The Fish & Chip Shop

I was lucky enough to secure a booking at The Fish & Chip Shop City soft launch this week*. This pleased me greatly as it really isn’t your average wrapped-in-paper-eaten-on-the-hoof sort of establishment. This is Fancy Fish & Chips brought to you by Des McDonald who spent his career either Cheffing or CEO-ing at The Ritz, The Ivy, J Sheekey, Scotts, Soho House, Annabels – I could continue but I have a word count. I brought my Yorkshire-born husband with me as, fortuitously, he considers himself some sort of fish and chip expert… But, God, he’s fussy. He chuntered all the way there, lamenting the lack of beef dripping used in London, murmuring about ‘posh’ fish and chips. Perhaps he’d stop moaning when he his mouth was full of fish…

FullSizeRenderThe restaurant looks picture-perfect. They’ve crafted a considered, faux-mid-century-style room out of some rather bland 21st century office space, with the kind of gorgeous open kitchen that we’re all trying desperately to recreate in our own homes. Duck-egg blue & burgundy vintage tile, ubiquitous enamelware, French linen napkins, salvaged industrial signage – you know the drill.

Despite the ‘softness’ of the launch, staff were perfectly efficient and we were soon enjoying a glass of English fizz and contemplating starters. We shared a plate of beautifully seared tuna topped with tiny dots of Japanese horseradish and strewn with fairy wisps of micro-herb and edible flowers. Yang to the tuna’s Yin were the substantial London Particular fritters – chunky pea and ham croquettes with a mustardy little dip. They were hefty for a starter – they could easily halve the size of them without worrying – but we manfully devoured the lot anyway, enjoying the very sweet peas and chunks of savoury ham hock in their crispy shell. FullSizeRender (2)Obviously my husband had fish and chips. A little jollier now (appeased by the peas?) he chose Haddock explaining this is the connoisseur’s choice – apparently only idiots choose cod, their heads turned by its bright white and flaky flesh versus meatier, tastier, but slightly greyer, haddock apparently. Either way it was very good indeed, the fish was a succulent, chunky slab encased in a burnished house of thin, Camden beer-batter with a good fish-to-batter ratio apparently…. And despite the lack of beef dripping, he swallowed his pride along with his chips and gave a very appreciative head-nod. High praise indeed.

I had the shrimp burger which was pretty special – chunky discernable pieces of juicy prawn with a perfectly-judged spicy tartare sauce in good brioche bun. We shared mushy peas which were a sort-of-gourmet version of the real thing – bright fresh-pea green but with that distinctive mushy pea texture. Faultless chips (apparently hand-cut and double-fried in rapeseed oil) and a nice old-school salad with homemade salad cream – I loved the really thin slivers of spring onion and the sweet, seedless yellow tomatoes. FullSizeRenderThere were some interesting puddings – I desperately wanted to try the East End custard doughnut but I just didn’t have the room. Instead we split a couple of scoops of sorbet – a rather bitter gin and tonic and a sherbety-sweet Amalfi lemon – together making a kind-of frozen gin and Bitter Lemon.

When the bill arrives, we’re very kindly given a couple of 20% off cards to use at either Fish & Chip Shop or the Camden Q-Grill. If you go (and I recommend you do), you’ll notice the branding is quite ‘By Des McDonald’–heavy. It’s the first thing you see on the menu, the business cards, wine list etc. But maybe when the food this good (good enough to even subdue a peevish husband), you just want to have your name all over it?

The Fish & Chip Shop City, Dashwood House, 69 Old Broad Street, London EC2M 1QS

*Review written November 2014.


Summer Pop-Up Terraces

Oh I do love an al fresco afternoon tipple….

Moet Terrace Le Meridien Piccadilly 2

Le Méridien Piccadilly

For a bit of French fancy, check out London’s Le Méridien Piccadilly hotel — where you can grab a deck chair on the Moët & Chandon Summer Terrace. Sit above the tourists treading the pavement, and sip back Moët & Chandon’s latest concoction: Ice Impérial — a fresh and fruity champagne specifically created to be served and enjoyed on ice.

If it’s another kind of bubbles you’re thirsting for, there’s a whole menu of sparkling cocktails to tickle your fancy — try the Rose Royale with locally grown raspberries, Chambord and Moët & Chandon Brut Imperial for a tarty number.

And if the sun tucks behind the clouds, step inside to the glass-covered terrace where you can still enjoy daylight without any of that rain malarkey. The design of the Summer Terrace takes inspiration from the Terrace Grill & Bar’s original use as home to the hotel’s…

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Pulled ray wing with fennel slaw in seeded buns

Pulled skate wings


Meet Ray.

He’s a great fish – just like Skate but not featured on the endangered list.

Ray wing is unbelievably cheap, has no annoying little bones (just obvious, easy-to-discard cartilage) and it’s really quick to prepare and tasty to eat. It flakes away in long juicy strands so it seems to be crying out for the “pulled pork’ treatment we see so much at the moment – here it’s folded through a tangy barbecue sauce and piled into buns with a sharp, limey slaw.

Pulled ray wing with fennel slaw in seeded buns – serves 4

For the ray:

4 ray wings (they vary massively in size so be sensible… some of the hefty ones will definitely serve 2)
2 lemons
Plus 4 buns of your choosing – I like something brown and seedy with this.

For the sauce:

2 garlic cloves crushed
1 red onion finely chopped
150ml tomato ketchup
2 teaspoons black treacle
2 teaspoons pomegranate molasses 1 teaspoon mustard
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
I like to add a splash of Tabasco but you don’t need to

To make:

For the ‘slaw:

1 fennel bulb finely sliced
Half a red cabbage finely sliced 10-15 radishes finely sliced
1 red onion finely sliced
4 spring onions finely shredded Juice and zest of 2 limes Teaspoon of caraway seeds Drizzle of toasted sesame oil

Start with your slaw. Finely shred all the veg into similar bite-sized pieces. I try to keep my ‘reds’ (red cabbage, red onion & radish) and ‘greens’ (fennel and spring onions) in separate bowls until I am about to serve – as the red veg sometimes bleeds into the green if left to mingle for too long. Zest and juice your limes, mix with the sesame oil and caraway seeds and set aside.

Then make the sauce, finely chop a red onion and crush 2 garlic cloves and sweat down in a little oil until soft. Then add all the other sauce ingredients; ketchup, treacle, molasses, mustard, Worcestershire sauce & Tabasco and heat gently. Blitz with a stick blender until smooth. If it seems too thick you can add some of the fish- cooking-water before serving.

In a large, wide frying pan heat water and 2 quartered lemons. When it has come to the boil, turn the heat right down and add your fish. Poach very gently for 10 minutes turning the fish half way through. Remove the fish from the water and leave to cool for a few minutes.

Then shred the meat from the bones of the fish and add into the sauce, folding through to make sure every piece is covered in the sauce. Mix your red and green slaw veg together and dress with the limey/sesame/caraway dressing.

Then just assemble! Pile the ray into the buns, top with the slaw and serve with a LOT of napkins.

Jaffa cake teacup puddings

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThese are a cute little pudding for a tea party or dinner party – pretty cups containing layers of sponge, orangey curd and chocolate mousse. They’re pretty easy once you’ve mastered the orange curd part – as the sponge base is a cheat and the chocolate mousse is ridiculously simple. You can use more or less of each of the layers depending on your tastes – I lean towards a more-mousse angle. I bought a set of mismatching teacups on eBay which I always use for these sorts of desserts – they’re also great for portion control as I can get a bit carried away…


‘Jaffa cake’ teacup puddings – makes 6


For the sponge base: 

–       9 sponge fingers

–       A little orange juice just to splash over the sponge fingers – feel free to add a little slosh of Cointreau too if the mood takes you

For the orange curd:

–       3 big oranges – juice and zest (I have also done this with shop-bought fresh orange juice – good in an emergency)

–       1 lemon – juice and zest

–       100g cold butter chopped into pieces

–       75g caster sugar

–       3 whole eggs and 3 extra yolks

Chocolate mousse:  

–       4 eggs

–       150g chocolate

–       2 teaspoons sugar

Start by crumbling 1.5 sponge fingers into the base of your tea cup. Splash a little of the orange juice (and Cointreau) over the sponge fingers – just enough to moisten (hateful word) really. Set aside in the fridge to chill.

Now make your curd. This recipe will make more curd than you need but this is a Very Good Thing as it is spectacular on top of an English muffin for breakfast. Pour the zest and juice of the oranges and lemon into a saucepan – you should have about 200ml of juice. Beat the whole eggs and extra yolks together and add to the juice, then add the sugar and heat gently. Stir constantly for about 10 minutes. The mixture will slowly thicken to the point of coating the back of a spoon. At this stage take the pan off the heat, add the cubed butter into the mixture and whisk until melted and smooth. Leave aside to cool and then refrigerate.

When the curd is cold, make the mousse. Break the chocolate into small pieces and place into a heatproof bowl. Heat water in a saucepan and place the bowl over the water (resting above but not touching the water). While the chocolate is melting, separate the eggs. Set the yolks aside and whisk the egg whites and sugar together to form soft peaks. When the chocolate has melted, rapidly whisk the yolks into the chocolate and then gently fold the fluffy whites into the chocolate mixture.

Assemble the puddings by layering a few spoons of orange curd over the orangey sponge base and then topping with a little heap of chocolate mouse. Smooth the mousse over and leave in the fridge until you’re ready to serve. I like these topped with a few zesty shards of orange peel or a grating of very dark bitter chocolate.

Live Below The Line challenge day 4

I cheated. 

There, I admitted it. 

I cracked and bought a coffee before my Pilates class this morning. I’m sorry but I LITERALLY couldn’t help myself. 

And it made me think – I spent £2.40 on my coffee this morning – that would have been two and a half day’s worth budget for this challenge. Ridiculous. 

But, post-coffee the world seemed a bit jollier to be honest. I had a few spoons of Tuesday’s leftover Lentil Dahl for my lunch with a dollop of yoghurt. And tonight we had a bean soup with a slice of (very stale) bread that I made at the beginning of the week. And everything tastes pretty much the same – like un-seasoned, brown mush. Hmmm.

With that in mind, I would very much like to know which TOTAL SADIST scheduled this LBTL challenge to coincide with the bloody MasterChef finals? I have now spent the last three nights watching people preparing THE most amazing food while gazing wistfully at my brown mush. Although, to be honest, the beyond-parody ‘Vintage Beetroot with Fennel Meringue’ from last night’s programme would probably not be my first choice of post-challenge dish. 

Anyway, I’ve got a previous arrangement for dinner with friends tomorrow night so I am RIDICULOUSLY excited to be having an illicit night off. My last slice of stale bread and tasteless carrot soup tomorrow won’t seem quite as bad, knowing I can dive into Steak Frites for dinner. 

x x 

PS. I will be completing a final challenge day on Tuesday as penance for having a half-day on Friday…

PPS. If you still want to sponsor me (even after my Flat White Failure), please click here

PPPS. Yay for Natalie who won MasterChef in the end, who was my fave and who had nothing to do with the vintage beetroot… 

LBTL day 4: Kidney bean falafelish things

Kidney bean falafelish things

I am calling this falafel but its just mashed kidney beans dry-fried into little cakes served with leftover pasta sauce and a little natural yoghurt. It was actually not bad, there just wasn’t enough of it for the two of us really. However the kidney beans were just 21p so it was one of my most frugal dinners.

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x x

LBTL day 3: poverty tourism and headaches.

I’ve heard a lot of people talking about how the LBTL Challenge is ‘Poverty Tourism’ – how we are dipping our toes in the water, safe in the knowledge that there’s a Flat White & Almond Croissant shaped light at the end of the tunnel. I don’t like the expression or the connotations but it is, to an extent, true. I have the luxury of being able to live like this temporarily, I know it won’t be forever and am SO looking forward to a MASSIVE BACON SANDWICH at the end of the week. And that’s the thing. Of course you can endure a week of living on £1 a day but if you live like this In Real Life there is no end, this is how you live. When Iain Duncan Smith claimed he could live on the £53 a week that some benefit claimants receive I think it was Caitlin Moran who said that the horror of this type of poverty wasn’t being able to live on £53 a week but the thought of this being the case indefinitely.

I totally agree.

So, a little update on how it’s all going here. Yesterday was alright: breakfast was toast using the increasingly stale homemade bread. A spoonful of leftover dahl for lunch. And a basic spaghetti with tomato sauce for dinner. It’s fine actually but I feel a bit grumpy, I’ve got a bit of a sore throat and have a low-level headache. I imagine this has something to do with the fact that I MUST HAVE COFFEE NOW!!!! Sorry didn’t mean to shout…. I also usually eat more fresh fruit and veg than I have been so maybe that’s why I feel thirsty? Today I skipped breakfast as I’m running out of bread and went straight to lunch with toast and a few spoonfuls of the pasta sauce I made yesterday (kinda bruschetta….). Tonight I’m going to make some kind of bean burger thing so have with some more of the pasta sauce – I’m actually quite excited by this as at least it’ll have some crunch and texture. Sigh.

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x x