Come for the food, stay for the footy

‘Who ate all the pies?’ Actually, it’s more a case of who ate the crab pannacotta and then the sea bass with salsify?  Nick finds his first football match to be a surprisingly tasty experience.

I have a confession to make; although I am an old geezer I have never been to a football match in my life. Until last Saturday.

My father was not remotely interested in football and my school played rugby. Ok, yah?  So, I was never going to be a football fan.

Plus, back in my teenage years, football was at its lowest point; mindless violence, both in and out of the stadiums, standing up in the cold for the whole ninety minutes and food that was barely worthy of the name. It really never appealed to me.

But, Watford FC’s, Hornets Hospitality, has  recently been awarded the highest accolade in Premier League hospitality. Continue reading

Taking the cure. Discovering proper smoked salmon at H.Forman & Son

Smoked salmon, once seen as a luxury food on the same level as caviar, is now available everywhere, but don’t be fooled by cheap imitations, says Nick.

‘Our old factory was roughly where the centre of the running track is now,’ says Lance Forman gesturing through the window in the direction of the site of the London 2012 Olympic games, a few hundred metres away.

It’s evidently still something of a sore point with him how, after over a century in the same place, the family firm of H.Forman was forced to move out so a wrecking ball could come crashing down. Continue reading

BOB’s Lobster, London Bridge.

BOB’s Lobster is a quite a catch, super fresh seafood in a modern diner setting and with some very inventive dishes that don’t all involve the lobster.

As I get older I find myself more and more doing that mindless humming thing, not even aware I am doing it, at least until I catch people looking at me with the ‘who’s the loon?’ expression.

I was humming again going into BOB’s Lobster, but this time I was humming the B-52’s classic ‘Rock Lobster’. It was impossible not to. Continue reading

Fancy Crab Restaurant Review

92 Wigmore St, London W1U 3RD fancycrab.co.uk

It looks like a Doctor Who style monster in the wild, but once caught and cooked the Red King Crab is one of the finest eating crustaceans there is. Trouble is, it’s not cheap.

Once in Paris I was taken, fatally hungover and feeling like death, to a very expensive and traditional seafood restaurant.

I managed the Lobster Bisque okay, albeit with some heavy pauses, then things took a turn for the worst

The waiters began laying out enough tools around my plate to service a Formula One car, and then came the crab. A whole one, which I was expected to dismantle myself using the tools provided.

Ten seconds after cracking the shell, overcome by nausea I had torn my bib off and was out in the street disgracing myself into a hole dug by the electric company.

The point of this story is to point out, for those people that seem to have been a bit confused, that a King Crab is not the same as a crab and King Crab is the focus of what they serve here.

With a King Crab, you don’t fossick around in the body with surgical tools, carefully avoiding the ‘dead man’s’ fingers, looking for the brown meat. You don’t go near a King Crab’s body at all.

You’re just after the legs, which are enormous, and claws, which aren’t exactly small either. The meat is white and rich and close to lobster in both looks, taste and texture

So, basically don’t expect a Cromer crab shack experience at Fancy Crab, one where you emerge all smelly with crab juice. This is a far more refined experience, as befits the rather opulent and attractive interior.

And it is all about the Red King Crab which comes frozen from the frozen north, but don’t panic. It’s cooked in sea water and then frozen on the boats, so it’s as fresh as can be.

We approached the mains sideways via some shared appetisers. First guacamole served in a large stone mortar with a bowl of tortilla chips and a bottle of Tabasco on the side.

The guaca was made well; a mixture of smooth and chunky just as it should be. It may possibly have been actually made in the mortar, and not with a blender. I do hope so, I’m a romantic.

Popcorn Calamari with homemade tartar sauce had good squid squares, I always find rings a bit naff, as if they had come from a factory, and they are usually rubbery.

These squares were butter soft with a crispy coat, but the tartare sauce was not as gherkiny, capery or indeed as vinegary as it needed to be for contrast and cut through.  Still, not bad by any means.

And so we scuttled onward to mains pausing only to drink very good Broken Dream Stout,  from the Siren Craft Brewery. Absolutely delicious beer and perfect with seafood.

There are various ways to eat Red King Crab here, the purist way is King Crab Legs & Claws on ice or baked over charcoal. It’s priced by weight. It is very expensive.

Millennials though can enjoy king crab in a bun, because they do like things in buns. King Crab Burger made from king crab meat with Belkovich (??) sauce comes in a buttery brioche bun with a crab leg stuck where the cocktail stick should be, making it look very jaunty and, of course, prepped for Instagram.

Or there’s King Crab Leg Gratin – crab meat with béchamel sauce and cheese crust, or Red King Crab Pappardelle using squid ink pasta with a lobster bisque sauce.

We decided to share some pure leg and claw prepped over charcoal, as well as a dish of Singapore Chili Crab with rice.

The pure meat dish was not a lot of crab for the cash, but then again King Crab isn’t exactly scampi so you can’t expect to get a lot.

It was as good as I remember it from eating it in Norway ten years when I had fierce monsters dragged fresh from the Bering Sea.

As I say, it has the texture and some of the appearance of lobster, although it doesn’t get caught in your teeth as much, and is sublimely sweet. The smokiness of the charcoal was a big plus here

A tangle of pickled cabbage served with it was all that was needed; no fries please, this isn’t street food, and we politely offered each other equal shares of leg and claw.

The Singapore Chili Crab was loaded with fresh red chillies, but they turned out to be less Rottweiler and more Poodle in their aggression.

Normally this would have disappointed me, but in fact it was just as well as the crab meat was delicately flavoured and didn’t need to be savaged by chili. Overall it was actually a little too sweet for my taste, and while it didn’t need chili, a bit of salt might have been welcome.

Garlic and lime flavours came through smoothly and spring onions added a bit of fresh crunch. Talking of which, we didn’t come across any crab shell, something that all too often irritates me in crab dishes.

The rice was rather like Japanese sushi rice, round and not long, I would have preferred Thai Jasmine or simple Basmati.

Desserts are fairly standard, but come out looking very pretty. Mine was too sugary but apart from that it was okay. Nothing to crab about.

There aren’t that many places that do King Crab in London and that’s a shame because it is a very special crustacean which for me, and many others, knocks the claws off of lobster.

Here they have got servicing it down to a fine art, and you don’t have to be rich. Set menus and brunches give everyone the chance to get their pincers on some royalty at a decent price.

This review appears on www.foodepedia.co.uk

Of palaces, pastries and pesto

Take a short break in Genova, the city of staircases with a charm uniquely of its own.

Christopher Columbus would not be pleased to see what’s become of the house he was born in. In fact, it’s not actually his original house at all but a reconstruction. The original was shelled half to bits by the French in 1684, and then finished off in 1900 by Genovan town planners.

It seems rather rough on the home of the city’s most famous son, but you soon realise that Genovans are not overtly given to sentiment. It’s a tough and gritty town on the surface, but with a soft centre made of pastries and pesto.

As you fly in, you see how Genova rises steeply from the sea, climbing hand over hand up the Ligurian mountains. At its base is a tangle of alleyways and ancient overlapping buildings that lean together for support, and thankfully leave little space for cars.

The town is hard-working and constantly in motion. It made shiploads of money back in the day from world trade, and the palaces that were built from the profits are grand and numerous. Some are now offices but many are fine museums while others are mutating into cool bars and antique shops.

Before heading off to explore the alleys, I stopped for lunch at Eataly on the docks and a seafood restaurant called Il Marin with fine third-floor views of the town.

Chef uses local produce and food is light and very good for the money. I had Mackerel ‘Giudia Style’, then spaghetti riddled through with local small, pink, tasty squid with spring onions, and followed that with Venchi dark chocolate and pear and coffee.

Heading into the dark mediaeval alleyways after was like entering catacombs. Often the only clues to the presence of the modern world outside being air conditioning units hanging precariously on walls and glimpses of sky far overhead.

Many of the ‘botteghe storiche’ or historic shops here have been trading for 200 years, and include confectioners, tailors, bakeries and butchers. I fired down a fast expresso at a tiny place called Tazze Pazze, said to have the best coffee in Genova and pressed on deeper.

A small ancient tripe shop, Tripperia La Casana, with marble tables seemingly unchanged since forever, had an aroma that had me heading straight back out again. Their tripe stew is very popular, but it’s not for me.


Ah but chocolate, yes please. Viganotti is a tiny shop that has made and sold chocolates since 1886. Peer past the owner’s mother, on stern guard at the old wooden counter, and you can glimpse belt-driven ancient machinery grinding and mixing. Each piece is different, not mass-produced, and delicious.

Not to be missed whenever you see it, and you see it a lot, is the Genovan focaccia. a regional specialty (fugassa in the Ligurian dialect). Thinner than usual focaccia and crispier, Genovans love it so much they will even dip it into their coffee the way we do digestives


Head for the Focacceria San Lorenzo where they sell by weight; the Focaccia di Recco, is the one to definitely try – two very thin layers of dough sandwiching fresh cheese that melts in the fierce oven heat.

It came in handy for energy as I began to labour up the inclines. Puffing up one particularly steep slope, I was overtaken by a young Genovan mother pushing a loaded double pram with one hand while having a phone conversation with the other. She made it look easy, while I stopped and had a conversation with my shoes for a short while.

Luckily the Genovans have, over time, found their ‘vertical city’ a bit challenging as well, and have done something about it with elevators and funiculars.

Next to Genova’s main rail station, you can take the Montegalletto elevator built in 1929 and modernised in 2004, to reach the Castello D’Albertis, a bizarre neo-gothic castle now a museum built by a wealthy 18th Century citizen to show off his collection of world artefacts gathered from his travels.

Coming out of the elevator you immediately feel a fresh breeze and light floods the pretty gardens. No wonder the wealthy lived high up in this Montegalletto district and looked down on the docks below.

Walking back down, I headed for the Via Garibaldi which is not the home of the biscuits, but the site of many grand Rolli palaces and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, to take a peek at some Rubens, Van Dykes and Caravaggios.

Some serious shopping can be had on Via XXV Aprile, via Roma and Galleria Mazzini, all close together, but I had an appointment at another palace, this a charmingly semi-restored one for the Pesto experience at the 16th Century Palazzo Imperiale

Genovans firmly believe their basil is the only one for pesto. The sea air permeates the plant, they say, giving it a unique flavour and every Genovan has a pot or two on their windowsill.

Recipe: pinch out a good handful of leaves, put in a marble pestle and mortar with a sliver of garlic and some salt and pound to an aromatic paste. Then pound in pine nuts, pecorino cheese and Ligurian olive oil. Presto, you have pesto.

Interestingly, the law now allows passengers to take a 500-gram jar, or two 250-gram jars, in hand luggage when flying out of Genoa. They must be flying directly from Genoa though, and the pesto must be from Genoa.

I ate my pesto on some focaccia, washing it down with clean, sharp, Vermentino one of Liguria’s most famous white wines.

Downstairs I quickly checked out a seriously Hoxton-vibe cocktail bar Les Rouges,  set in the elegantly decaying grandeur of a suite of what were once the frescoed family rooms. Definitely a place to come back to in the evening.

Of course, Genova has an historic food market, and what a market it is. The Mercato Orientale is not an oriental market, it means East in Italian, but one crammed with the freshest produce of Italy and of course bushels of fresh basil.

Soon you’ll be able to satisfy your aroused hunger pangs there too as the centre is being converted to a kind of food court, where around 14 restaurants will be cooking up a range of dishes from Michelin to street style.

To eat up the rest of the afternoon I headed out of town to Boccadasse a short ride away. It is picture perfect, even on this rather stormy day, and in fact all the better for being out of season as you get a true feel for the place wandering its now empty alleys.

Peering into Ittiturismo Boccadasse a seafood restaurant on the beach, I could see Italian families crammed shoulder to shoulder throwing down the specials caught that morning locally and written up on a blackboard. Prices were a lot cheaper than Portofino up the road and the food looked fresh, rustic and honest.

I’d been told Le Rune was a good restaurant for an evening meal. Like so many places in Genova it was on multiple confusing levels and seemed to wander from building to building. Clambering to the highest level I was surprised to find I was actually on the same level as another street.

Food was excellent, deceptively simple but based on seasonal vegetables and a deft hand with classics such as spaghetti vongole, the shellfish sweet and generous.

Next day was a time for checking out Genova’s other attractions, such as the famous aquarium, the Galata Museo del Mare and Palazzo Ducale which houses some of the city’s most important artworks.

But the alleys drew me back for a poke around classic tailors, for glimpses into carnal butchers and blissful bakers and to buy a great big gelato from the famous Cremeria Buonafede in Via Luccoli.

I did eye up the “panna montata” (whipped cream) but you have to draw the line somewhere even in Genova. Maybe next weekend.

Genova Facts

Thanks to @GenovaEventi and @genovamorethanthis  the Municipality of Genoa, the Chamber of Commerce Genova and the Genoa Tourist Offices www.visitgenoa.it

Get there:

BA (ba.com) flies from London Gatwick to Genoa with return flights starting from £86.72 including all taxes, charges and one hold bag.

Stay:

Hotel de Ville Down on the front. Comfort rooms start from 143 Euros per room per night based on two sharing and including breakfast and city tax

hoteldeville.it/en/

Hotel Bristol Palace A grand old style hotel in town by the railway station. Classic double rooms start at 204 Euros per room per night based on two sharing and including breakfast and city tax

www.hotelbristolpalace.it/en

Hotel Valery A boutique guest house located inside Palazzo Montanaro. Double rooms start from 78 Euros per room per night based on two sharing and including breakfast.

www.valeryguesthouse.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seaweed – A Collection Of Simple And Delicious Recipes by Claudia Seifert, Zoe Christiansen, Lisa Westgaard & Hanne Martinsen

Take off your socks, roll up your trouser legs and wade happily into the world of edible seaweed.

Bladderwrack, Oarweed, Thongweed, Dulse, Laver and Winged Kelp. No, not the names of a new bunch of Marvel superheroes (and haven’t we had more than enough of them by now?) but the names of just some of the seaweeds we should be chowing down on.

Because they are super in themselves – rich in nutrients, sustainable and environmentally friendly. And tasty, let’s not forget tasty.

This immaculately produced book, translated from Norwegian, is not only beautiful to look at, but packed sardine-like with great and frequently beautiful recipes, simple to prepare for single meals or family feasts.

Main courses, snacks, soups, salads and desserts. Vegetarian and with seafood. Plus, some experimental type dishes of tapas, too.

Getting hold of seaweed doesn’t mean having to actually head down to the seashore, although the authors do have guidance for doing so safely and respecting the seaweeds’ sustainability (taking a large pair of scissors is a must). And they do encourage you to do so.

In fact, most seaweed is sold dried, either in specialist shops or online, and has to be soaked at home where it almost miraculously unfurls into large and juicy green leaves and tendrils. The book has a list of useful seaweed stockists at the back.

Seaweed delivers umami, which is why it’s such a favourite ingredient in Japanese cooking and it is also a source of salt. It has few calories or carbohydrates, is low-fat but rich in protein often with minerals such as calcium, magnesium and potassium, as well as amino acids and trace elements.

So, what can you make? Well for a start and for starters there’s classic miso soup of course. Or how about an omelette with peas, feta cheese and sea lettuce? Salmon with coffee, chili and winged kelp sounds delicious too.

It adds flavour to a vegetable stock and will raise up your bowl of ramen. Add it to a quiche along with spinach, wrap it around cod and slow cook for a fish that truly tastes of the sea.

You might also want to browse this delightful book with a Gin seaweed tonic, seabelt Martini in your hand, the recipe is here too.

Each photo is a work of art, none of your tedious top down stuff so beloved by Instagrammers, these are proper professional images that would look perfect framed on the wall.

The whole book is an eye-opener and more than enough incentive to head for the beach

ISBN: 9781910690512. Published by Grub Street

£20.00

Romulo Cafe Restaurant Review

343 Kensington High Street London, W8 6NW www.romulocafe.co.uk

How often have you heard someone say, ‘I know, let’s go out for a Filipino? Probably about as often as you’ve heard someone say ‘I fancy a bit of German food tonight.’

Filipino food is, let’s be honest, not a cuisine that has had much exposure. You’re more likely to find a chef from the Ukraine on Saturday Kitchen than one from the Philippines.

So Romulo Cafe is intriguing.  It’s a branch of a small group, there’s also a Romulo Café in Quezon City, Makati and Alabang in the Philippines.

Located in a rather unprepossessing part of West Ken, next to one of those all-night grocers that has everything anyone from any culture could ever want, it’s actually a lot nicer inside than you might expect. Cosy, even. Continue reading