Monday, 23 April 2012

breakfast burritos

We all know the feeling. Groggy, bleary eyed, emerging from the safe cocoon of blissful (or not so) slumber after a heavy night on the tiles. Dry mouthed, a hefty mug of tea or coffee is downed to kickstart the tastebuds and unstick the eyelids. Once Gandhi’s flipflop has been rinsed off, it’s time to move onto some energising fuel to deal with the trials of showering and engaging in any form of meaningful communication….

What’s your brunch of fancy? And we’re talking home cooked. No venturing outside my dears, not yet anyway. My personal favourites have got to be; a bagel, split and toasted, both halves spread first with butter, then Marmite, then a hefty squeedge of cream cheese with a sprinkling of rocket on top. I know it sounds lunchy but this is brunch innit, we can go off piste! Equally bon is a couple of poached eggs with lots of cracked black pepper atop two slices of granary toast, again with plenty of butter and Marmite. Delishybags. I’m not a huge meat fan, so bacon and sausages are usually off the menu, but I am partial to some crispy bacon with mashed avocado and a poached egg on toast, should there happen to be some pig in the fridge.

This weekend, having mates to stay over after a post pub sesh, I was inspired to stock the fridge with essential ingredients to make breakfast burritos. Introduced to the BB via my good friend Lex, they are the perfect mix of flavour and texture, protein and veg, with a hint of a spicy kick to get you on form. They’re remarkably healthy too (if you grill the bacon and don’t overload on the cheese!) and the tortilla wrap doesn’t weigh you down like a doughy bagel or a stack of pancakes. I wanted to share them with the world. Definitely worth a try this weekend…
prep stage
You’ll need:
Tortilla wraps (white)
Potatoes (King Edward or other floury variety)
Grated cheese
Cherry tomatoes
Fresh red chilli
Sour cream (optional)

Simply peel and dice the potato, boil until softly tender, then fry with some finely sliced onion and chilli with spices of your choice (try salt, pepper, mild curry powder and turmeric).
Grill the bacon and scramble the eggs.
Warm the wraps in the oven while you’re doing the above.
When the hot bits are cooked, it’s time to assemble. Layer the egg, bits of bacon and some diced spuds in a line down the middle of the wrap. Add the tomatoes. Sprinkle over with cheese.
Smear some mashed avocado, salsa and sour cream down either side of this line so when you wrap you’ll get a nice even mixture of everything.
Finally chuck on shredded lettuce.
Roll up and enjoy! Yummsville.

happy days

Thursday, 12 April 2012

les trois garcons

What a night! It was the perfect threesome - myself, the lovely Libby and some damn fine food.
The boudoir? Les Trois Garcons, Shoreditch. A heady mix of decadent French restaurant and Miss Haversham's attic, richly decorated with chandeliers, handbags hanging from the ceiling and other such quirky artwork. A taxidermist's wet dream; bulldogs with angel wings, a giraffe's long neck stretching over diners, crocodiles in crowns and tigers in tiaras...

monkey see...
'The 3 lads' certainly ticks the boxes when it comes to authentic French dining with excellent service, all dished up with a healthy dollop of arty weirdness. With a price tag to match, Les Trois Garcons is surely a treat for local trendsters. But with a good old Groupon voucher clutched in naughty mitts, we headed in for a superb six course taster menu for a snip at £30 each, down from the usual £80.
I'm a real Groupon cynic and am fully aware of the pitfalls of a 'free meal' - stingy portions, snooty service and all too often hidden charges. This was not one of those. Beautiful food and warm and welcoming staff made the experience a real pleasure from start to finish. It's a great way for them to boost mid week trade as you can't book the deal on weekends. And coupled with the usual pricey wine list (a bottle of the cheapest red, a decent Côtes Du Ventoux 2009 set us back £25) and a 15% service charge (that's 15% of the original menu price ie: a tip added on of about £20), they do recoup costs elsewhere. However the tip is discretionary and for a night of fayne dining, truly affordable. Keep your eyes peeled for those deals!

We began the starry sups with an amuse bouche of thinly sliced roast chicken on a light crisply salted sheet of won ton, accompanied with caramelised onions and a basked of freshly baked bread with butter. Nothing too punchy, it did the job - it amused the bouche and tickled the tastebuds. (Apologies for the dingy photography, as you can imagine, cameraphones and a looming stuffed narwhal do not a bright picture make...)
This was swiftly followed by a beautifully presented circle of foie gras, cured in Sauternes and cooked au torchon, served with toasted brioche and apple chutney, with a swirl of toffee sauce. I'm a guilty fan of foie gras when served in it's meaty pâté like form with thin little slices of melba toast. I'll never forget after just arriving in France, when visiting a hugh Auchan supermarket (the equivalent of a big Tesco) I was handed tasters of foie gras of all things (!) while shopping. Beats the lump of cheddar of the day on the deli counter. Needless to say I went back and back and back.... When served with fruit (and again, my fave is anything apple based) the rich meat flavour becomes fresh and satisfying. It ticked all the boxes, and I think this actually rated as my favourite course of the six...

foie good
Lemon sole came next, a good sized piece of fish accompanied with a sweetly seared scallop, pear barley risotto and a lemon butter sauce. Light and healthy tasting, the fourth course then switched the balance with four rounds of juicy duck magret served with swede gratin, green beans and a luscious truffle red wine jus. The crispy crackling around the edges of the morsels of duck gave way to a smear of juicy fat and then tender flesh, and the swede kept the dish on the right side of ribsticking. There was also a mystery element to number four. Get Inspecteur Barnaby in. We think it was a piece of fried foie gras, at least it had that light and squidgy consistency and flavour. Who knows? But it was bloody good with the veg.
By now we were beginning to slow. Luckily the wine and table water, and good pacing between dishes, kept us forging forwards. Time for a sweet treat - moelleux of chocolate (like a solid mousse) filled with popping candy gave an unexpected crackle and kiddy giggles, and came with a nice but unremarkable chocolate brownie. Dusted with icing sugar and dotted with whisky soaked raisins, this hugely rich course would have been offset nicely with a good dessert wine. Our choice of vin was a light accompaniment for both the meat and fish but punters can also opt for the restaurants own wine pairing per course, at an additional £39. I would defnitely go for the three G's recommendations next time around to get full enjoyment and appreciation between chaque plat.
choco, choco, lat
Petits fours saved the day, in the shape of a mini almond cookie, a petite madeleine with passion fruit cream and a truly beaut little square of white chocolate mousse cake topped with banana cream, which blended together in the mouth like a condensed milky pillow. A lovely fruity finish to cleanse the palate and round off the meal. Délicieux.

petit six
The point of a taster menu is to get the full gamut of the restaurant's capabilities, a showcase of what the chef can offer. Les Trois Garcons certainly delivered on this point, and we left feeling nicely full and well treated, having set the world and our tummies to rights over the course of a good 3 hours. Bon bon.

Have you had the joy of a top class yet affordable taster menu à Londres? Tweet me back @maratanga and spill the beans, or leave a comment underneath!