Tag Archives: eating out

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.

IMAG2892

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.

IMAG2889IMAG2890

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.

Advertisements

North London Sundays (and eating WAY too much)

Twice a year, my husband and a bunch of other middle aged, not at the peak of fitness, mates play cricket in Regents Park. They love it, it’s literally the highlight of my husband’s year – I reckon, given a choice he would take two afternoons of cricket over an all expenses paid trip to, oh, I don’t know, Costa Rica. (FYI, if anyone wants to send me to Costa Rica, I’m well up for it).

One year, early in our courtship, I drove Marcel to cricket, and stood in the drizzle for maybe six hours watching them play and then went to the pub with some of the cricketers and listened to them reliving their every move from the cricket match. Whist I was stone cold sober because I was driving. Have I mentioned I find cricket quite tedious? Even though I’m a good Sri Lankan gal.

I’ve since learned that life’s too short to spend hours pretending to care about cricket, so this year, with the first of the two matches this summer approaching, I realised that my dear friend Alex was also playing, which meant that his girlfriend Katie would be free. Now I’ve known Alex for a decade (ish) and whilst he’s great (mostly), Katie is one of those truly awesome, clever and beautiful women and as she’s relatively new in my life, I figured it’d be the perfect opportunity to get to know her better (and let our men folk do that cricket nonsense). And of course, because we love them, we’d turn up to watch, maybe one – definitely not 5 – hours of their “glory” on the field. Pitch? I literally don’t know or care.

So we booked a table at the York & Albany which is spitting distance from the Hub in Regents Park.And one of my favourite places in London (introduced to me by another gorgeous, clever, funny friend, Sarah who bloody moved to Bristol a few years ago and I miss her madly and often. I should really go to Bristol more often :-))

IMAG2230

Thankfully Katie likes a drink, so we started off by ordering a bottle of prosecco before we’d even contemplated the food. Now, I was still a little hanging from the Secret Cinema thingie (turns out you can drink a lot in Tattooine and the space booze makes your hangover last for two days), During those two days, I think everything I ate was either beige (toast, humous) or brown (chocolate). Not a green thing or a red thing or an fruity thing passed my lips. By Sunday however, I was feeling up to a breakfast smoothie (yup, those are still rearing their heads on occasion) and then headed out to meet Katie for lunch.

The reason I mention the hangover is because we had our prosecco and a bread basket (obvs – we’re not carb free fools) and I decided that I needed something light after two days of hangover eating, so ordered the cod. Despite there being what looked like an AMAZING Yorkshire pudding with the roast beef. And Katie’s roast chicken looked incredible. And to go with my cod, I ordered a rocket and tomato salad. Have I mentioned, I don’t really like tomatoes before? Well I don’t. I honestly don’t know what I was thinking other than I needed green things.

IMAG2231 IMAG2232

York & Albany is a Gordon Ramsay venue so we knew the food would be good and it was. Not mind-blowing but good, honest food. One of the reasons I knew I was going to love Al’s girlfriend was the first time we met, she ignored starters because she knew she’d want pudding. My kinda gal. So we ordered two – a lemon posset with an earl grey granita and shortbread. And a chocolate brownie with salted caramel ice cream. Jesus wept, they were awesome. That salted caramel ice cream blew my mind.

We naturally had a cocktail with which to wash down our puddings and then we headed over to see the last bit of the cricket and drink more prosecco. Apparently Marcel’s team beat Alex’s team (I honestly have no idea what was going on).

IMAG2234

At some point, a few hours later, we found ourselves a little peckish. The incredible sportsmen we are married to/dating were also hungry so decided we’d head to Q-Grill in Camden, one of my favourite locations and home to some of the best macaroni cheese I’ve ever had.

Q-grill specialises in grilled meat so probably not the best place for a veggie – thankfully none of us are. I have a big love for fried chicken so ordered the buttermilk chicken with seasoned fries (which came with deep fried pickles – delish), Katie had the same but in a bun form, the boys had burgers and one of the other cricketers had pork cheeks with cheesy grits.

IMAG2236 IMAG2237 IMAG2238

I honestly don’t think I could have walked another step after eating that much that day, so thank the lords for Uber. Here’s to many more lovely ‘ladies wot lunch’ lunches. Possibly not with ‘stuff your face’ dinners on the same day though

Lunching out: Barrafina

I have mentioned before I have a huge extended family – lots of cousins, second cousins, third cousins once removed, aunts, uncles and other non-blood but still family, family members. And I love it, it’s great to be part of a big old clan that’s spread out across the world.

However, my darling husband has a much smaller clan so I think the shock of becoming part of mine took a while to get used to but they do love him dearly (and I think he’s quite fond of them!) This week by way of making up for the amount of time he spends with my lot, I made plans to hang out with his elder sister, Joy.  Joy and I share a lot of the same interests so it’s lovely having a new friend to hang out with, And when I say the same interests, I mean we both love food and we don’t mind a glass of something winey to go with it. We’re simple folk.

We decided to have a day out in town, the theory was a spot of lunch followed by a bit of culture. However, we got our gossip hats on and ended up two bottles of wine down with our only nod to culture being a swift peruse of the beautiful clothes in Cos. Where I’ve found what may be the perfect dress for Marcel’s other sister’s wedding this Autumn, isn’t it lovely? Such an awesome colour and a cute pleat in the back. (sorry for the crappy screen capture image but follow the link above to see it).

cos dress

But lunch was incredible, despite the lack of culture – we got to Barrafina just before midday and were first in the queue so we knew we’d get a seat. We started with a glass of txakoli whilst we listened to the specials and made our way through the menu.

If you’ve never been to Barrafina before, it’s a beautiful little tapas place in the centre of Soho that seats about 20 around an L-shaped counter so you have to get there early if you don’t want to queue. The food is never less than amazing – I don’t think I’ve had anything I don’t like there. The bar is placed around the cooking stations, so you can watch food being prepared and perv over the attractive staff. Not that we did that of course, we’re much too sophisticated. Honest.

IMAG1572

So we decided to go with a couple of the specials and a couple of old favourites from the menu. We ordered the chiparones, a fennel, radish and cherry tomato salad, the ribs, an amazing tempura monkfish and a dish made up of three of my favourite all time ingredients – chickpeas, bacon and spinach. What’s not to love?

The chiparones were the first to arrive, which is always good because they’re the perfect snacking food. Little bite sized morsels of squid, with a little squeeze of lemon – just lovely. I would say they needed a smidge more seasoning but I do like salt a little too much so that could just be my palate, and also it’s not one of those places that refuses to give you salt or pepper to add. So not really a complaint.

IMAG1573

We then got the monkfish with the fennel salad – a perfect partnership. The monkfish is one of those dishes I’d have as my final meal – lightly tempura-ed, covered in a spicy mango salsa – every mouthful was a delight, just beautiful. And it went perfectly with the fennel salad, which was fresh and clean and elegant. Even the tomatoes and we know I’m not a big fan of tomatoes.

IMAG1576 IMAG1575

The chickpeas came next with the ribs. I think the ribs were the biggest disappointment, and even they were still good. I think we hadn’t quite considered how big it would be and whilst they were cooked perfectly and the meat came off the bones easily, the sauce was a little too sweet – I think I should learn to listen to the specials more closely, rather than being blinded by pig. I also forgot to take a picture until we’d started digging in so this is half way through eating.

IMAG1577

The chickpeas, bacon and spinach were in a light broth, perfectly spiced and seasoned. With a few chunks of bread to mop up all the incredible sauces (and a carafe of Albarino to keep us chatty), it was a great way to while away a couple of hours on a rainy Thursday afternoon. Looking forward to my next day out with my sister in law!