Philly Cheesesteak at Liberty Cheesesteak, Victoria

5 Jun

Cheesesteak

LOCATION: Liberty Cheesesteak stall, Cardinal Place Shopping Centre, Victoria, SW1E 5JD [map].

PRICE: £8.00 for a whole one. You can also buy a half for er, £4 I guess?

BREAD: Italian-style sub roll.

FILLING: Rib-eye steak, Cheez Whiz, fried onions.

PROS: Soooo, the deal with Liberty Cheesesteak is that they are all about the authenticity. While I was waiting for my mate I overheard one of the cooks saying to an American customer, “when we sawwww how people were doing cheesesteaks over herrrre we were all like, whaaaaaa???!!” and so Liberty Cheesesteak was born. The sandwich apparently should not contain any extras, such as the commonly added fried green peppers, only the fried steak, the onions, the cheese, that’s it.

Now I am not a fan of the food police, you must know that, but I have to say, this was a fine cheesesteak. I like green peppers in a cheesesteak, I do, but it turns out that I also like the sandwich very much without ‘em. The beef was rib eye, cut into really thin slices (I presume by freezing it first), then slapped on the hot plate and chopped up and mixed with the onions using those scrapey flippy spatula jobbies. There were three options for cheese: Whiz, American, and Provolone. I went for Whiz, firstly because it was billed as ‘authentic’ HINT HINT and also because I’ve always wanted to try it. It’s like artificial processed cheese that comes in jars. The Americans love that shit. It was great in the cheesesteak I have to say, like a cheesier Dairylea or a melted slappy cheese slice, and it made for the most wonderful goo inside the sandwich when mixed with the hot meat. That sounds horrible but was great, really. Honest. You no like idea of goo? No goo for you? Boo hoo. Okay I’ll stop.

Oh and the bread! Those very light and easily inhalable Italian style subs that the Americans do so well.  They didn’t get the bread FROM America, obviously, but they have, apparently, ‘worked with a baker in Putney’. So there ya go.

CONS: Ummm well we agreed the meat could use some pepper, but other than that it’s hard to think of any. Still meat in a bun wit cheez though innit, so just shy of full marks.

SCORE: 8/10

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Afternoon Tea Sandwiches at Claridge’s, Mayfair

8 May

Afternoon Tea Sandwiches Claridge's

LOCATION: Claridge’s, Brook St, Mayfair, W1K 4HR [map]

PRICE: £61 for whole afternoon tea with glass of Laurent-Perrier Brut (£51 without bubbles but seriously, why wouldn’t you?)

BREAD & FILLINGS: Chicken, lemon and tarragon on granary; ham, celeriac remoulade and tomato chutney on onion bread; smoked salmon on brown; egg mayo on white; cucumber on white.

PROS: Claridge’s is like some kind of ultimate pleasure palais; once you’re in, it feels like time could cease to mean anything at all and you’ll emerge three weeks later having spent a million pounds and destroyed all your organs. I like that. The light also has a disorientating green hue to it, as if you’re looking through absinthe goggles.

This afternoon tea has to be the most perfectly executed in London, surely. The room is as grand as they come and looks like it was jointly designed by the Queen and the Mad Hatter. The sandwiches arrive on that distinctive stripy china, and they keep on arriving until you stop asking for more. In my case, that was after the third round. I know. You knew I liked sandwiches though, right?

Tea sandwiches are so appealing because of their dainty size, and the fact they can be consumed in a few bites. It doesn’t feel like you’re stuffing yourself (until the third round) and you never get bored before moving onto the next filling. These are exemplary. The egg mayo is proper nursery food stylee, as it damn well should be; it’s one of the greatest and most comforting fillings of all time and I will not hear otherwise.  The smoked salmon is of first class quality (Severn and Wye), and plentiful. The ham is Dorrington, and comes with celeriac remoulade, which I love, and tomato chutney, which I would usually hate because I hate all chutney. Why has no-one realised that chutney tastes horrible? Weird. They somehow make it work; there’s just background sweetness rather than any taste of – boke – chutney. The chicken is Daylesford organic and therefore has actual chicken flavour, helped along by being at the right temperature; it’s sad that we now so often associate chicken sandwiches with too-cold pappy pre-packs. The cucumber numbers are perfect too, crisp as you like. Such an under-rated filling. Oh, and the best thing about all of them? So bloody British.

I took the cakes home.

CONS: Are you kidding?

SCORE: 10/10

Lamb Kebab Wrap at Asian Takeaway, Peckham

30 Apr

Babbage

LOCATION: ‘Asian Takeaway’, opposite the station on Rye Lane, next to Ali Baba fruit n veg.

PRICE: Can’t remember. A few quid? Not much, anyway. 

BREAD: Naan.

FILLING: Minced lamb kebab, cucumber, lettuce, yoghurt sauce, chilli sauce.

PROS: This sandwich is a lesson in the value of simplicity and freshness. Who would’ve thought we’d be so lucky that a bunch of firecrackers would set up a tandoor in what is basically a shack tucked away off Peckham’s main drag, Rye Lane? A man works next to the sweaty heat of the oven rolling balls of dough, one under each palm in opposite directions, simultaneously. Wax on, wax off. These are shaped and hand-slapped into the tandoor, to order. He wears gloves. Long, skewered kebabs are speared in and out too, then hung from the roof to cool once cooked.

What’s particularly impressive about this kebab is the spicing. So often too many spices muddle together making the overall flavour flat and oddly, very bland. These guys know when to stop. There’s a whacking great measure of green chilli though, which brings searing freshness as well as, obviously, hefty poke.

The salad is as juicily spanking as everything else, and the cucumber is cut lengthways, so that it actually lies flat in the wrap and doesn’t fall out. Finally. Someone. I can never get one of these wraps into my face quite fast enough actually, and then I always have to be talked out of getting another. I don’t let go of this idea usually until I get way down past Maccy D’s and almost around the corner to the High Street, by which point it just means really that I can’t be arsed to walk back.

CONS: So I have lived in Peckham for like, quite a lot of years now and I never knew this place existed. The first time I went there I asked the guy why he didn’t have a sign, to which he responded by pointing at the sign. It’s kinda hard to see but actually once you…okay I’m just a massive doofus.

SCORE: 7/10

 

 

Highland Burger with Korean Pulled Pork at Smokehouse N1, Islington

17 Mar

LOCATION: Smokehouse N1, 63-69 Canonbury Road, N1 2DG [map]

PRICE: £15.

BREAD: Seeded burger bun.

FILLING: 5 year old Highland cow burger, pulled pork, lettuce, gochujang mayo.

PROS: Right, RIGHT! Listen up. Listen good and listen hard, because this is important. I do not give out full marks lightly. I hope you weren’t waiting for that bit at the end? Oh. Well anyway since you’re here I might as well tell you that this is one of the best burgers in London and you must go and eat it immediately. Usually I can’t stand pulled pork on a burger. CAN’T. STAND. IT. Then I remembered that’s because there is so much terrible pulled pork out there. You know, cotton wool mushy wush; squeaky flossed fibres. Then I remembered that this is cooked by one of the best BBQ chefs in London. The best, probably. Actually. Neil Rankin. As an aside from the sandwich, Smokehouse N1 is just a fabulous place to sit and eat, particularly if you get a space around the back by the kitchen, where the Big Green Eggs waft their ghostly gusts through the open door. It’s the best BBQ you’ve never been to.

So the burger is made from the chuck and carcass offcuts of 5 year old highland cow and the flavour is intense. It was described by my mate and I as ‘sick’ which is what people younger than us say instead of ‘top brass’ or ‘fookin ace’. It has me scooping at the fall out with my fingers. It’s rare as hell inside and, at the risk of sounding ‘a bit Rayner’ awakens something primal within me. I should probably say something here about needing a cardiologist.

The stuff that looks like cheese, isn’t. ‘What’s the cheese?’ Asks my friend. ‘It just looks like cheese so you think it is’. Huh. It’s mayonnaise and gochujang mixed together, which is just bafflingly tasty considering, well, it’s just mayonnaise and gochujang mixed together.

CONS: Nothing. Honestly nothing. I went on about this sandwich so much during the eating and the digesting that my friends started to blatantly ignore me. I never thought I could be excited about a burger ever again, considering, well, you know, the whole Burger Trend business but fuck my hat if this isn’t the absolute biz.

SCORE: 10/10

Croque Monsieur at Le Peche Mignon, Islington

14 Mar

LOCATION: 6 Ronalds Road, Islington, N5 1XH [map].

PRICE: £5.50.

BREAD: White sourdough.

FILLING: Ham and cheese, bechamel on top.

PROS: The state of croques in the world is dire. In London it’s bad but in Paris? Even worse. Seriously. It’s depressing. This presented me with a dilemma then, about the criteria against which to judge this sandwich. Should it be judged relative to all croques in London that I know about? Or all other croques in the world, including theoretical not in actual existence yet croques? I decided upon the latter. The opinions expressed on this blog are based upon nothing if not whim, fancy and my highly variable mood, as ever.

This was one of the best croques I’ve ever had in London actually, which isn’t saying much (check out this abomination) but then it’s very surprising considering what happened when I arrived at Le Peche Mignon. I’d gone halfway up the ginger line to eat this bastard, and so when I spotted a pile of pre-made croques upon entering the cafe well, you can imagine, my little heart sank into my biker boots. I wasn’t leaving without trying it though, considering the effort of sitting on the tube for a whole 20 minutes. ‘What actually happens to cheese if you melt it twice?’ we pondered. Turns out, not a lot apart from melting, again. With reflection, I think the inside had only been melted the once, and it was just the sauce on top that had been pre-applied. Okay so it was a little crusty in places, but the sandwich in general was soft, the bread really decent, the ham perfectly good and the side salad of a little lettuce with a mustard heavy dressing, exactly as it bloody well should be. Few people seem to adequately understand that last element; there should be just a few leaves of soft, inoffensively flavoured lettuce (i.e. no sodding rocket) and a bitey dressing. No more, no less. Very well judged, Le Peche.

CONS: Okay so there’s no ignoring the fact that this was pre-made. Why won’t someone open a croque cafe? And no I don’t mean one where they start tinkering about with weird additions and combinations; I mean one that just does perfect croques, with maybe a madame and one option for the crazies. WHY?! Someone should just get the hell on with that.

So this isn’t a croque I’d ever travel to, say, North London for, but it’s certainly one I’d eat again if I lived nearby, particularly if I was hungover and had a pot of mustard in my bag which, incidentally, I often do.

SCORE: 6.5/10 (extra half point for getting the side leafage right)

Muffuletta at The Lockhart, Marble Arch

28 Jan

LOCATION: The Lockhart, 22-24 Seymour Place, W1H 7NL [map]

PRICE: £12 for 1/4 of a 34cm loaf, with crisps (REALLY good crisps which they make themselves).

BREAD: Big, round, sesame seeded loaf (bit like focaccia).

FILLING: Napoli salami, mortadella, hot capicola, provolone cheese, piquant tapenade sauciness.

PROS: I love the fact that I have to explain to at least 3 other people at the table what a muffuletta is. ‘IT’S A SANDWICH! I’VE GOT A RECIPE FOR IT IN MY BOOK!!’. They look at me with a mixture of thanks and pity. Mostly the latter. It’s a cracking sandwich though. A hollowed out loaf (traditionally a muffuletta), is rammed with layer upon layer of different meats and cheeses, and topped with a sort of zippy tapenade made of olives, capers, pickles, vinegar, herbs and olive oil. Well, that’s what’s in my recipe anyway. This tastes pretty much the same. There’s a lot to be said for layering a shitload of meats and cheeses on top of one another; the overall effect is a big protein squidge that amounts to ultimate sandwich satisfaction.

There’s a story that the sandwich was invented by a wily New Orleans grocer who spotted weary workers balancing various lunch ingredients on their knees. He thought he might be onto something by stuffing the lot rather conveniently into a sandwich and it took off immediately. What’s not to like? It’s a giant stuffed loaf, FFS. Also, I’ve not come across one anywhere else in London, so a bonus point for that.

CONS: I want to just sit in the corner and eat the whole thing to myself. We’re there for dinner though, aware that this is just a bar snack while we wait for others to arrive. We’re staring down the barrel of a meal of fried chicken, shrimp and grits, creamily dressed salads and and and and…is it wrong that I would’ve been happy with another wedge of muffuletta? I have a problem.

SCORE: 8/10

Yeah it was really dark…you get the idea. 

LROS on Tour: Hot Dog at Baejarins Beztu Pylsir, Reykjavik

8 Dec

LOCATION: Baejarins Beztu Pylsur, Reykjavik, by the harbour. You’ll find it.

PRICE: 380 ISK (£1.96).

BREAD: Hot dog bun.

FILLING: Hot dog, diced raw onion, crispy fried onions (CRONIONS), ketchup, remoulade, sweet mustard.

PROS: This is a tale of 5 hot dogs, truth be told, because that’s how many different combinations of condiments I tried before I was satisfied. This doesn’t really fit into a pros and cons format either, so I’m just going to pretend it isn’t happening and shoe horn some text in regardless.

I started with ‘the works’ which, admirably, includes two types of onion. The first is finely chopped raw onion, of which I am a huge fan; I love how the Dutch put it on chips, and I loved that the Icelandic put it on this hot dog. It was, however, a little lost under the slightly acrid but nevertheless pleasing powerhouse that is CRONIONS. These are deep fried onions which the Icelandic seem to use like salt.

I go back and I ask for another but with double raw onion. Better. But wait, what is this strangeness? There is brown goo on my hot dog and boy, does it take some getting used to. It is described as mustard but I just can’t get behind that…sweet n spiced goo? Sticky slicky brown sauce? Weird ass savoury icing? It’s unusual, and odd, so I ask for a third, but without.

It doesn’t work. I miss the mind bending sauce. This surprising turn of events unnerves me but I soldier on, drunk and insatiable. I haven’t mentioned the remoulade yet, which should be horrible, being as it is a mixture of mayo and relish. I try one without. Doesn’t work.

Finally, I try double raw onion, single CRONION, remoulade and double ketchup but this makes the dog taste too American. What I want now is the original dog, in all its over sauced, unfamiliar glory.

So there it is. I got drunk and ate five different hot dogs only to conclude that the first was the best. This is a public service.

CONS: I was very full.

SCORE: 7/10

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