‘A night off’ is a bit of a misnomer. BlogTour usually includes an evening when people are free to do their own things, it’s hardly a ‘nght off’. In our experience these evenings tend to be frenetic occasions of bacchanalian excess, gastronomic delight and social bonding. It is an opportunity to visit restaurants that can’t set aside the dozen or so seats BlogTour needs. It is also an excuse for Eggon Rodney to talk about his current favourite London restaurants.
Bocca Di Lupo
Image: Bocca Di Lupo – not one of their small plates!
Bocca Di Lupo makes me happy for so many reasons. Opened by Jacob Kenedy in 2008 it has fourteen tables and a chef’s counter/bar. If you perch at the bar, and this doesn’t really work with more than one other person, you can treat yourself to perfectly cooked Italian regional delicacies and a glass, ah go on – make it a bottle, of wine from a list carefully curated by Kenedy himself. The menu changes according to what’s available and, I suspect, Kenedy’s whims. On a recent visit, the Sicilian Spaghetti with anchovy, saffron, pine nuts & raisins took me back to the time I first tasted a similar dish on the rugged Italian island but boasted better defined, more vibrant flavours than I remember, even with the rose tinted specs that came with the sunshine. A fresh anchovy, wrapped in a sage leaf and deep fried in the lightest of batters left both my companion and myself speechless. The next thing we managed to say was ‘more of these please!’ The friendly, attentive service obliged with a smile that suggested we were not the first to be so taken. These are meant to be short reviews but the deserts demand a mention. Focusing on Kenedy’s love of gelato and sorbets they are as fresh and vibrant as everything else in this culinary paradise. The blood orange sorbet I had there recently was sharp, refreshing and somehow tasted more of an orange than fruit does itself. Should you find yourself in London Soho Archers St and not visiting Bocca Di Lupo, at least call in to their delightful offshoot across the road for one of their gelatos. If you aren’t in the neighborhood there is always Kenedey’s Bocca Di Lupo cookbook. Unpretentious, beautiful and easy to follow it will, however, inevitably lead you the restaurant’s door. And if you need company, well there is nowhere else I would rather be. And, should you need one more reason to fall in love with Jacob Kenedy and his wonderful restaurant, this was his response to racist comments by one of his wine merchants.
Bone Daddies Ramen Bar
Image: Bone Daddies
‘Fun’ isn’t a word I tend to use when I describe restaurants. I don’t know why, maybe I take all this eating and drinking too seriously. But Bone Daddies Ramen Bar is definitely fun. It is loud, busy, cool and fun. The menu is a gift to those of us brought up with the British Carry On movies. Cock Scratchings and Extra Creamy Head are going to excite anyone with a childish love of the double entendre. The food and drink, served at communal bar high tables does take itself very seriously. The Ramen is the star, served in a deep balanced broth, perfectly seasoned with all the sides you could wish for. Drinks are varied and as far as my exploration has discovered, all excellent. As well as the aforementioned beers there are cold sakes, warm sakes, mysterious cocktails including the ‘unnamed’ and an extensive range of non alcoholic drinks. One day I’ll try one. Visit BoneDaddies in the evening and you’ll have to queue. Visit with an entire BlogTour entourage and it probably won’t work. But go one, two or even three friends, a sense of humour and an open mind and I defy you not to have fun, dammit.
The English love a good curry. Sadly, so many neighbourhood Indian restaurants serve dumbed-down food, anonymous meats in generic sauces for diners who’ve had too much to know better. There are exceptions, of course. There are a number of high end Indian restaurants which demonstrate, and develop the rich and varied cuisine of the subcontinent. And there are local restaurants serving outstanding food to local communities and great value prices. Tayyabs, hidden in a back street in London’s Whitechapel was once a small café doing just that. Some things change, some things don’t. Tayyabs is bigger now with smarter décor and a reputation well beyond London’s east end. It is still hectic, noisy, uncompromising and chaotic. You still need to queue, whenever you arrive, at worst, on a Saturday night, for over an hour. And Tayyabs still serves wonderful Punjabi food at ridiculously reasonable prices. This is a Muslim restaurant by the way so don’t expect a wine list. They are happy for you to bring your own beer and wine from the local off-license, or you can try their sweet or salted lassi. You do need to try their lamb chops. That should be compulsory. Small and served piled up on the plate they are the most flavorsome, tender and generally wonderful chops I have eaten in a long life of chop eating. The chops alone make the visit worthwhile, and I write that knowing that some readers live as far as the West Coast of the USA. Of course, other things are good as well and this is a menu to explore rather than seek familiar refuge. For example, there are daily specials. If you are lucky enough to be here on a Tuesday you could try the Batera (Quails) curry, my favourite. But whatever you choose, it’s all good. There are local alternatives, Neddo Grill, opened by an ex-chef from Tayyabs which also has its supporters, but for me, the original, uncompromising but uncomplicated is still the best.