Tag Archives: Camden


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

New Years Eve

14 Feb

When it comes to celebrating New Years Eve I usually try to make it as much of a non-celebration as possible. I hate the pressure to have fun just because January is fast approaching. I don’t like the idea of new starts that everyone feels they should have because why wait till January to change something? Why not the beginning of the financial new year? Or the new school year? Or next Monday? Saying that, I have a firm belief (more like irrational superstition) that the success of the rest of your year will depend entirely on how the first day of the year pans out. This means I do not want to wake up mid-afternoon, hung over and trying to piece together the night before.

That is why I decided to end 2010 in style – feasting at the York and Albany in Camden and waking up refreshed in a four-poster bed in one of their superior rooms, breakfast included. All for a small (ahem) fee. With such a successful start to the year, 2011 would surely be a blast.

My boyfriend, Mark, and I arrived at the hotel mid-afternoon to get our money’s worth. This did mean that we needed something to eat  immediately and after much umming and ahhing over ringing up room service our nerves got the better of us and we decided make a trip next door to Nonna’s Deli –  related to the York & Albany through their daddy Gordon Ramsey. We told the staff that we were hungry but we would be eating a lot of food in a matter of hours so please feed us adequately room number 5 please. We were then told that we didn’t need to waste our time by visiting them – why didn’t we just ring up room service? On returning to our room we bumped into the lady on front desk who also explained to us that was what room service was for. Feeling a little sheepish, we accepted our plate of salad gratefully and enjoyed sharing it in the privacy of our own room where no one could see our red faces.

As expected, half a plate of salad would not close my hunger gates for long, and when the clock hit half 8 my belly gurgled in delight and desperation. Our table was right by the kitchen which was great. I expected it to be really noisy with the cooks accidentally dipping their hands in vats of boiling oil and then cutting of their fingers with huge Global knives just to be shouted at by the egotistical head chef for not seasoning the parmesan foam enough. I was wrong. It was all very calm and ordered and quiet but still really interesting to watch. Especially the head chef’s disdain over one particularly irritating waiter.

No amuse bouche or canapes – what a blow. Especially because I had been studying the NYE menu religiously for weeks so as not to pick the wrong courses, so a little snacky surprise would have gone down a treat. ‘Stop moaning and just order’ my stomach grumbled so I went for some foie gras. I don’t really like foie gras actually, I find it a bit uninspiring which either makes me unsophisticated or so sophisticated not even overpriced liver from an overfed duck or goose will satisfy me. Mark ordered the vegetarian starter (psh) of pumpkin ravioli with a beurre noisette. I’ll be honest, I was actually tempted to order that as well but I didn’t want to get the same thing as him so begrudgingly went the other way. Luckily I won the starter competition. My foie gras was quite nice and it came with some sort of apple chutney that was sharp and cut through the richness just so. Mark’s was nice too but lacking in the flavour department.

There was a choice of either venison or beef for the main course, and probably a plate of vegetables for the non-meat eaters but I paid no attention to that one. I was swayed to the beef because it looked so beautifully pink and moist perched on top of an island of mash, while  the venison came with wet polenta. I realised the other day that I have never tried polenta so there is no reason for me to believe that it is not for me. I am sure it is to do with the actual words ‘wet polenta’, like a cruel nickname given to the frail anaemic girl with thinning hair at primary school. Mark’s feelings were very much the same so rather than risk disappointment we both went for the beef. The glistening, juicy, rare beef. Red juices spilling out with every cut of the knife and staining the smooth, creamy mash. I really really love beef. If I were a celeb on Saturday Kitchen my food heaven would be beef. In fact, I found myself warming to Katie Melua last week when she selected the very same heaven.

Needless to say, I practically inhaled my main course. My belly thanked me with an appreciative roar and swelled with pleasure, threatening to rip my dress open with every breath… that is if the cheese course didn’t do it first. There was no cheese trolley to be wheeled out for us to awkwardly pick and choose from as if we actually knew anything about cheese other than we like it. Just a simple plate of a few slices accompanied by some chutney and crackers. No one offered any description of the cheeses and I was too scared to showcase my ignorance by asking so I only recognised a couple as being a robust cheddar and a mild goat’s cheese. There was one I couldn’t even begin to guess at that tasted purely of floor polish. Don’t get me wrong, I love a strong cheese, but this was something different. Not just strong, medicinal as well and unpleasant to say the least.

‘I wouldn’t put that in me again’ my belly suggested, so I took its advice and waited for pud. A moist custard tart with a scoop of ice cream. I love eggy dishes, there is something so comforting about the taste of yolk and I usually don’t trust people who don’t like it, along with people who don’t like cheese. The tart was wonderfully wibbly and smooth. It wasn’t as good as the custard tart Mark once had at Marcus Wareing which still makes me wonder how something could be so wet and yet solid, but I was pleased enough and it didn’t stop me from scoffing the lot. The flavour of the ice cream was not listed on the menu so I have no idea what it was meant to be, but it tasted just like guava Rubicon. And as I am partial to a carton of Rubicon from time to time I certainly did not find the ice cream to be unpleasant.

By this point I was tipping sideways off my seat, the weight of my belly keeping me off-balance. The irritating waiter that the head chef wasn’t so fond of asked us if we would like tea and we asked to take it in our room. He didn’t seem to like this but said it would be sent up anyway, so we dragged ourselves up the stairs to wait for Jools Holland to count us in to the new year. A wedding happened to be going on in a function room right next to our room so we listened to them drunkenly sing along to Dancing in the Moonlight while we waited for our hot bevvys. And we waited. And waited. And waited. In the end I had to do the terrifying thing of ringing up room service to ask where it was – they obviously didn’t know, but they sent the tea up shortly after that.

Finishing 2010 at the York and Albany was definitely a high point, ending the best culinary year of my life with a delicious and most importantly filling meal was fitting. I went to bed in the early hours of the morning thinking about what January 1st 2011 would bring me. If dinner was anything to go by breakfast should be a treat, thus securing the rest of my year to be filled with edible delights. Unfortunately, I had to think about this for a lot longer than intended as the wedding didn’t seem to want to end with rather hysterical renditions of Shaking that Ass blaring through our door. Mark had to ring the dreaded room service one more time to ask ‘errrr, will this ever end’ and the celebrations to finally come to a halt before I could sleep and wake up to my first meal of 2011.

The York and Albany
127-129 Parkway, London, NW1 7PS