Archive | February, 2012

Market

18 Feb

Don’t you just love it when someone buys you a present and they then doubt themselves and then overcompensate with additional gifts? Well, sometimes I love it. Often it means receiving some body cream I will never use or a spotty notebook I will too embarrassed to be seen out with. However, it can work out. For Christmas my sister bought me a couple of great gifts, the mother of these being Thor on DVD (this is not a joke (I really like this film (I LOVE Thor))) and after much worrying she decided to treat me to lunch at Market in Camden to make up for it. I don’t mean a dodgy Chinese where the meat is more likely cat or human than pork from Camden Market, but a small restaurant on Parkway serving modern British fare with seasonal produce. At £10 for two courses during lunch times on a weekday, this was some rather inspired work from my sister (also known as Liza) – a restaurant I most definitely wanted to visit for the price of some utterly forgettable consolation present.

On a crisp day in January Liza and I joined forces on our matching day off and from different parts of London we headed into Camden, colliding outside the tube station. This is not entirely accurate as I was early and Liza was late and I had to wait, biding my time by painting my nails with all the tester bottles of nail varnish in American Apparel. The girl in the shop did not find me annoying at all, just like I wasn’t finding Liza’s inconsiderate tardiness increasingly frustrating. Because we are sisters I was very understanding when she finally decided to turn up 10 minutes later than originally arranged.

When we walked into Market a member of staff did that disconcerting thing of looking worried while scanning the room as a result of saying we had not booked a table. Now answer me this, why does this sort of response only happen when the restaurant is at most a quarter full and at a time where it won’t get much busier? This is not a criticism on the place because it seems to happen everywhere so there must be a reason. Right? So anyway, once she had found an empty table (if it were a competition, I would have won) we sat down and were promptly given the menus. My eyes went straight to the £10 deal at the top but it took a little longer for Liza to understand. I think because she didn’t want to give up on the idea of having absolutely everything on the main menu. Soz Lize, it is your own restrictions holding you back.

As there were two options per course I decided to order the opposite of whatever Liza ordered which meant that although I had to go for the cauliflower fritters, I did get to order the linguine with chorizo as Liza inexplicably went for the grilled chicken breast. As soon as they took our menus away she knew it was a mistake and I believe she was in a state of confusion for the rest of the meal. Imagine what she’d be like if she didn’t have someone like me to look up to? Eating cauliflower fritters as well as chicken breast I’d imagine.

We waited quite a while for starters. I didn’t mind so much as Market really is a nice restaurant to sit in. Cool, bright and casual and our table was placed in great viewing distance of the kitchen pass. This did mean that I received a constant reprimanding from Liza as I seemed to be concentrating on my food arriving more than our conversation. But it is so tantalising when you are so hungry and you see your cauliflower fritters that you were never that excited about waiting at the pass for ten minutes while your sister’s starter is sent to the wrong table. It all ironed itself out in the end and my fritters which were just a bit cold were finally put in front of me.

Surprisingly, I really enjoyed them. Despite their temperature they were crispy and light and the creamy mayo went very well with it. The mayo was especially delicious, being all genuine and olive oily. I was gross and ate the remainder out of the pot using my finger once I had run out of dipping appendages. Another surprise was how much the sprinkling of paprika really livened up the dish. Cauliflower seems to have such a bad rep as being the most boring vegetable in the world, but come to think of it, I really like it. I think I had been swayed by the opinions of others when I should have stayed true to myself. I love it when a meal leads to a moral lesson.

Liza’s starter was mushrooms on toast. Even with my new found love for the flower we call cauli, I cannot deny that Liza won the starter round. The mushrooms were rich, earthy and almost boozy in taste and the toast was crispy and possibly fried in the same pan as the mushrooms. It was so simple yet so ridiculously good – I like it when that happens. But I mostly like it when it is my starter and not someone else’s.

Despite the long wait for our first course, the main dish followed shortly after the starters were cleared away. This was good because I was still very hungry, my cauliflower fritters having opened my hunger gates even further rather than closing them. Luckily my relationship with pasta is that it takes very little to fill me up. Once Liza and I went to Florence together and we found a restaurant that sold spaghetti and nothing but spaghetti and that was wonderful. Not wonderful were the sporadic opening times that made no sense but we managed to eat there three times in 4 days. I tell you this because I think it important that you have an idea of how important pasta is to us.

This linguine with tomato and chorizo went down very well. As predicted, I filled up pretty quickly but it was so moreish I managed to finish the lot. The sauce was creamier than expected with a strong tomato flavour and a nice spicy kick from the chorizo. It wasn’t groundbreaking but it is the kind of pasta dish I wish I made at home rather than the usual dollop of pesto from a jar. I wish I had the foresight to keep some of the sourdough given to us at the beginning of the meal to wipe up the rest of the sauce.

I believe Liza was jealous, but as I have already explained, she only had herself to blame. Her chicken was nice though and it came with some wonderful crispy fried potatoes. When trying each others meals I think I was a little greedy with her spuds which I do feel bad about but it was a meal gifted to me so I don’t feel that bad. There was a bale of rocket on top of the chicken which was tasty but aesthetically it made my inevitably terrible photo look even worse. So that is my excuse.

I think you can deduce that for £10 this was a pretty successful meal. It really is astonishingly good value, especially in a place which is surprisingly devoid of good eateries. We decided not spend extra on pudding in favour of doing a bit of shopping and finally ending our day at Yumchaa for a nice cup of Earl Grey for me and a less nice cup of mulled tea for Liza which just tasted of mulled water. The banana and nutella bread was an excellent addition.

So I think it is only right that after Liza’s initial doubts that Thor on DVD would not be adequate present enough I should provide her with some words of thanks and support: Thank you Liza, for a delicious meal and your time and don’t stop doubting yourself for then you will never let me down.

Market Restaurant
43 Parkway
London, NW1 7PN
http://www.marketrestaurant.co.uk/
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Season Kitchen

8 Feb

Just over a year ago I was walking back home from Finsbury Park station when I got the sudden craving for some chicken from Nando’s. I love Nando’s. Sometimes I literally cannot get enough of it. So with a quarter chicken (medium heat) and peri chips in mind, I changed my normal route home and walked along Stroud Green Road towards the glowing light of Nando’s welcoming sign. I peered into shop windows in order to check out my reflection, as I am sure at least 75% of you lot do, when I noticed a new shop interior. No longer a place selling shampoo, hair extensions and nail varnish, this shop was now a restaurant and a rather hip and cool one at that. So cool I couldn’t quite make out the name of the restaurant as it was painted in gloss black over a matt black background and it was also night-time, thus very dark. ‘Se-a-son’ I read out slowly as my eyes adjusted to the lack of light. That suggested seasonal produce to me and with a quick glance at the menu my suspicions were confirmed. I got out my phone and called my good friend Frances who handily only lived around the corner: ‘So like, there’s this new restaurant on Stroud Green Road and it like looks nice and cool and stuff’ and moments later I had stepped inside to nab us a table, my original trip to Nando’s all but forgotten.

We had three courses of hearty and very good food and I felt proud to inform anyone I could that a restaurant of such high-caliber could be found just round the corner from me. And then when Giles Coren said it was brilliant I was proud to point everyone to that review. So I am surprised that it has not been picked up by other critics as the new hot thing, and I am equally surprised at myself that it took a whole year for me to return. It was Frances who suggested another visit and it didn’t take much prodding for me to agree.

Season does feel a bit like a shop inside. It is a square room with the kitchen at the back, much like the layout of many of the shops along the road with the goods out front and the till at the end. Our table was the very same I sat at on our first visit which I thought must be a good omen. Another good omen was the gorgeous soda bread immediately placed on our table once we had sat down. It is so treacley and oaty I’d be happy just eating that with butter for dinner. But that is not why I was there and thankfully the menu was very reassuring. We ordered a bottle of wine, and just like the last visit I found myself incapable of politely asking for ‘the house red’, instead barking out ‘YOU KNOW, THE CHEAPEST RED ONE’ which was both uncouth and not very ladylike, but who am I to dismiss a rather quick setting tradition.

I went for Roast Bone Marrow with Parsley, Radish and Toast to start.  I love bone marrow so it was a fairly easy decision, however the last time I ate it when it had not been added to a sauce to make it AWESOME was at Hawksmoor and it was pretty grim – a huge bone filled with marrow that was just a bit too jellyish (everything else is brilliant at Hawksmoor though). So when I ordered the bone marrow at Season I did have worries that maybe St John was the only place that could cook it successfully. The plate arrived and I was pleased to see that the bone was more dainty than huge, which was a very good start. However, one must never judge a book by its cover, beauty is only skin deep, and the proof is in the tasting. With all this in mind I boldly scooped some of the marrow out, briefly admiring the faint wobble as it was transferred from boney cave to toast, and then the ease of spread, melting ever so slightly with the residual warmth from the charred bread. I artfully added a leaf of parsley, a round of radish and a sprinkling of salt as a final embellishment before the inevitable journey towards my mouth. The journey was smooth yet swift as I was hungry, but most importantly the landing was superb. I ate it all very quickly, the last few bites less considered than my first but enjoyed just as much. I love the animal butteriness and slight greasiness of marrow and I will until the day I die. Thankfully my Hawksmoor experience was just a freak accident, not to be a regular occurence.

Frances had Rabbit and Marmalade on toast. I did try a bit but I was too busy enjoying the marrow to remember what it was like. But for what it is worth, Frances confirms it was very nice.

We both went for the same main: Pot Roast Guinea Fowl with Black Pudding and Potato Cake.  As I was very hungry I was pleased to see a rather large plate piled high with meat and carbs. Alas, it appears my eyes are bigger than my stomach, and though I managed to finish it (Booyah!) the last third was most definitely what one may call a struggle. The meat was moist and succulent and was bathed in the gamey liquid it was cooked in. However, my highlight of this dish was the circle of black pudding which was rich and had a good smattering of barley throughout which gave it a very pleasant chew. There was a lot of potato, which probably added weight to my struggle, but one can hardly complain as I do like potato and the many guises it comes in.

As you may have gathered, I was full to the brim. I would also like to add that my wallet was a little bare. But there is something about Frances’ presence that makes me go for gold. I like this about her because it generally means that by throwing caution to the wind I tend to have a better time. It also lends an air of decadence to the proceedings, an air I very much like to breathe. This urge that she creates usually manifests itself in us spending £20 on snacks and dodgy sweets with the ingredients cannily printed in a foreign language on the back when we just popped out for a sharing bag of Doritos, but not at Season. At Season, we ordered desserts.

Rice Pudding with Berry Jam for me. For those of you who regularly read my blog, I understand that I may sound like a broken record. I think I am going to create a Rice Pudding Scale as a quick and simple way of understanding where each pudding stands in the grand scheme of riz au lait. Though all rice pudding is good and will vary in taste wherever you may happen upon it, I do struggle in describing it in a new and fascinating way each time. This rice pudding tasted of rice pudding and I gobbled it down quick. The berry jam was nicely sharp, cutting through the sweetness of the rice perfectly. Frances had Poached Pear with Brown Bread Ice Cream and Salted Caramel Hazelnuts. It is the dessert I would have ordered if I were a more interesting person.

Nursing my food baby, I gladly emptied my purse for Season’s troubles. I still find it so exciting having the opportunity of being so well fed just around the corner from my house, and though you may have guessed, I am not just talking about Nando’s. I’ll be moving south of the river soon so I am disappointed that Season will no longer be local, but I will follow its inevitable success like an obsessive ex-girlfriend.

 

Season Kitchen & Dining Room
53 Stroud Green Road
London N4 3EF
seasonkitchen.co.uk/