Jones & Family

Midweek lunches in Shoreditch are rarely dull. This one was no exception at super cool restaurant Jones and Family. From the outside it looks like a cross between a bar, a gallery and a restaurant, so obviously it goes down well in the heart of Shoreditch.

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My starter of squid salad was bright and punchy, bursting with flavour.

IMG_9025Mrs D’s potted Cornish crab hit the mark and was declared an instant hit!

IMG_9027Not quite Harry Ramsden, but the Fish and Chip salad was innovative if not a 100% success due to soggy chips underneath the fish.

IMG_9028It’s a cool place though with nice folk manning the decks, well worth a nosey if you’re down Shoreditch way…

Tasting Port in Porto

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On the other side of the Rio Douro from Porto is Vila Nova de Gaia. These two cities have faced each other for centuries across the steeply banked slopes down to the river. Over the years these have been built up and spectacular bridges have been added across the chasm.

On one side is Porto: picturesque UNESCO world heritage site and on the other, lots of port wine lodges. It’s quite bizarre to see all the British port names emblazoned on buildings on the other side of the river. Names from our colonial past, still here making and shipping port all over the world. It was quite a surprise to see these quintessentially British brands in such a place.

We arranged a port tasting at Taylor’s lodge  (we were told it was the best) which was right at the top of the hill. Apparently the higher up the hill you were in the past spoke volumes of your stature and of course Taylor’s is still up there with the best. The Taylor’s lodge is a little bit of England’s past clinging on to the notion that the Empire still exists. Cool, dark tasting rooms make way for English country gardens, spectacular views from the terraces and peaceful old warehouses full of slowly maturing port.

We tasting four kinds of port: chip dry white, ten year old tawny, LBV (late bottled vintage) ruby and vintage port. All this at 10am in the morning! I am actually a fan of port but mostly drink it at Christmas time, so drinking it in the summer felt a bit odd, but when in Porto…

We learnt the differences between the ports, when they should be drunk and with what kind of food they should accompany. It’s a complicated business this port drinking. Our guide was deeply knowledgeable as you’d expect and visibly proud of the product and tradition and we were lucky enough to have a private tour which made all the difference. The port wine making process hasn’t changed for hundreds of years and I loved the giant vats of port, nestled in the darkness, quietly waiting for their time to decant their contents. The smell in the giant warehouses was gently boozy: cool, damp air mixed with old oak combining to create a woozy atmosphere.

After the tour, we staggered out into the late morning sunshine, blinking in the light, feeling more than a little fresh, heading off in search of an early lunch to counter the port.

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Porto

Just back from our first trip to Porto in Portugal and I’ve just realise that it would be nigh on impossible to write up every meal we had (and quite tedious to read). Instead I thought I’d provide a snapshot of this culinarily vibrant and fascinating city…so here goes:

Eating out in Porto is exciting, diverse and different to Spain. All the menus are primarily in Portugese (which often bears no resemplance to Spanish!) but restaurant staff all speak excellent English and always happy to make recommendations. Often, we’d leave it in their hands including the wine. It’s also worth saying it’s very, very good value in Porto compared to the rest of mainland Europe including and especially the UK.

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No trip to Porto is complete without a tour of a port wine lodge. This is quintessentially Porto — this is the Taylor’s lodge, which was very ‘English’. The tasting was my favourite bit, obviously!

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Tuna carpaccio starter at Cafeina, a lovely up market restaurant out near the ocean, quite traditional but very relaxed and excellent prices for the quality of food.
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Exquisite seafood, spankingly fresh, is everywhere. This octopus tentacle was a meaty as pork fillet and packed a real garlicky punch.
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I won with the starters at Cafeina I reckon although Julie’s beef carpaccio was pretty good.

Slightly sparking Vinho Verde or green wine is everywhere. Very cheap and quite palatable, I was loving their labels!IMG_0258 IMG_0303 IMG_0391

We tried to get into this place but had to book and we were successful second time around. Great food and bizarre ambience with a Michael Jackson live from Prague concert video projected on to the wall. Cool staff.IMG_0368Meat and cheese of course always come in to play when we’re in town. Local charcuterie (or whatever their version of it is) delicious and plenty of it. This gaff was a bit trendy for our liking but we fitted right in as we looked the business :)IMG_0262 I now know all there is to know about Port. Next time you see me, ask me.IMG_0396 Nice touch. Ouch!IMG_0277 Mrs D enjoying some fizz in the sunshine. hard life! This place was on the edge of the transvestite red light district, so it was quite an entertaining lunch!IMG_0261Cheese literally like mayonnaise. Unctious and pungent, running all over the shop.IMG_0339 If I’m not mistaken, Tawny, LBV Ruby and Vintage…where’s the Chip Dry?? Oh yeah, I drunk it!IMG_0392 They love a bit of codfish brought back , national dish I think. This is a local special with cabbage and cheese. Sounds grim but it’s actually amazing.

IMG_0291 IMG_0382 Oh dear. Pastels de Nata. Part of my five a day regime!!IMG_0358 IMG_0289Chateaubriand for one at Cafeina. Spec-tac-u-lar is the only way to describe it.

IMG_0326 LBV on the way back to the apartment. Cheese and nibbles? Oh, go on then!IMG_0393 Chuck steak for two at Cantaina 33. The photo doesn’t do it justice as the portions were gargantuan. As usual we blobbed on dessert.IMG_0366 IMG_0298 There really is no need to spend more than ten euros a bottle in Porto, all the local wine is that good. The cheapest bottles are as good as pricey ones in the UK.IMG_0365 IMG_0327 IMG_0310 More cheese trying to escape the plate in liquid form. Local cheese teamed with a ten year old tawny picked out by the owner of the restaurant.IMG_0263 Flaming sausage served at the table. No, really. It was great too but don’t try this at home.IMG_0322 IMG_0323 This was our second up market restaurant and even here the prices were very reasonable. We pushed the boat out and spent twenty euros on a bottle of wine, must have been the sun going to our heads!IMG_0308 IMG_0371

Monty’s Deli

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Maltby Street food market is another super cool food destination to put on our growing list of super cool food destinations. Just over the river in some random railway arches in Bermondsey (how do these things start?), is a collection of fabulously curated food stalls. Perfect for a Saturday morning mooch we hopped on the bus and did just that. And came away half a stone heavier.

We’d actually come to try a legendary Reuben special sandwich at Monty’s Deli after seeing them on a re-run of a Tom Kerridge feature on Saturday Kitchen. Our mouths were watering just watching the sandwiches on TV, so we absolutely had to try the real thing and we weren’t disappointed.

The reuben is skyscraper sandwich is packed with melt in your mouth salt beef and smoked pastrami, home-made sauerkraut, sauce, sharp mustard, Leerdammer cheese and topped with super light toasted bread. Then it’s crammed into a sandwich toaster for what seems like an age when you’re hungry. The place was as rammed as the contents of the sandwiches too but the staff were coping well though, keeping the queue moving and the fast turnaround of tables meant there were seats on the communal benches.

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When the Reuben specials arrived I was actually a bit scared. It was huge but the toasting had compressed the sandwich so it didn’t look too overbearing. But it was still more than enough and it looked sooo good. Tender pink meat crammed tightly, oozing molten cheese, crisp sharp pickles and a can of time travelling cream soda (well it took me back). To die for. Literally.

There’s no airs and graces here. It’s basic, comforting food of the highest quality. Jewish soul food in fact. Monty’s speaks of passion and late nights, of trying new things, getting it right and wrong, burning the candle at both ends and an unswerving belief in what they are doing. You can even wash your hands in their sink if you want.

Post sandwich we waddled around the market feeling comfortingly full, nursing our salt beef babies. It’s a good job too as the rest of the food on offer looked just as good: tartiflette, fresh bread from St John, smoked Oysters, home cured salmon, delightful French pastries, tapas, local gin…the list goes on.

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Hawksmoor Knightsbridge

Let me set the scene. A beautiful Sunday afternoon in Knightsbridge. Sat outside a neighbourhood pub sipping Rose waiting for our Sunday lunch companion to arrive. The sun just a little too hot for us but we sit in full sun nonetheless.

Perfect pre lunch drinks before we head off to Hawksmoor Knightsbridge.

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I’ve been to the Spitalfields Hawksmoor but the newest in the mini chain is the Knightsbridge restaurant. The basement room is all swanky splendour and low key lighting, the staff are superb and on this late Sunday afternoon, the room is not full. We like the attention that brings from the staff I have to say and our French waiter is all charm.

A free glass of champagne later, we order the Sunday roast special with some oysters for me and Gwil with J opting for the crab salad. The oysters come with cheeky hot sausages which are epic, given their diminutive size.

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The roast is the best I’ve had in London without a  doubt (although we haven’t been to lots of places for Sunday lunch I have to be honest). That said, the beef was an honest slab of rump, impeccably cooked medium rare and perched majestically on a stack of roast potatoes and perfectly cooked veg. The Yorkshire pudding was very good too, crisp and light. At £19.95 for the special Sunday lunch we though this was excellent value for Knightsbridge—not particularly famous for value for obvious reasons.

Unusually for a lunch with Gwil we didn’t go hell for leather on the wine and only had two bottles (only) of a very serviceable Picpoul. The waiter did his best to talk us into a dessert but we let him down badly and his disappointment was palpable—we were really stuffed and couldn’t get near it.

I love Hawksmoor because it loves meat more than I do.

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Weekend in Leeds

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Sitting outside Sandinista on upper Briggate, watching the world go by is a real local’s pleasure in Leeds. Sandinista has been there for ever and it’s often overlooked in favour of more fashionable restaurants.

 

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The tapas is simple, satisfying and plentiful. The chicken wings get a special mention.

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Breakfast was at the Cross Keys. Bloody Marys got the day off to a boost start (I don’t do this every day, honestly).

 

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For some, Prosecco was the breakfast tipple of choice. There’s nothing like some bubbles with your bacon.

 

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Leeds was packed with TDF revellers. Whilst they jammed into every street corner, we tucked into a full English, Cross Keys style.

 

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And it didn’t disappoint! Spectacular.