Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Enjoy, Berners Street

Having reviewed a lot of places in Soho and Covent Garden, I thought it was time to have a look at the area north of Oxford Street.

Enjoy is a new-looking sandwich shop at the very top end of Berners Street. It's at the edge of a big cluster of restaurants and cafes that stretches all along the eastern end of Goodge Street, leading to Charlotte Street. If you work in this part of town you're spoilt for places to eat.

I ordered a sausage sandwich in a griddled panini bun:

Fairly simple but nice. The bread had a touch of fakery to it - it was the kind with the griddle pattern pre-seared on - but it was fresh enough and it toasted well. The sausage also seemed fresh I was surprised at the solid, meaty texture and decent herbiness.

It's a little out of the way but this is a pleasant, clean cafe with nice staff.

3.5 out of 5. Not a standout but you can do a lot worse.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Get yourself down to the Covent Garden night market!

Every Thursday and Friday evening for the next few weeks, Covent Garden's piazza is hosting a fantastic night-time food and produce market. I was able to pop down there last night and I can report it's well worth a visit.

Fresh oysters, roast beef rolls, roast pork sandwiches (carved from a whole spit-roast pig), Jewish deli food, cakes, ice creams, breads and chocolates are just some of the goodies on offer.

Sausage-wise, there's a German Deli stand selling a variety of pre-packed Teutonic sausages as well hot Bratwurst rolls with sauerkraut (review to follow, hopefully). I bought a packet of kaesekrainer from here to try at home and will review them at a later date.

Carluccio's has a stand selling a variety of dishes including Italian salsicce sandwiches and there are several stands selling chorizo and salami.

Another stand worth checking out is Manor Farm and their game sausages. I bought two from the tireless girl working on the stand who looked like she'd been grilling sausages all day: the duck, orange and apricot, and the venison and red wine. The Venison sausage was interesting - its tastes exactly like a hamburger with a slight livery note which is is quite bizarre. The duck sausage I found a bit baffling as, try as I might, I could not taste duck, orange or apricot in it. I'm convinced I was given the wrong sausage as one of the guys behind the stand assured me the sausage is supposed to contain 65% duck. Never mind, I'll go back for a second try.

UPDATE: On my second visit I tried 3 more sausage sandwiches and can recommend all of them: The bratwurst hot dog from the German Deli stand; The pigeon and peach sausage in a roll from the Manor Farm Game stall and the Tuscan sausage sandwich from the Carluccio's stall (photos at top).

If you get there early enough there are also some cookery demonstrations (details here). But if it's just the food you're interested in, here's a full list of stallholders and some photos from last night. Enjoy!:

Simpson’s Quality Meat – Prime and interesting game including, pigeon, venison, wild boar, and the currently ‘trendy’ grey squirrel
Thames fisherman who sources all his fish from the Thames
Melt chocolates who’s famous truffles take 5 days to make
Willie Wonka will also be trading with his chocolate Venezuelan Black

Hot and Cold Food
Northfield Farm – burgers, sausages and fresh farm meat
Rainha Santa – hog roast
German Deli – german deli selection
Cr̬me de la Crepe Рgourmet crepes
Carluccios – Italian deli
Just Food – New company making seasonal produce puff pastry tartlets
Clos Maggiore – French produce, also will do kitchen demo

Fresh Produce
Sporeboys – raw and cooked mushrooms
Ash Green Organics – organic veg and fruit, and apple juice
Tomato Stall – fresh tomatoes direct from IoW farm
City Veggies – seed grown culinary herbs in pots and window boxes

Cheese and Deli
Norbiton Fine Cheese – small farm cheeses
Grove Farm – dairy farm specialises in unpasteurised produce
Rowan Tree Goats – Goat produce
Iberica London – Spanish produce, live carving
The French Store – French staples and store cupboard
Prelibato – Specialist Italian deli – fresh truffles
Le Marche du Quartier - paella
Wild Beef – wild beef from Devon moors
76 Portland Place Restaurant – head chef to do seafood stall and demo
McManus Oysters – fresh oysters
Primal Snacks – locally sourced biltong
Derreensillach Smokehouse – oak smoked fish from Ireland

Specialist Produce
The Olive Bar – olives, feta, other deli foods
Apulia Blend – Italian oils, truffles and vinegars
English Preserves – small batch makers of handmade jams
Herbs & Spice – spices and herbs, oils and chillies
De-Gustibus – handmade breads
Teapig – specialist exotic teas

Patisserie, Cakes and Pastry
Artisan Foods – fresh baked biscuits, tarts and cakes
Violet Cakes – cupcakes (2 weeks)
Lavender Bakery – alternatives to cupcakes
Primrose Bakery – cupcakes (2 weeks)
Gourmet Candy Company – sweets
Cinnamon Tree Bakery – trade English biscuits
Amesha Sweets – Middle East pastries
Rummuna – Jamaican pickles and preserves
Simply Ice Cream

Choc Star – van serving chocolate drinks and treats ( 3 weeks)
CA PHE Vietnam – Vietnamese coffee
Quaffs – specialist bottled beers
Burgil Coffee – specialist coffee and soft drinks

Thursday, August 07, 2008

The Diner, Ganton Street

I've always loved the idea of American diners. It's not just the way they are glamourised in movies and US TV shows (although that's part of it), the combination of the open all hours, drop-in atmosphere and the wide range of dishes on offer puts most British greasy spoon cafes to shame.

Occasionally, attempts are made to import the diner concept to the UK with varying degrees of success. Ed's Easy Diner is an example of a UK American diner concept that doesn't quite work (food not up to scratch, too 'themey') whilst Balans Cafe is one that does (albeit in a niche way due to its Soho/Old Compton Street location and hip, media clientele).

The Diner, on Ganton Street is a fairly new establishment - part of a chain - that attempts to get the right mix of good, diner-style food and a laid back atmosphere:

That's not to say that The Diner isn't 'themey' because it is. The interior is decked out in American retro and the overall look is part bowling alley, part Hard Rock Cafe but it's not overpowering and the good thing is that a lot of attention to detail has gone into the menu as well.

You can check it out in full at the official Diner website here.

So what did I order? The bacon chilli cheese dog, of course:

As you can see, this hot dog is not suitable for someone on a diet. Unless that diet is one that requires you to eat large amounts of fat and protein. It's a fully loaded dog that's unashamedly stodgy. First impressions can be deceiving though because underneath the cheese topping (which is nicely melted and not smothering) there is some surprisingly good chilli (I noticed they don't spell 'chili' the American way, with one L, but I suppose that's allowed).

The flavour was spot on and there were actual, recognizable meaty bits in it not just the boring, industrial mince you normally get. I think this is down to the fact that The Diner serves chilli as a standalone dish and takes some pride in serving 'the real thing', not some vague slop that just looks like chilli. The fried bacon bits play an incidental role but they combine well with the cheese and chilli, adding a salty, porky flavour.

Biting through the toppings you get to a moist, grilled wiener that is not bad at all. With so many toppings, the sausage can only ever be part of a mixture of flavours but you can still tell the casing is not too tough and the meat not too dry. The white bun was fresh and had that glossy, glazed coating that seems to add a certain subtle something to the taste and bite. Very nice.

Overall, I find this hot dog hard to fault. The only negative point I could make is the price: For £6.50 (that's around $13 US) I'm sure any establishment could sell you a top of the range, organic sausage in really good, freshly-baked bread. To charge that amount for what would be considered a basic food item in the States seems extravagant - it's almost like you have to pay a premium to get something cheap. This hot dog and a Coke, plus service, came to nearly a tenner.

However, if there is a better chilli cheese dog to be had in London then I'd love to know where I can find it.

4 out of 5 Well executed but pricey.