This is the best burger I’ve ever had in London. I would say it’s the best burger full stop, but I’m too sentimental about In&Out burgers in San Diego to give that title away. But seriously, this is one of the juiciest and most perfectly balanced burgers I’ve ever come across. It comes from Dirty Burger, which is a newly opened burger shack at a backyard in Kentish town. The area is a bit unwelcoming, but for the amazing burgers, this is absolutely worth the detour.
There’s only three things on the menu: cheeseburger, fries and onion rings. We ordered all three. The burger was made up of a perfect patty – perfectly sealed, made of finely ground mince and hot but rare in the middle. The meat was tasty, juicy and very well spiced – and dare I say it, one notch better than Meatmarket! The cheese was strong, and added a savouriness to the whole thing which I find is unusual for cheeseburgers unless you go for a black & blue variant. It was topped with a creamy dressing, lettuce, thinly sliced tomato and pickle. And then there was the bun, which I read (madly enough) held a 15% fat content. It was glazed, and when you bit into it it oozed a little. In all it’s unhealthiness this is simply sublime, and a bargain bite, given how gourmet it is, at £5.50.
The chips were nice, double fried and crinkle cut which made them very crispy on the outside but nice and soft within. The only drawback were the onion rings. Both me and Mr Meatball could have done without them: they just tasted of batter and weren’t salty enough. Thus I must disagree thoroughly with Timeout’s raving about them. But perhaps it’s me who has a problem with onion rings, I always find there’s too much batter and not enough salt.
The lovely staff gave us two free milkshakes as they messed up our order, and the vanilla Milkshake was loose and sweet, which I like. Not stodgy and frozen like McDonald’s. Dirty Burger has a cute shack eating area, but sadly it doesn’t have the same people-watching view as Meatmarket. The sides aren’t quite as brilliant either. However, given the affordable price and the insanely nice cheeseburger, it is awarded 8.5 meatballs out of ten.
I went flat hunting in Brussels last weekend, and my first food experience over there were the best frites I’ve had my entire life. (You have to discount times of hungry drunken euphoria over soggy chips, because as we all know, hunger is the best sauce, and I’m pretty sure alcohol only adds to that truth). The Belgians are of course renowned for their chips, and it is fully possible that I will sample even better ones during my stay. But these were beautiful: golden, handcut in odd sizes, in large shapely cuts, balancing perfectly between being shoestring and a chip shop chips. They must have been double fried because every single chip was perfectly crispy on the outside, but soft and velvety inside.
In typical Belgian chip stand fashion, you have a confusing array of sauces to chose between. As you can see above, you have a slightly wider choice than ketchup, mayo and brown sauce. For me, this choice is always simple: pick Andalouse. Andalouse is the best chip sauce ever, and I’ve had it sneakily imported into the UK for the last four years. I even composed a special bacon and cabbage sandwich around it (which may see the light of this blog on a rainy day…). The base of Andalouse is mayonnaise, but then imagine smoky, spicy paprika and chili, and soft hints of curry, and you are kind of on the right track. But words don’t do it justice: you have to sample it yourself.
Frites Flagey is an excellent place to try it, and for €2.60 you get a large cone of frites with your choice of sauce. Perfect street food, especially on a crisp autumn day. And don’t feel guilt over eating just chips – it’s one of Belgium’s national treasures.
To me, lobster always sounded like lots of fuss for little, and expensive, food. I have no problems with seafood that makes you work for your nibbles: anyone who’s attended a Swedish crayfish party knows the joy of devouring small red sea creatures for a small fingers’ worth of white meat. But since crayfish is cheap and lobster isn’t, I out of hand dismissed lobster. Now I must change that tune, having celebrated the end of university (forever!) together with Miss Salted Cod and some friends at Soho’s newly opened Burger & Lobster. Because it was ridiculously nice. And while it wasn’t cheap, it wasn’t really expensive either.
We arrived to our reserved table for four in the afternoon and the queues and stress I’d been warned about were nowhere to be found. After ordering in a round of Asahi we were offered to choose between a lobster, a lobster roll, or a burger. All would be 20 pounds each. The waitress also suggested a fourth option which we ended up going for: sharing a ten pound lobster between us, with unlimited fries and salad. She even brought him out on a tray whilst he was still alive, saying she’d named him Brett.
As Brett was steamed and grilled off to perfection (we were told he died by a swift cut through the head) we were kitted out with bibs, little lobster-tools and more Asahi. Once cooked and prepared for us, Brett was so large he had to come in on two different trays. He arrived together with bowls of shoestring fries, salad and garlic and parsley butter sauce. The sauce was simply divine dripped onto tender lobster meat, and as we fought away over the best claw meat we almost forgot about the fries and salad, although these were also very nice. A few more rounds of Asahi and lobster picking was loads of fun, and it turns out eating a massive lobster is a nice group activity if nothing else. As we started using Brett’s claws as gloves (see Kristine’s hand above) we decided it was time to move on to a boozier establishment. But as for the quality of the lobster, the price and the overall experience, burger and lobster get a unanimous nine meatballs out of ten from both me and Miss Salted cod.
Kedgeree is a slightly odd Anglo-Indian dish stemming from the Colonial era, encapsulating smoked haddock, curry powder, rice and milk. I know those taste combinations sound odd, but it is actually really nice: imagine a lemony and fresh biryani with smoked fish. The oddness of the dish, married with the fact that it is a breakfast classic (indeed so much of a classic people don’t make it much anymore), meant that it was predestined to end up as a Breakfast Fetishism item on the blog. I made my first attempt at making it this morning. This was brought on by Mr Meatball’s grandmother’s reminiscing about the dish the other day: born in Shanghai in 1928, she recalls this dish being served on silver plates in houses that had butlers!
The end result was very tasty: savoury and mellow through the smokiness of the fish but refreshing with the spices and the lemons. Admittedly it would perhaps not be the first thing I’d think to eat in the morning, but rice and fish are good ingredients to last you through the day so I may have to reconsider that. You need:
- 400g smoked haddock (I bought frozen dyed haddock from Waitrose – theirs is sustainable and good quality but much cheaper than the stuff you get in the fresh section)
- 450 g basmati rice (preferably good quality as rice is central to the dish)
- 2 green chillies, chopped into rings with their seeds
- 1 large onion (a sweet Spanish variety would work nicely)
- 1 large tablespoon mild curry powder
- 2 crushed cardamom pods
- A handful of chopped coriander and chives
- 3 hardboiled eggs
- 1 lemon, cut into slices
- 140 g butter (this is important, I did perhaps not use quite enough in my first attempt)
- Nutmeg (optional, to sprinkle on top in the end)
Start by putting the rice in cold water and let it stand for up to half an hour. There’s a whole school on being able to cook basmati rice properly and I’m still a novice, which explains why I use Mr Meatball’s coffee brewer to rinse the rice (some people have an angel’s patience with my kitchen experiments…). While the rice soaks, poach the defrosted fish gently by putting it in a pan on low heat, and cover it with 50/50 cold milk and water. After ten minutes (or until the fish is done, you want to be careful not to over-cook it), take it off the heat. Preserve the liquid milk/water is was cooking in.
Now, depending on if you want your kedgeree to be dry and fluffy, or wet and buttery you proceed through the next two steps differently. I made mine dry and fluffy, but Delia’s wetter version sounds quite nice and I think I might go along that next time.
For a wet kedgeree, you fry the butter in the pan, add your onions to soften for a few minutes and then add the curry powder, green chili and cardamom pods to fry for a few seconds. Then add your rinsed rice, and pour in 450 ml of the milk/water liquid. Bring to boil, and give a brisk stir before putting on a tight-fitting lid and cooking on low heat for 20 minutes.
If you want a fluffier kedgeree, you fry the onion and spices in the butter separately to the rice, and cook the rice with a tight-fitting lid on according to your harshest basmati-instructions (these are usually on the packet: for me it included not opening the lid of the pan for 25 minutes and then letting it rest on a wet towel, still with the lid on, for five minutes).
Once the rice cooking is done, for both methods, you add the flaked fish (which you remove the skin from whilst the rice is cooking), boiled eggs and lemon juice. Serve with mango chutney and scatter coriander across the top.
(If possible, find some silver in the house, stream Downton Abbey from itv player and pretend your name is Phyllis or Marguerite, and the butler just brought this to your table.)
As mentioned in my previous post I took it as my mission to taste as many of Boston’s food trucks as I could. On Sunday I walked all the way to the South End to SoWa Market – a big market that takes place every Sunday. I quickly moved to the food truck section which was already crowded with hungry Bostonians. I started my lunch with a pork taco at BBQ Smith.
For $3 you got a taco filled with crispy and smoky pulled pork topped with avocado salsa and a spicy sauce. This was incredibly tasty and a really good start to my lunch. They also had really good looking sandwiches but I had to save my stomach for my next truck: Lobsta Love.
Lobsta Love’s lobster slider was all that Chowda’s slimy lobster roll wasn’t: fresh, not drowned in mayo and made to order. The lobster was mixed with mayonnaise and tarragon but kept its strong flavour. The brioche bun was lightly toasted and seemed to be brushed with butter and was the perfect accompaniment to the lobster. Lobsta Love offered many lobster options including a lobster mac and cheese which I will absolutely have to try before I leave Boston. By this point I was pretty full but could not leave before trying famous cheese melts from Roxy’s Gourmet Grilled Cheese.
Roxy’s Gourmet Grilled Cheese are a bit of food truck royalty as they have won many prizes and have taken part on the Food Network’s Great Food Race, so I knew I was in for a treat. I thought I might as well go all out so I went for the Mighty Rib: Fontina cheese, braised back ribs and caramelised. Yes, ribs, in a cheese toastie! After 20 minutes waiting with other 50 people the beast finally came out. It looked glorious, all cheese and and pork amazingness. This toastie completely changed my idea of what cheese toasties should be and I am definitely recreating this at home. The only thing missing was a bit of spice like some sliced jalapenos or a salsa I could dunk the toastie in. Aside from that…fatty perfection!
All I can say is that Boston is a great city if you like food! Now I can’t wait to go back to London and explore the food truck options there.
After the disillusion of Chowda’s lobster roll I took it to my online bible of American food – Serious Eats – to find some tasty food for my next few weeks in Boston. I began my search for a place to have lunch around my office – Downtown Crossing – and came accross Chacarero’s, a small place that serves enormous Chilean sandwiches called Chacarero’s. I came back to the office and quickly messaged Miss Meatball to tell her about one of the best sandwiches I had ever had. This thing was gigantic and so so good. It’s basically and white homemade bap, smeared with avocado, topped with your choice of beef, chicken, or both (I tried chicken but really should go for both next time), munster cheese and then runner beans (yes, runner beans), tomato, lettuce, and an incredible mistery green spicy sauce.
All the ingredients were incredibly fresh and every sandwich was made to order. A large chacarero came to 8 dollars (that’s roughly 5 pounds) which fed me for both lunch and dinner (it is a really big sandwich). This made me think about the amount of times I had a horrible sloppy sandwich from Pret or worse, Sainsbury’s, simply because there are no other affordable options around (read Holborn). If only I could have walked five minutes from LSE and pay five pounds to have a gigantic, fresh and made to order (no Pret making your sandwiches in the morning doesn’t count as ‘fresh’) for five pounds. But on to more food from Boston.
On my third day of work I was asked by my boss to replace someone at a talk at MIT.It was a conference on food trucks and mobile payments (yes these exist) and while it was totally useless from a work point of view I got to find out a lot about the Boston food (and fashion) truck scene. I found out that Boston is one of the cities in America with the most food trucks per capita and I have made it my mission to try as many as I can. I started by having my leftover sandwich with some rosemary french fries from Clover – one of Boston’s most famous food truck enterprises (they have over 5 trucks and a restaurant) which has one of its trucks close to my hotel on the Boston Common. These fries were so good – crisp outside and soft inside and speckled with fried rosemary. At first I thought the rosemary was just a gimmick but then I started thinking about all the possibilities of dishes that could be sprinkled with fried rosemary – which made the herb milder than usual and very crispy.
My next food truck experience was my next day’s lunch at Bon Me. Sadly I have no picture of my food so you will have to drool on this image of their menu from their Flickr page. Bon Me is a Vietnamese food truck and serves three main dishes plus some extras (no more noodle soup). You choose your base then add your filling. I had the Bahn-mi with bbq pork which was incredible. Fresh bread, pork pate, punchy pickled carrot and daikon and smoky bbq pork topped with fresh coriander. This was amazing and incredible value for $6. The truck stops quite close to my work on Fridays so I will be sure to try the other options next week. Now I’m off to SoWa open market to test as many food trucks as I can.
I have to thank miss meatball for actually making this review possible. Back in April she introduced me to a person who would give me a freelance job, which would then turn into a full-time job (with two weeks training in Boston) which turned the poor salted cod student into a working salted cod who can now spend more on food!
I’ve been in Boston for a few days now, but due to jetlag and weird tropical weather, I have only just managed to try clam chowder (or chowda as Bostonians say) and lobster roll – Boston’s two iconic dishes. So I decided to head out to nearby Faneuil Hall and try both at Chowda, famous for its clam chowder and cheap lobster rolls.
I had never tried clam chowder before so I had no point of comparison, but this was good! While it looked less than appetizing (imagine pale yellow goop) it tasted extremely fresh and fishy. It was full of clams and white fish and had a great consistency – not too thick, not too thin. As you can see I only bought a very small portion, but this was extremely filling! I could easily have done with that and a bit of bread on the side.
But, the temptation of a clam chowder and lobster roll combo was too much to resist and I ordered the lobster roll too. Unfortunately this paled in comparison to the chowder. I regretted it as soon as I ordered it…The lobster roll was not made to order but was actually the last one standing in a refrigerated section of the stall. I don’t know if this is simply because I came in at a time when they had run out of fresh lobster or were not busy enough for the lobster roll to be made fresh to order, but what I experienced was a very cold, too sweet lobster roll. Despite the great amount of lobster in the roll it was drowned in mayonnaise and lacked in seasoning. I ate some of the lobster and left the roll which tasted cold and old.
I also have to point out to the horrible service. Having been a waitress myself I think I am allowed to be pretty strict with service. I would say that Chowda has some of the worst service I have ever experienced. Despite being empty (I came in at 5) the two people working there carried on their conversation for a good minute before attending to me. Second, the person serving me actually took a call from his phone while he was serving me. He did not try to end the call or make it brief, he was on the phone the whole time! I found this extremely rude and almost gave up on the food… but the chowder smelt too good and I was hungry.
While the clam chowder was great, I am pretty sure I will not be going back to Chowda anytime soon. I had heard that Faneuil Hall was a bit of a tourist trap for food and this only confirmed it. I will be trying more lobster in the coming days and I hope it is as good as the amazing 10 pound lobster me, The Swedish Meatball and some friends had last week at Burger and Lobster.
Settling into my new home in “Highbury approach” (aka Holloway road…), I’ve already found a little gem worth some extra attention: The Acoustic cafe, serving up Mediterranean (mainly Turkish) cuisine with some bits of British tucked in. Whilst not unknown to locals, its humble outside doesn’t draw as much attention from North London c-list celebs as The Blue Legume does. However, dare I say it, the breakfast here is more fusionesque and adventurous, and actually better (and being a longtime fan of the mediterranean breakfast at the Blue Legume, that’s a harsh statement coming from me).
On the day we went, Mr Meatball had the Bubble breakfast treat, which was a rather British plate with grilled tomato, fried field mushrooms, bacon and sausage as well as a little hill of potato bubble and poached eggs with hollandaise sauce on top. At £5.95 this is a filling, creamy option for a tender hungover stomach.
I had the classic mediterranean breakfast with amazing spicy lamb chipolatas (best chipolatas I’ve ever had), perfect buttery scrambled eggs, grilled halloumi, round pieces of grilled bread and a salad of grilled artichokes, olives, tomato and avocado. This was lovely and since I’m a massive artichoke love the £6.95 I had to trade for it didn’t feel very expensive. And those sausages! They were just sublime. I’m going to inquire about their sources next time I go.
To this little feast we also had freshly squeezed orange juice and grapefruit juice which were just as refreshing as they should be. It took a while for our water to arrive but it was sunny and busy on the day of our visit, and the service was very nice overall. It’s got a lovely spot next to Newington Green to sit and watch people, but sadly you don’t have the view of weddings found outside Islington town hall that the Blue Legume does (surely weddings are the ultimate people watching?). Nevertheless, The Acoustic Café is awarded 8 meatballs out of 10.
Another good reason to go here is that it’s in crawling distance to Newington Green Fruit and Veg, also known as The Best Greengrocers Ever, which is always worth a visit. Acoustic cafe is walking distance from both Highbury & Islington and Dalston Kingsland, and can be found here on the map:
Since I’ve been struck with the season’s first cold, I’ve perked myself up with soup. When I was living with eight other students in Birmingham, I used to get the biggest pan in our house, loads of leek and some leftover potatoes and try make enough of this soup to last me a week. But since there were eight of us, and because this soup is so moorish, all was usually gone by the end of the day. Preparing a weekly radio show with my friend Ella, we used to get too impatient to heat up the leftovers and just eat it cold and thick in mugs (admittedly, that could have to do with the amount of wine being involved with weekly radio planning, but I’d rather blame the deliciousness of the soup).
- 2-4 leeks, depending on size. If possible, get whole ones that aren’t trimmed because the green part of the leeks is perfectly tasty and its more economical using all of them.
- 2 large potatoes (The leek gives most of the flavour for this soup, and even if the nutmeg helps bringing out the best of the potato flavours, think of it as a thickening agent rather than main component. If in doubt, always add more leek than potato)
- 2 cubes of veal stock (this can be exchanged for vegetarian to make the soup a veggie dish, or chicken if you’re struggling to find veal. But veal is ace.)
- 1 tub of creme fraiche (to taste, one half is also enough)
- Cumin seeds
- Worcestershire sauce (or Henderson’s Relish, which is what I always used in Brum)
- Chili flakes
- Cheese-grilled bread (optional)
Trim your leeks by cutting off any shabby-lookig bits on the tops, slicing them lengthwise and rinsing in cold water. Then slice them thinly all the way up to the dark green bits. Fry in a large, wide bottomed pan in a generous chunk of butter on medium heat whilst you peel and roughly chop your potatoes. Put your kettle on and boil about 1 litre of water. Add the potatoes into the softened leeks, stir an let fry for a minute or so. Then add your boiling water and the crushed stock cubes. Let simmer under a lid for about 20 minutes, until the potatoes has softened entirely and can be crushed easily with a potato masher. An english-style potato masher is best tool for this, as it gives you a rougher texture than a blender.
Once you’ve crushed away for a minute or so, add the creme fraiche and start seasoning (whilst still on a low heat). Add a few chili flakes, a few generous splashes of Worcestershire sauce, a few sprinklings of ground nutmeg and some cumin seeds. Also add some salt if the stock hasn’t done that job for you. Take the soup off to cool a bit whilst you put your bread under the grill (if you sprinkle the cheese with paprika it starts grilling quicker and looks nicer). Enjoy.