and in the bay window nooks.

There were two rooms in the heritage building. The entrance was framed by a chalkboard specials menu and a vase of long stemmed flowers on the counter.

The main dining room was sparsely furnished and quirky busts were displayed in the gaps of the exposed brick walls. The latticed shades twirled in the gentle breeze and soft light shimmered throughout the room.

A cute posy decorated the table.

The serviettes were customised with the restaurant name.

Merlo Coffee is a local roaster and supplies many eateries in Brisbane.

Mr S ordered the classic of double smoked bacon, poached eggs, herbed Hollandaise sauce, sourdough toast and tomatoes. The glossy pastel coloured sauced was ladled over two perfect orbs balanced on two thick slices of browned bread. Crispy and salty, the rashers of bacon were delectable.

I selected the omelette of bresaola, caramelised onions and Fontina. The tanned parcel was drizzled with olive oil and plump with a generous amount of cured beef, a delicious contrast to the sweet caramelised onions.

I had spotted the coconut juice in shell on the chalkboard by the door. The refreshing beverage was served with a cocktail umbrella!

Both locals and visitors love The Gunshop Café!


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