LOVE FOOD, LIVE FOODIE:
The legend has a permanent home. This is big news for foodies across London and England. Smokestak with its legendary beef and pork ribs has opened its first restaurant. As an ever popular of visitors to Dinerama, Street Feast and Hawker House, Smokestak has built a large following and great fan fare.
Now Smokestak is no longer just a stall at a food hall with others, it is now a destination and establishment in its own right.
I waited a week, got a table and went with my brothers. A night of meat and liquor. Sounds good to me and the bros.
So how do you turn two or three dishes into a restaurant? Well, look above and see the extended menu.
What they have done here, is to tease the foodies with some snacks to begin your visit with. Dishes like scratchings and pig tails are there tonne picked and grazed at.
Then from here come the proper starters. Beef brisket buns with red chilli was the dish we ordered to share. This is one of the classics which have made smokestak a fan favourite. Juicy beef with the sweet chili brings a tang to it and this moistens the burger and adds another layer of flavour to the dish.
Most of the dishes here are probably best for one person. Three sliders is easy to devour, especially when they are so tasty. The same goes for the beef and pork ribs.
As as a family of people who share, us brothers ordered a few dishes and gobbled them up between us. This is the third group on the menu. Aim of the dishes is to share and please and we did this and even ordered more.
The fourth group is all about the sides. For the sides we only ordered the grilled baby gem. We focused on the meat mainly.
I would say, the sides and snacks are not really needed and therefore, I most probably would go to Dinerama if I wanted to Smokestak fix instead of a sit down meal. Quick and easy and it can work out a bit cheaper too. I am happy that the restaurant is there as it will prove a great backup if Dinerama ever leaves.
The dark and rusty settings remain true to the Smokestak look, with huge smokers surrounding the tables. This machinery dominates the restaurant and rightly so, as it is this which has taken a crew and their machine into to London foodie destination.
It is great to have a home, somewhere permanent and stable. Smokestak, most importantly sticks to what it is great at and that is smoked meats. Add the rest of the snacks, starters and sides; top it off with cocktails and local brew and you will most likely be very happy.
"Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me."
Well, what this means is that I am going for the Burger Challenge again. This time in 2017, I am going to win and do 10 burgers in 10 hours.
Please do show your support and do join me on the day
A brief summary is below in an easy WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE and WHY style
Who: Life of Shayan and his team will be involved in eating the burgers. Ten of your fave burgers chains will also be taking part and donating their burgers and time
What: The challenge is to eat 10 burgers in 10 hours; hence #10burgers10hours. I tried this in January 2016 and only managed 9.
When: January 21 2017 - more details TBC
Where: London and Beyond- all depends on who will help and where I can go.
Why: To help Great Ormond Street Hospital and for me to eat Burgers. A great cause and a great Charity. We need your help to help the children.
Please do show your support and do join me on the day
A Biryani specific restaurant. It's all happening now.
AND I am so happy about it. A lucky day for me as the owner Dhruv reached out to ask if I wished to try his new restaurant in Soho and I am a team player, So yes I said and off I went.
Dhruv Mittal, the owner and creator of DUM Biryani House had this idea to cater for hungry eaters and busy people. The plan here was to showcase the Biryani dish and the best of South Indian cuisine.
The name and concept of the 'DUM' is based on the cooking technique of steaming the rice on a low heat until it infuses with the herbs, spices and meat too.
The idea is a clever and simple one and this reflects itself on the menu too. The menu is a selection of dishes that coincide with drinks and cocktails. A very refreshing selection of cocktails were on the menu and I went for the Haramzaade (purely based on the name and Rum), which meant thief or Bastard. Funny.
Food, next. This based on the menu, was a quick and easy decision. We went for a starter each and a Biryani each (one lamb and one Veg). This we thought would be enough and boy was it enough and more.
For the starters we went for the Chicken Wings, which were tossed in a hot and sour spicy sauce and the Channa Masala (black chickpea salad). The chicken wings were as described and with five pieces between Laura and I, we managed to get our fair share. One extra for me). These wings were tangy and sweet and a good level of heat. Sticky and crunchy, a great set of wings and I don't usually say this at an Indian restaurant. Good work Dhruv.
The chickpea salad was a great salad to accompany these wings with a good crunch from the remainder of the salad bit. Alongside the crunchy onions and fresh tomatoes were lovely pomegranates and coriander too. Delicious. I think this is a must, especially considering how filling the biryani is (more on this later).
Throughout my night in the restaurant, I was really impressed by the venue itself, the decor and strangely enough, the music. Dhruv had insisted on playing old school hip hop in the background and I am a big fan. With Tupac and Biggie reciting their rhymes, Laura and I were eating our food, whilst nodding our heads to the good beats and soulful lyrics. We deep like that!
Dhruv and the team, well done. Your aim to deliver good Biryani to Londoners is accomplished. Two Happy Customers right here.
It was an option of two Biryanis for two people: Lamb Shank and Seasonal Veg. Both came along with sides or condiments, which we later taught are usually included in the Biryani.
With the Lamb Shank came: - Curry with Green Chilli and Half Boiled Egg and Smoked Aubergine Raita With the Seasonal Veg came: - Mirch Salan (Curry with Green Chilli) Fried Okra Raita
Dhruv had decided to put the curry and raita on the sides of the Biryani to let the customer decide how spicy or not he would want their food. This was a great idea and made the experience feel like three different types of Biryani. The heat of the curry was great and their was much warmth and earthiness to the dish. The lamb was very tender and the 'DUM' cooking technique made the meat fall off the bone and straight into my mouth.
The Seasonal Veg Biryani came with Wild Mushrooms, Chickpeas, Potatoes and Peas Inside. All of this goodness and the the curry and raita on the side made the Biryani amazing. Two poppadoms also come with the dish and all this at under £15 is a steal.
£15 for all of that Biryani is ridiculous. There was so much in the dish that Laura and I barely managed to finish half of each. Dhruv sure does know how to treat people; such a generous portion and so tasty. We were absolutely stuffed.
What a welcome to London. Dhruv has bought along all his personal tastes, music, food and comedy to please his punters and it has definitely worked. If you want Biryani, go to DUM, if you want good food, then go to DUM.
Basically, go to DUM.
Pizza, Pizza, Pizza. It's everywhere now. North, East, South, West; Shayan likes to travel for what is best.
Or what I hope is best.
This excursion and adventure was instigated by Josie and off we went to Santa Maria Pizzeria in Chelsea. I had not heard of them before but did my research and started to get excited.
Having had a successful restaurant in Ealing, the crew decided to open part two in Chelsea. Focusing on traditional Napoletena Pizza, they aspire to feed everyone with an authentic taste of Naples and providing 'Quality and Quantity at honest prices'.
Being with Laura and her sister, I was able to experience Santa Maria with two people who have been to Naples and experienced the authentic thing. Their opinion was important (as always) this time.
We were very hungry this lunch time, so as a start we went for Bruschetta (which was topped with tomatoes, garlic, oregano and oil), Aubergines Parmigiana (aubergines cooked in olive oil, with tomato sauce, mozzarella, parmesan and fresh basil), Smoked Mozzarella Balls in a tomato sauce and FINALLY Burrata Pugliese ( Stuffed cheese in cheese with rocket and roasted cherry tomatoes).
Quite a lot and all with a healthy portion of freshly baked bread.
A good, filling start from Santa Maria, with the rich tomato sauce and cheese keeping us happy.
A good start, now for the Pizza.
We had to wait...
a long while. We waited to get their attention...
to ask about our Pizzas and then...
waited some more for the Pizza to finally arrive. I am not sure why it took so long; one of the key facts of cooking Pizza is the hot ovens which allow the food to be cooked so quickly. This Sunday wasn't particularly busy either, but still we waited. We were three unhappy and fed up customers.
The Pizza had better be worth it.
Unfortunately, the Pizza was not that good. We had all ordered differently. One Calzone, a ham, rocket and tomato Pizza and one Ham, Artichoke and mushroom Pizza. Three strong choices.
That is what we thought and hoped, but Santa Maria was not able to deliver on flavour and taste. Things just seemed to be missing. Seasoning was lacking from the Pizza; the urge you get of wanting to eat more and more was not there with our Pizzas. The bite and crunch of the base and dough was missing and although the base was nice and fluffy, it lacked that char and bite from a wood fired oven that we all wanted.
The bad service and Pizza not really living up to current London standards meant this visit became more of a social thing rather than a foodie experience.
It was a good start, a mediocre middle and the same with the ending; once again left waiting to leave and pay the bill. Put the customers first and I am sure the rest will sort itself out. I don't think I will be back to try this place.
I do hope the Pizza is better in Naples.
Oh My. Oh My. I am a humble guy, but I must say, I made a great decision this night. Before going out, I decided to treat my wife and I to dinner at Rok Islington. I had read a lot about this place and knew it was one of the new places in London to visit. The critics loved it, the foodies had all been raving on about it, so I finally plucked up the courage to go. Being spontaneous is what keeps my marriage life happy.
Rok; what is it?
Using their words it is:
"We're about simplicity & smoke.
Rök smokehouse is influenced by the old cooking techniques of Northern Europe. We specialise in brined and cured British meats, all cooked on fire served alongside fermented and preserved seasonal UK produce."
Simple and Smoke. Sounds good. Looking at the menu, I was confident that RoK would live up to the hype. Reading the menu, made me want to order everything, but we were advised to choose a dish each from each section. On this eve, we were not too hungry so avoided the starters ( I won't miss out next time) and therefore ordered a Main each, with a side too.
We ordered the Guinea Fowl and Duck as our mains and with these we had Cauliflower cheese and Burnt Sweet Potatoes as our sides. It doesn't sound like much but it was more than enough. My belly cannot handle much these days.
All four dishes can be described as EPIC. I don't use this term often, however RoK offered me the opportunity to use it, purely based on the food. The sides matched the mains and at times I treated all four as four main dishes. I mean, although Laura and I ordered separately, we are so in Love that we always share. YEAH! well cringe worthy.
Visually, each dish was equally EPIC too. The use of colours worked perfectly on this autumn night and with a seasonal menu, you get what you want, when you need it. On Halloween weekend, this meant Orange and Root veg with Sweet Potato, a pumpkin mash, Roast Parsnip and Mushroom. Makes you feel warm already. Warm and Smokey in fact.
The two sides were spectacular. The cauliflower cheese had beef dust on it and this was a key factor in us ordering it. The rich cheese and heat of the dish made it easy for us not to devour it all in one go and made it last throughout our meal. The beef dusting was subtle but added a nice earthiness to the dish. Good work RoK.
The burnt sweet potato mash was also up there, if not better. The horseradish creme fraiche gave a nice contrast to the sweet potato that worked perfectly. Who would have thought it? Potato and Creme Fraiche; not me. The horseradish element and burnt potato added an array of textures which made Laura and I keep on returning to this dish. Laura was full before me and this left me the chance to finish the rest of this dish off, when a lot was still left.
Mallard and Quail. Not two dishes you would order too often, or see on a menu. I haven't done my research on Nordic food, but if this is what the locals have in Norway, then please book me a flight.
The meat on both were cooked really well. The quail coming off the bone with minimal effort, whilst the mallard meat was tender and juicy. The warmth of the veg alongside each dish made it really hearty and very filling too.
I would say the food is definitely top quality and up there with places that have rosettes or Michelin stars and the great thing with RoK is that the portion sizes are very generous. I would say that if we have ordered starters, we probably would have not finished the main courses and sides.
This smokehouse puts as much attention to all aspects of the dish in order to make it a winner. The smoke on the puree or the mushroom and even on the cheese; all make this little restaurant a big destination in London. A quick word on the service; this could be a bit better. Our waitress spent a lot of her time waiting for the food and not being attentive, so it did take a while to get her attention for extra drinks and the bill at the end.
A great night of food with a great use of seasonal food and flavours. Thank you to a great night of RoK and ROLL. GET IT.