Sunday 27 June 2010

Trinity: Clapham Common, London

Having heard great things about Trinity, I'm surprised it's taken me so long to grace its tables. But then friend Ben, quite the Trinity regular (and trusted eating accomplice, having married the woman who arranged another excellent dinner at La Petite Maison), made a booking for 6 of us one night this week, reserving the £20 prix fix menu (for 3 courses). The time had come.

The ragout of smoked haddock, orzo pasta and peas served in a deep bowl was sumptuous, and TPG's summery chilled pea and mint soup was almost as good.

My salad of beef rump with bone marrow beignet, sweet celeriac puree, white onion fondant "and meat juices" was as fresh, pleasing and colourful to the eye as it was to the palate. (The mug shots by Blackberry do the dish no justice). Those who have gripes about food served on black plates might quibble, but would be satisfactorily muted at first bite.

The slow cooked belly of middle white pork with hot potato soup, apple and watercress was enjoyed with equal enthusiasm by my fellow diners. Only poor TPG, with his rather bland fillet of Loch Duart salmon, was left gaping jealously at the surrounding dishes. Even the dainty, zingy ragout of broad beans and lemon puree didn't save him. I flung him the odd sliver of beef to put him out of his misery.

The cox apple tarte fine with liquorice ice cream was another delight in simplicity, even if presentation was a little odd. Our affable waiter happily offered to swap the liquorice ice cream to the orange and poppyseed ice cream for those interested - probably a good move since the apple and liquorice sound like they won't match well, and they don't. However, each element was individually lovely.

It's a happy circumstance that cheeses are also an option instead of dessert as part of the prix fixe menu (although, sadly, you have to choose 1 of the 3 cheeses on offer).

At £20 for 3 courses, the prix fixe option is most certainly a bargain (although - as usual - we ended up spending double once wine and service was factored in). If you want the prix fixe deal, you must reserve it in advance (Mon-Thurs only). Apart from a bit of a wait for menus and waters at the start, service was excellent - helpful, friendly and relaxed. The decor is nothing earth shattering but fairly light and airy - even more so on a warm summer's evening when the windows were thrown open to the outside world.

Various other menu options are also available. A la carte prices range between £8-£12 for entrees and £18-£24 for mains (or £30 for the lobster dish). These prices are certainly reasonable for food and service of this quality.

An absolute must for local Clapham Commoners, and well worth a trip for the rest of us.

Trinity, 4 The Polygon, Clapham, London, SW4 0JG (Tel: 020 7622 1199)

Trinity on Urbanspoon 

Tuesday 22 June 2010

Gelupo - Gelato, Espresso & Delicatessen in Soho. (Yes, you heard me right)

I have been staking out the development of Gelupo since construction began. It always looked like it was going to be a gelati shop. It is. As well as an espresso bar and delicatessen. The concept is pure genius. And it’s right around the corner from my place. A mere stone’s throw. Yes, I’m excited.

The subject of my stakeout finally opened on Thursday last week. I had sampled 5 flavours of gelati and thoroughly inspected the shelves before the sun had set.

The espresso is divine – made with egg yolk, it’s rich and decadent and tastes like each scoop contains at least 3 espressos worth of caffeine. The chocolate is equally buxom and delicious.

I've also had a go at the ricotta, honey and coffee flavour (ok), hazelnut meringue (lovely, chunky nutty bits) and rice (meh – a bit tasteless although supposed to be like a rice pudding – TPG’s choice).

There’s a decent array of ice-creams, sorbets and slushy granitas to choose from, ranging from the traditional to the more adventurous (eg. pine nut and fennel seed, blond almond, burnt almond, sour cherry). There's talk that the ice-creams don't have as much fat as regular ice-creams but based on my tastings so far, don't hold that against them - you'd never know.

And, oh my GOD, they also freshly fry cannoli and stuff them with gelato. Must. Try. Immediately.

The set up is all rather traditional – the gelati is not piled high to catch the eye, but hidden beneath metal lids in canisters built into the bench tops. I believe the idea is to avoid the surface frosting and to keep the ice-cream at perfect temperature. I appreciate the reasons behind this, although browsing with the eye can never be overrated for helping the selection process. Nevertheless, they seem happy to let you sample away until you hit on the right choice. It’s all about the taste. Currently, there are also small tubs of cherries for tasting on the counter. Sweet.

The deli shelves are still filling up but a promising array of pasta sauces, home made pasta, sausages, prawns, and other typical Italian grocery products are worth a browse.

There’s foccacias and frittata during the day, and freshly fried bombe calde (doughnuts) filled with chocolate at night. I've just shed a tear…

It’s right across the cobbled laneway from Bocca di Lupo (click here for my earlier words of love), and as the names and get up suggest, it’s brought to us by the same owners (many of the deli ingredients are the same things used at Bocca). So, I now spend my days wedged between Gelupo and Scoop (now also on Brewer St) – life’s good.

So, I don’t have enough to go on to give a full review just yet (perhaps hitting on the fab choc and espresso flavours early on was misleading), and I'm willing to admit I'm slightly carried away by the excitement of it all (how is a girl to sleep?), but I’m prepared to dedicate myself to discover more for the cause – on a regular basis. Particularly as I just read they have a loyalty card system. In any case, given the sunny weather ahead, I thought it only fair and timely to share my joy in case you’re in the ‘hood.

It’s open until 11pm on weeknights and until 1am on weekends. Are you thinking what I’m thinking? Yuh.

[PS. 2 July 2010 - The sweet blood orange granita atop the sour cherry granita is fanastic.]

Gelupo, 7 Archer Street, Soho, W1D 7AU (Tel: 020 7287 5555)

Gelupo on Urbanspoon

Sunday 13 June 2010

Towpath - canal side cafe in Shoreditch(ish)

I'm so glad there's not a camera positioned on my handle bars, filming my facial expressions as I ride around London.

I'm not a natural born cyclist. I'm a foot on solid ground girl. (Don't even get me started on swimming. Although I like floating - especially on the salty Mediterranean where it's easy, and preferably with a cocktail waiting for me on a nearby banana lounge. But I digress). Although exploring London's hidden depths with the wind blowing through my helmet brings me much joy, I know my brow is furrowed like a maniac every time I hear a car advancing at the rear, my teeth clench over every grate and pot hole, my knuckles white with fear every time I whizz past a row of parked cars, just waiting for the day a door will open and 2 hard years of metal braces and bad school photos will come to nothing. 

I have a lot of sympathy for my friend who can't make right turns on a bike so gets around entire cities by always spiralling left. 

So any chance I get to cruise off the main drag in the name of "exploration" is always a secret relief. 

Today, it brought me to a sunny strip of Regent's Canal off Kingsland Road where The Peanut Gallery and I discovered Towpath - an open cafe right on the edge of the canal path.

It serves coffee and simple breakfast and brunch items (toast, porridge, granola, quiches, toasties, olive oil cake). The coffee's not a world beater - it's a bit watery and lacks depth and kick. But still enjoyable if it's not a Monday morning coffee on which your life depends. The toast was nice and came with some home made (slightly runny) marmalade and rhubarb jam.  

Its foodie creators - Lori De Mori (food writer) and Jason Lowe (food photographer) - suggest there might be more here to delight the palate than we discovered, as does the enticing smell of grilled cheese sandwiches wafting over to our table. But it's such a fun and friendly spot to sit outdoors in the sunshine, read the papers and watch cyclists crash into runners against a backdrop of graffiti clad warehouses and passing boats. There's also a bit of cover with a long communal table for those not so summery London moments.

Worth a look if you're cycling by, and need an excuse to rest your clenched jaw. 

Towpath, 42 De Beauvoir Cresent, (Hoxton, Shoreditch, Hackney or one of those places, London, N1 5SB

Tow Path on Urbanspoon

Sunday 6 June 2010

Ginger and White: Coffee in London

Ginger and White has been on my hit list for a while. And then out came the sun. The day had dawned to dust off the bike's winter coat and hit the roads to Hampstead Heath.


Finishing off our salads at Gail's on Hampstead High Street (mixed reviews from us, but the cake selection rocks), The Peanut Gallery and I decided a 2nd coffee of the day was in order. Enter Ginger and White.

A staunchly British themed coffee shop, Ginger and White is set back from the main drag in a quiet little pedestrian laneway, Perrins Court. Inside is a big, communal table with crayons (or coloured pencils?) in the middle, suggesting a child friendly attitude that will likely be a selling point for some, but a roomful of childish shrieks and me should never meet before my morning coffee. All is overseen by a large Union Jack painting and a counter laden with cakes, pastries and biscuits. There's talk of salads and sandwiches also being available (like Northfield's Farm's roast beef with horseradish mayo and watercress on onion bread - oh my...), and all ingredients are apparently British and sourced direct from the farm.

But we were there for the Square Mile coffee (currently the Spring brew - a blend from Brazil and Colombia). The flat white was smooth, caramel-y and strong, hitting all the right notes. Admittedly on the basis of only 1 visit at this stage, I have to rate the coffee right up there with that of all my favourite antipodean coffee shops of London. A freshly squeezed orange and grapefruit juice was also lovely.

As far as I know, there are not too many options for a really great coffee in North West London. I don't hang out in Hampstead all that often, but when I do, I know where I'll be sipping my flattie. Thumbs up.

Ginger and White, 4a-5a Perrins Court, London, NW3 (Tel: 0207 431 909)
Ginger and White on Urbanspoon

Wednesday 2 June 2010

Koya: Udon noodle specialist in Soho

I love New York. I love the way it's at the forefront of all the best (and worst) food fads the world has to offer, the way the city buzzes with fabulous restaurants both new and old, the fact you can get a superb steak or burger (or anything else) on just about any block, and the way that all the city's inhabitants are completely obsessed with good food and eating out. One thing New Yorkers are already right on to is a good bowl of noodles.

Koya reminds me a lot of New York - and it's not just the hungry mob of noodle lovers winding down Frith Street to its understated shop front that does it.

Koya is New York good, it's Tokyo good - it leaves the noodles you know from Wagamama for dead. And it's right in the heart of London.

In Japan, restaurants specialise in only 1 thing until they perfect it - you don't go for the best sushi at the same place you get your world beating tempura. And if noodles are the thing, they'll specialise in only 1 type of noodle to the point of mastery, be it udon, ramen or soba. In this spirit, Koya specialises in udon noodles in basic, canteen style surrounds. Its udon - fat, white, wheat noodles - are made fresh daily in the traditional way - by foot.

The cold udon with hot beef broth (hiya atsu) are divine. The noodles are served, topped with shredded nori (seaweed), on a traditional bamboo mat on the side of a steaming hot bowl of broth, laden with delicate slices of beef and spring onion. It's hearty, slurpy and bursting with flavour, while the noodles are satisfyingly supple. I'm going to find it hard to order something different on my next visit.

The Peanut Gallery's cold, wriggly udon with a light tempura (on the side) and a delectable dashi dipping sauce are also good, although I don't think the tempura is the best thing on offer.

We share a tasty side dish of slippery, marinated mushrooms (kinoko tsukudani).

There are also cold udon with cold broth or dipping sauce for pouring over (hiya hiya) and hot udon with hot broth (atsu atsu). You can add onsen tamago (a slow cooked egg), flaky sprinkles of tempura and other bits and pieces. We're looking forward to going back and working our way through the menu - if we can beat the queues.

Chewy, slurpy and delicious. And at around a very reasonable £15 per head, what's not to love? Let's hope this is the start of a good thing - more places like Koya in London.

Koya, 49 Frith Street, Soho, London W1D 4SG (

Koya on Urbanspoon

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