Sunday, August 14, 2011

Byron Burgers, Covent Garden, doesn't understand what a burger is.

I'd heard a few rumours of decent burger joints in London. Byron consistently was highly rated so after getting some good news the other day I decided to treat myself to a mid afternoon burger and beer.

Byron is one of those places that both makes you both happy and angry all within 30 minutes.
First things first, they had Brooklyn Lager, a lager I love since I've been to the brewery many times in Williamsburg and used to live a quick L train ride from it in New York. Served in an chilled glass it was perfectly brilliant as I waited for the burger I had ordered.

Fun fact. This logo was designed by the same guy who did I <3 NY.

The burger I had ordered was a straight up cheeseburger with American cheese. I'm a purist when it comes to burgers, components should be tomato, lettuce, cheese, pickle and beef.
One of the things I HATE is when a burger is served in a generic bap which is like eating through leather, so when the burger arrived I took one look at the anemic looking bread and sighed, disheartened.

Flour Power:(

Everyone knows you eat with your eyes first, and that bread is over floured, too white and simply too big. Luckily it squished down enough and tasted ok, but unfortunately I was already on my way to being pissed off with this Britburger.

The beef in the burger itself is a credit to the line chefs slaving away serving up these things to a busy Thursday lunch crowd. A perfect medium, juicy burger although the meat has no real texture of it's own, but that's not the chef's fault, it's whoever is sourcing and directing this shitshow. It may benefit from the smashing technique.

Perfect Medium, note too much bun on top.

I didn't bother with fries, but they looked like standard mcdonalds clone shoestrings.
I was impressed with them having Cholula, an amazing mexican hot sauce I used to smear all over tacos in the US.

Love this stuff, have some in my home at all times for emergency unblanding of food.

The staff were nice, but here's where I'm going to focus a little more on what really pissed me off. In short, a burger is a simple beast, I've made dozens, I know what the raw materials required are and I know a bloody great burger can be made very cost effectively. So when this came I was a little aghast.

Are you taking the piss?

On what planet is a cheeseburger £7.50 !? At time of writing that's $12.10 - for a FUCKING CHEESEBURGER. Even Manhattan's best and most popular burger place, Shakeshack a cheeseburger is $4.25. I'm not a cheapskate, I've paid hundreds of dollars/euros/pounds/whatever for meals in the past, and I understand labour and rent costs, but this is just shameless. The service is pretty non existent anyway because it's so busy at lunch, they're literally throwing the food at you, and they have TWO hosts at the door, so I guess what you're paying for really here is all the staff, I'd rather walk to the counter to get my burger myself, and I'm more than capable of finding an empty table myself too.

Here's a tip they could learn from Shakeshack. You don't need those 20 'cool' hipster waiters running around, get a ticketing system, cut your costs, then cut your god damn prices. Until then I won't be back here.
Shake Shack's cheap waiters.

View Larger Map

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Gowlett, Peckham, Naples Pizza in a pub?

I went to the Gowlett on the advice of a friend who lived in London for years.
His selling point was that anyone he'd ever brought there had said it was the best pizza they'd ever had. Tall words indeed!

I however was more intrigued by he fact that it sounded like a local boozer doing stunning thin based pizza. I love pizza, if you've read this then you'll know what I mean.

I wasn't wrong, it's literally an old school pub, with a pool table, friendly staff and a beer garden doing great pizza. It's not the best pizza I've ever had, but I was definately impressed that a pub on the borders of central London could hold themselves to such a high standard. We had a bresaola salad which was delicious covered with balsamic vinaigrette and Parmesan, followed up by two pizzas.

After that I had their namesake pizza "Gowlettini" and my friend had a Hawaiian.

Their house red is also a nice touch being fairtrade organic wine, but we had been drinking all day so I can't tell you about that really, we necked it.

What I can say is that my pizza the Gowlettini was fantastic, neopolitan style pizza done exceptionally well, Mozzarella, Goat’s Cheese, Pine Nuts, Proscuitto and Rocket. The best thing was the crust, people who leave the crust like this chump are missing the best part of the pizza, a real pizza lover knows that the proof of a good pizza is in the crust.

Bourdain leaving a real Naples crust on plate, I used to respect him until I saw that.

The point is, crust is probably what I associate the best Naples pizza with, everything else is easily done, i mean, you're just cutting up mozz, basil and blending San Marzanos, but a true Naples style pizza lives and dies on the quality of the crust.

Happily I can report that the Gowlett's crust is top notch, A1, with a nice crunch followed by a springy chew.

See that? Magic.

I now know where to go for a decent pizza in London.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Buen Provecho, Real tacos in the heart of London.

I was so happy to find Buen Provencho. Since moving back from the US I was worried I wouldn't be able to find decent tacos but luckily for me there is Arturo Ortega Rodriguez.
Out of a little stall on Lower Marsh beside Waterloo station three days a week he and his partner serve up delicious tacos straight from the streets of his native Mexico City.

I had pork which is tender shredded pork marinated and braised in orange and spices.
It's called Cochinita Pibil, beautifully silky pork braised to perfection and explodes like a porky pork porksplosion in your mouth.

I asked if the salsa was hot and the lady working there said I should try it first, so offered me a nacho to try it with. It's a medium spicy and there's free guacamole. He will put some refried beans on automatically so if you're not a fan, mention it.

My keyboard doesn't have a pound sign, but they're great value at 6 quid for 3.

Delicious pork, marinated to perfection, mexican salsa picante and a bit of guacamole.

I've since tried the chicken and chorizo too which, while not as spectacular, was very tasty.
They don't use two tortillas like they do in the US and Mexico which means eat it quick or it will explode all over you, and believe me. It's really messy so take some napkins. So glad to have found this place. Now if I can only convince them to try chorizo/lengua/sangrita tacos I'll be the happiest boy in London.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Jamaican Jerk Chicken Waterloo Millenium Green, London

I have passed by this guy for the last week but this morning had a rotten hangover (Thanks to leftover vodka from Glastonbury).
So I swung by this place and grabbed jerk chicken rice and peas.

Having visited Jamaica last year I was interested to see how they did it in England.
There's a nice chilled vibe to this guy's food tent, some music flowing from a stereo and his buddy relaxing beside him. You can get pumpkin rice or rice and peas. I went for jerk chicken and rice and peas (5 quid). He'll ask you what sauce you want. I asked for hot which was probably a mistake since it was 11.00am. Oh well.

It was authentic and awesome, Almost exactly like in Jamaica, there they give you bread with the chicken and no sauce on top. Be careful with the bones!

Nice way to (try) cure a hangover. (Even if I still have it...)

View Larger Map

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Moved to London

So after 2 and a half years in the US I have moved back to Europe.
London specifically because Dublin is pretty messed up right now.
I know I concentrated more on recipes prior to this but now I think I'll focus more on the restaurants around London.

Stay tuned for reviews coming soon.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Irish Stew

Back after hiatus! Stews are historically peasant food found in cultures across the globe but the Irish stew stands out as one of the best for me.

"Irish Stew" is served in Irish Pubs all over New York City but rarely done correctly.
Let's dispel the main myths. Firstly, it's not made with Beef, that is an American adaptation.
It should be made with the tough meat in mutton or lamb. Mutton would have been the cheaper version historically as lamb has a sweeter flavour compared to the complex flavour of mutton.

Anyway, I decided that for my Irish stew I was going to make it the classic way with a few tweaks to impart more flavour.
So with that I give you The Ingredients.


  • 2lbs lamb shank/neck bone in chopped into equal size chunks by butcher
  • 4 sticks celery chopped.
  • bag of baby carrots
  • potatoes, the waxy type so they don't fall apart.
  • 3 onions
  • rosemary
  • thyme
  • parsley
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Broth/Stock
  • Irish Butter
  • Oil
  • Brown Irish soda bread
Optional but awesome.
  • Guinness
  • Red Wine
  • Barley
  • garlic
  • Bouquet Garni

Now, fire up a pan with a small bit of oil and start browning that lamb!
Traditionally it would all be thrown in the pot but these days you have to make an effort otherwise will think you're some sort of lazy bum. Which I am, but whatever... Season that meat!

Don't eat this.

Once it's browned stick it to one side, and leave it there! Don't eat it moron you need it.

Grab a big pot or dutch oven or whatever you use for this kind of thing and stick it on some heat.
Chop celery, carrots and onions and throw in pot, it's like you would make a ragu, these three ingredients in a pot are like the three amigos of cooking.

Come girl let me see you break sweat

Usually at this point you want to sweat down those veggies and soften them to make room for MORE STUFF in the stew. Chops the spuds and lash them in there. Then lash in your bouquet garni.

Bouquet Garni is for wankers

Then lash in your meat, and two gloves of mashed garlic.

Don't eat that lamb yet

Now you wanna amp up the flavour, for this I use Guinness and Beef Broth.


And some wine and Tomato Blood.

Aren't I Hilarious?

Ok, just the wine then. Not too much either, this isn't a fucking french dish.
Now keep that shit on a low heat for THREE hours, you hear me? THREE! and skim off the crap at the top every now and then. I like to swear a lot during this portion of the recipe.

Skim that crap.

Three hours, three guinness left. Coincidence? No. Drink them.

Get Merry!

With 30 minutes to go add the barley, which will thicken it up.
And your stew is ready. Remove from the heat and remove the bouquet garni you bum.

You won't care that it looks rubbish, you'll be buzzed.

Taste and season to preference.
Now get yourself some proper thick wedges of Brown bread, I couldn't find Irish so had to use some Italian crap and IRISH BUTTER. No excuses or margarine or any of that stuff.

Hearty and Heart Attacky.

Garnish with Parsley and Serve.
While it was cooking I made an appetiser of Bruchette avec Fromage du Chevre et fig. Because I'm a wanker.



That's some good eating right there. Devour!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Great Mexican in NYC

You often hear that there's no good Mexican food to be had in NYC. Usually based off the fact that the person spouting this is from California, so only they know what good Mexican food is.
I am writing this to debunk that myth. It's bullshit, there are plenty of good Mexican places in NYC, you just have to know where to go.

As an Irish person growing up everything outside my Mother's kitchen seemed bland to me. My favorite food was Chicken Fajitas for a long time until they too became bland and I wanted something new to amaze and delight my taste buds, that's when I started exploring other Mexican options.

Mexican food is awesome, the freshness of the coriander and the zing of lime, the versatility of the tortilla and the bite of the chilli pepper. The people of Arizona don't seem to want it there and I for one don't think they deserve it. Which is fine, it means more Mexicans will avoid that desert shithole and they can keep their Burger Kings that litter I-40.

Tomorrow is Cinco de Mayo when the Mexicans celebrate their Victory over the French, and I'm dedicating this post to Mexico and to fighter Saul Alvarez, the most Irish looking Mexican I have ever seen.

Saul Alvarez
From Limerick via Mexico.


Definitely my favorite mexican dish they're basically everything you could ask for in a street food, cheap, easy to stuff in your gob and taste great.

Patty's Taco Truck.

I came across this truck when I was up watching Ireland playing Rugby on the upper East side, it's always parked outside the Subway on 86th and Lex during the day.
Stumbling into the van after too much Guinness I was feeling brave and went for Tacos de Lengua (Beef Tongue Tacos). They were amazing. spicy, with moist meat and perfect toppings of lettuce and pico de gallo.

I tongued this Taco, it was romantic.

Dos Tacos Taquiera
This place is just off union square, on 4th Ave a small hole in the wall place, a little pricy but everything is organic and the packaging is all biodegradable and sustainable so I'm willing to pay a little extra. I got the tacos carnitas (pork tacos) and when asked if I would like super spicy I naturally said YES! They weren't joking, this thing nearly blew my head off, but It's now a go-to place for a taco any time I'm in that neck of the woods. They pack it with meat and the tortillas are tiny but taste great, I believe they ship em directly in from a supplier in Queens. These things are amazing.

Dos Toros


I'm not sure when I first heard of Sopes but I liked the idea, they're like a cross between a burrito and a taco, with a hard shell with the refried beans but without the rice.

I heard about a little hole in the wall place called...

La Rosita Grocery & Taquiera

Now this place is cool, it's a tiny Mexican shop in Hell's Kitchen with a window in the back and a few tiny seats. When I went the seats were all full of Latino guys on their lunch break getting stuck into some great looking Mexican food. They serve all the usual fare along with their Sopes.

I took my order to go and went down to the Hudson to eat it in the Sunshine. Sitting in the shadow of The Intrepid Aircraft Carrier I pondered America's love hate relationship with Mexico and immigration in general while I ate my Sope.

Fold it and stuff in face.

NBC's Rachel Maddow had this to say about the Sopes from this small Family run place:
“I not only ‘like’ those chicken sopes, if those chicken sopes ran for Congress, I would quit my job on TV to go door-to-door campaigning for them.” - I have to agree with her, they're bloody great.

Taco Muncher.

One thing is certain, racist lawmakers or not, with food this good, the Mexican people will be always be welcome in my house for lunch.

Felices fiestas Amigos!