Review – Acoustic Café

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:

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Comforting potato and leek soup

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).

You need:

  • 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
  • Nutmeg
  • Worcestershire sauce (or Henderson’s Relish, which is what I always used in Brum)
  • Salt
  • Chili flakes
  • Cheese-grilled bread (optional)
  • Butter

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.