Category Archives: Restaurants

Can Vico revitalise Cambridge Circus? (Absolutely yes!)

I met my wino at the opening night of Dehesa many moons ago and we’ve been delightfully happy and scarily well fed ever since. But those heady days of going to the opening of the latest, well, envelope, are far behind us. We do eat out a lot still (you don’t get our fine figures without a significant amount of three course + wine dinners) but suburban life has put a bit of a dampener on being able to go to every opening or wine tasting or whatever.

However, when you get an invite (through the wino) to the opening of a new restaurant from the team behind Bocca di Lupa and Gelupo, you really can’t say no. Particularly when the food and drink is free all night. So last night, on a torrential Monday in August (gotta love British summers) we found ourselves at Vico.

Vico is soft launching this week – check out its social media channels (Facebook / Twitter/ Instagram) to find out details of how to get to one of this week’s events or head over to Cambridge Circus from next week when it’ll be officially open to the general public.

Vico takes all the skills and techniques of the formidable Jacob Kenedy and transports them to a format that’s right for the location – effectively Italian street food. Vico is in that formerly chain zone of Cambridge Circus, on the site of what was probably a Pizza Hut or Frankie & Benny’s. It’s one of those locations that Londoners avoid (unless you’re walking from Soho to Covent Garden) – just filled with tourist tat and not particularly appealing. However, a Polpo opened there recently, the refurbed Ivy has just reopened around the corner and it’s hopefully coming into its own now.

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The food is sold by the weight and features several different varieties of arancini – and as you’ll know from a previous post, I love me some arancini. We had two black squid arancini – I’d thought these would be my favourite but I found them a little underseasoned for my taste (I will admit that I’m a bit of a salt junkie so this may just be me). We also had the beetroot and goat’s cheese, hazelnut and blue cheese varieties and these were all amazing – the risotto rice was cooked beautifully and they were served warm and unctuous.

On top of that, we tried the prosciutto and mozzarella pizza with rocket, a salad of some grains (I didn’t see what) which you could add rabbit to and a endive salad with parmesan and some lovely bacalao fritters. Oh and a fancy Italian sausage roll which was layers of crunchy pastry around some beautifully flavourful pork. Probably my favourite. For all the food in the image at the top of this post, and 500ml of red wine, our bill would have come to about £45 – not bad at all.

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We washed this down with 500ml of red wine – wine is on draft and sold by the carafe. You can get a 250ml or 500ml. They also have prosecco on draft which I didn’t realise until much too late but I literally cannot wait to order me a pint of prosecco. There’s also beer, soft drinks, Campari and various other spirits but I stuck to the wine. It was Monday, goddamnit. I’m not sure if they removed the seating for the event because I’m pretty sure I saw some stools hiding around the back, but it would be good if there was some seating.

Rather than trying to be Bocca di Lupo 2, Vico offers a range of beautifully prepared, simple Italian finger foods that you eat at standing/perching tables, rather than sitting down for a full meal. It’s perfect for the location – quick for a good pre-theatre bite, great for families and probably quite nice for a quick dinner with friends. Will most definitely be back. Regularly.

Brunches and lunches, 2

Oh my, it’s been over a week since I posted again. Sorry ‘baht that. I’ve been a little emotionally unstable but nothing a lot of cake and a vat of wine won’t fix. Please feel free to send both of those things to me.

I’ve not been at home much over the last 10 days so there hasn’t been a huge amount of cooking done (there have been two occasions of Papa John’s wings though, which was delicious but probably not something to talk about here. But for future reference, if you’ve maybe had too many vats of wine, you should try the plain roasted wings and add your own sriracha – it’s the perfect cure. Washed down with a Tango, obvs).

There has however, been a lot of lovely brunches and lunches on which to report, so I’m going to do that RIGHT now.

First up, lunch at Blixen. As I mentioned in my previous post, I’m currently working in an office again and as luck would have it, my office is actual spitting distance from Spitalfields (see what I did there?)

Squid stew, Blixen

Now, I’m very old and I’ve been in London a significantly long time and I remember when Spitalfields did not look like it does now. And whilst I could rant about gentrification taking all the personality out of London (which it has and if you agree, check out the Save Soho campaign which is totally doing the right thing), right now I mostly want to talk about the awesomeness of Blixen, the latest offering from the people behind The Riding House Cafe and Village East. I went the week after it opened, with my darling friend Chris, who works just around the corner. At the time, I was suffering from a gigantic cold and cough and feeling a little sorry for myself (unusual, right?) and so I decided to have a Good Times juice of pear, pineapple and ginger and a warming squid, chorizo and chickpea stew with saffron aioli. Chris had some sort of salad because he’s weird and healthy and was delighted to be sitting across from my snot streaked face. The service was lovely, the stew was the kind of dish that seemed really simple but perfectly balanced and just gorgeous and the decor was understated elegance – loved every bit of it and cannot wait to return (this time to try the cocktails which I’m sure, based on their other restaurants, will be incredible)

Kale salad, blixen

Chris (and his darling husband, Neil) were my brunching partners this weekend too. I ventured south for the first time in years (for those of you outside London, there’s a huge north south divide – the Thames only serves to divide the capital) to meet the boys for brunch. The weekend just gone was the Rugby 7s. I don’t really know what this means and nor is it relevant, apart from to let you know that the Rugby 7s has a theme and this year’s theme was either galactic or out of this world. So I get on the tube in the north-west ‘burbs and half way through my journey, I find myself sitting opposite Pikachu. At about 10am. Which was weird of itself, but shit got weirder at Clapham North, where I made my way to street level to meet the boys and ran into The Avengers. Followed by a couple of unicorns. Followed by human Minecraft characters and then more Avengers and people in shiny all in one bodysuits which left nothing to the imagination and some spacemen. I reckon 95% of the population of South London was in costume. Honestly, this is why I don’t go to south London – it felt like I’d had some sort of acid flashback.

After that confusing start, we wandered down to Brickwood, a newish brunch venue that the boys have been raving about. And rightly so. Again, the boys are both on this health kick so had avocado on (gluten free) toast and bacon so I decided to make them drool by having the brioche french toast with syrup and bacon and orange blossom creme fraiche, all washed down with a couple of the best americanos I’ve ever drunk (and I say that having had Americanos from The Department of Coffee and Social Affairs in Spitalfields, which are also good but they don’t come with brioche french toast. Just sayin’).  FYI, the coffees in the main pic are piccolos from the Dept of Coffee – not americanos, which just aren’t that photo worthy. Whilst I doubt I’ll get back there again soon (flashback still too raw), if you’re in South London and looking for a brunch venue, check it out – worth it.

Brickwood

Other fun meals of note included a trip to Ottolenghi in Islington a few weeks back where I had an amazing broccoli salad with salmon. Doesn’t sound that impressive but tasted AWESOME. And a trip to Maltby Street Market at Ropewalk with the lovely Charlotte where we drank gin at 11am and then had scotch eggs and chocolate brownies from Bad Brownie. And when I say chocolate brownies, I mean a glorious oozing salted caramel brownie and a maple bacon brownie. Those were quite some brownies. I may never recover.

Bad Brownies (good brownies) Scotch Eggs

I did also take a fancy pants trip to Roux at the Landau but that deserves a post all of its very own. I love Michel Roux Jr. Turns out, I don’t love rabbit though. And my mum reminded me of a story about that, but I’ll share that in the Roux post. It’s a goodie.

I am continuing to stuff my face because it’s my most favourite thing to do and I’ll keep you posted on places of note. Would love to hear your Spitalfields/Shoreditch recommendations though – I’m going a bit snow blind from all of the choice around there…

Chowing down in Goa

Finding an ‘authentic’ Goan meal is probably much the same as trying to find authentic tapas on the Costa del whatever – because the economy is so dependent on tourism, the beach side shacks and hotel restaurants are simply catering for the tourist trade, so feature chips, burgers and Russian salads extensively. And I’m not complaining too much – there isn’t actually anything better than a plate of salty chips and a Kingfisher whilst sitting by the pool. However, after a few days, all I wanted was a well spiced (ie not watered down for the tourists) curry or just something a bit different. And maybe a menu that wasn’t just in English and Russian.

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So we spent a lot of time looking at Trip Advisor for the best restaurants in Mandrem – and found that the place across the road from Jamboree Creek was voted sixth best in the area – and given that we’re hugely lazy, 6th best was OK by us.

Rotisserie at Fritchy

So when you look at Fritchy on Trip Advisor, the dishes look a bit like this.

http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Restaurant_Review-g1010240-d5966356-Reviews-Frichty-Mandrem_Goa.html
http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Restaurant_Review-g1010240-d5966356-Reviews-Frichty-Mandrem_Goa.html

When we arrived, however, there was one gigantic table stretched out across an open courtyard with a chalkwritten menu that suggested that there was only one thing on offer – rotisserie chicken with roasted corn and bread. And booze, obviously.

I love nothing more than a simply spiced roasted chicken so we decided to stay. Long story short, the owners decided to try something new and this new Fritchy had only opened three days prior to our visit. And my god, it was good – really simple, well cooked, lovely bread and even a passable Indian wine (Sula, should you be looking for a wine when you’re in India). And to be honest, whilst the fancy pants fine dining experience would have been nice, this felt more in keeping with our Goan vibe – much more chilled, a great way to meet new people on the shared dining table.

You have to get there early as once the chickens are cooked and sold, that’s it. The owner/chef was only making three a day because of the quiet season so if you’re there after 7.30ish, you may not get fed.

It’s also incredibly good value – at 600rupees per chicken dinner with booze on top of that, you’re eating out for less than £4 per head.

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A sublime dinner at Sublime

Having missed out on fine dining at Fritchy (in favour of roast chicken- no great loss), we asked Priyanka for her recommendations of places to eat locally. What we were actually looking for was beach shack type authentic Goan cuisine of curries and fish and stuff, but we were convinced by her to try out Sublime in nearby Morjim – a fusion restaurant combining the best of Goa, France, Japan and lord knows where else but all deliciously tasty. Given that the final bill came to about £20 per head, including a lot of cocktails and three courses, it was fantastic value for money. If you’re in North Goa, it’s definitely worth a trip there – we arrived too late to see sunset but imagine it would be glorious from one of the beach tables. The restaurant itself is small – probably only 40 covers but beautifully decorated with a boat hanging from the centre of the room (by way of lighting I think!) and what looks like a raised platform with a mattress and mosquito nets where you could have an intimate cocktail or two with a loved one. My memory is rubbish but the one thing you have to try is the Paan Martini – my god, that cocktail. I dream about that cocktail. Also the ginger battered calamari starter was insanely good and the banana leaf fish. And according to the wino, the prawn starter with risotto was amazing but clearly I couldn’t try that. We shared a dessert platter which is basically three of the four desserts, full size, to share. Mon dieu. Delicious.

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The End of the World

We finally got our beach side authentic vibe on Mandrem beach at The End of the World. The wino ordered prawns, I had chicken xacuti, both were fabulous and best eaten watching the sunset whilst enjoying a beer. However, this was the place that had removed the fish eyes when they brought out the plate from which to entice you to choose, so I’m not sure how fresh they were. However, the chicken xacuti was amazing and would have been a trip highlight, if we hadn’t had better at Casa Susegad, made by the lovely Joanita.

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Zeebop at Urtoda beach

Our final beachside lunch was at Zeebops at Urtoda beach. Recommended by the lovely chaps at Casa Susegad, Zeebops was probably the best seafood we had all trip – beautifully cooked fish that the four of us shared, a lovely quiet beach and great company – as well as a sighting of Bollywood star, Karina Kapoor, having a photoshoot on the beach that day. Lovely.

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