Silk Road, Camberwell

There seems to be little point in crafting an introduction to this restaurant as it has, in recent years, become the worst kept secret in south London.  If you want to show off your knowledge of hidden restaurant gems, this is not the one to mention.  Unless you’re in the company of north Londoners, for many of them will barely have been to Camberwell, let alone Silk Road.  In days gone by, you could rock up to this little cash-only restaurant without a reservation and be seated almost immediately.  More recently however, following a number of rave reviews, including one by Jay Rayner, it is rammed almost every night of the week and nearly impossible to get a table before 9.30.

Of course, the glaringly obvious point would be that it had become a victim of its own success, however I can’t in any way declare this to be true.  In fact, it seems to get better and better with each visit, which keeps us going back more than perhaps we ought to.  Aside from the quality of the food, which I will get to shortly, this is one of the best value restaurants in London.  Our bills have never exceeded £20 a head, including alcohol, and for that price we have feasted on an amount of food so obscene, an extended lie-down was required.

The funny thing is that Silk Road is one of those unassuming places on the busy Camberwell Church Street that you would just walk past if you didn’t know it was there.  The ‘Cash Only’ sign in the window, the slightly faded red sign and the utilitarian communal benches inside does not give any indication that inside is some of the best Asian food in London. And it doesn’t have a website.  I suppose that is part of its charm.

The cuisine at Silk Road could lazily be labelled ‘Chinese’, however it specialises in food from the Xinjiang region (the bit bordering Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan), with a few Sichuan dishes thrown in to boot.  The central Asian influence is clear, with the smell of lamb and cumin wafting through the restaurant, and the prevalence of offal on the menu.  Being a landlocked region, there is very little fish on offer, but some very good meat and vegetarian dishes.  Forget any ideas of sweet and sour chicken and prawn crackers, you won’t get them here.

Despite the variety of carnivorous options, my two favourite dishes on the menu are made up of vegetables.  The famous home-style aubergine is one of the most delicious dishes I have ever tasted: tender aubergine and tomato cooked with a huge amount of garlic and an underlying pop of chilli.  The ‘cucumbers in sauce’, also known as ‘smacked cucumbers’ are served raw in a sharp soy-based sauce, also heavily laced with garlic and chilli.  They are wonderful as a cold starter, but I have to say that I prefer the smacked cucumbers from nearby Wuli Wuli (sorry).  Another excellent dish is the home-style cabbage, which I sadly always pass up in favour of the aubergine, but fully intend to order next time.

Cucumbers in sauce

Cucumbers in sauce

Home-style aubergine

Home-style aubergine

The aforementioned smell of lamb and cumin comes from the lamb shish skewers that seem to be on just about every order in the restaurant.  Heavy with cumin, with the afterburn of chilli, these come straight from the grill and smell so good, you will almost inevitably burn your fingers trying to pull the meat from the skewers.  The pieces of lamb are interspersed with little cubes of lamb fat, which I am not overly keen on, but which my husband loves.  These skewers are £1 each (yes, £1) with a minimum order of five per table.  For me, ordering any less than three for just myself is not an option.

Lamb shish skewers

Lamb shish skewers

Another favourite is the twice-cooked pork, which is a one of the few Sichuan dishes on the menu (the countries bordering the Xinjiang region are muslim, so pork is rarely eaten there).  I have had this dish in a number of other restaurants and it consists of slices of belly pork, boiled then fried (hence ‘twice-cooked’) with an oil-based sauce of chillies and lip-numbing Sichuan peppercorns.  Silk Road’s offering doesn’t quite have the level of heat that we usually expect from Sichuan dishes, but it does have an unexpected sweetness which makes it pleasant, if slightly inauthentic.  The best part about it is the soft, sweet Chinese onions that I pick out and eat with a little boiled rice.  I could happily live on these alone.

Middle-plate chicken

Middle-plate chicken

Silk Road’s speciality is, undoubtedly, their noodle dishes.  The ‘large plate’ and middle plate’ options are huge bowls of soup with meat and wide ‘belt’ noodles of at least an inch wide.  A lot of Chinese friends favour the tripe, but we will often order the chicken.  Pieces of chicken on the bone, served in a spiced thick soup with the enormous noodles slithered in by the waiter at the table.  Middle plate is ample for two, especially if it makes up part of a wider banquet – those noodles are incredibly filling.  Best of all are the smaller, and more manageable, hand-pulled noodles – glutinous and soft without being sticky – the person who makes these obviously knows what they are doing.  Ours came with lamb and cabbage, as well as the obligatory punch of chilli and onion that characterises the restaurant’s dishes.  These came last to the table and we were unable to finish them, so our waiter kindly packed them in a box to take home.

(If you do find yourself with an extended wait for a table, put your name down in the book and head down to Stormbird, a few doors down, for a pint)

Silk Road, 49 Camberwell Church Street, London SE5 8TR

Silk Road on Urbanspoon

When Life Takes Over

This week, I have had the most difficult task of admitting that I was wrong.  In my naivety, I honestly believed that planning a wedding would not impact on my other activities (how clueless I was) and that my baking club, blog and various food-related activities would not suffer as a result.  As you may have seen, Band of Bakers is on a little summer hiatus and my blog posts are becoming fewer and further between.  They are all buried under dress fittings, menu tastings, endless emails and trying to co-ordinate a number of guests who are all travelling to San Sebastian for the ceremony in a little over three weeks.  Add to this a rather monotonous healthy eating regime and an attempt to save money by not eating out and you find that, even if you had the time to write, there would be little to actually write about.

Bottom line:  weddings take over your life.  And I have a wedding planner!

Of course, this is a temporary situation.  My wedding is taking place in the gastronomic capital of Europe, so there will be plenty of subject matter there.  It seems that most people I know have either been to, or are planning a trip to, San Sebastian.  If you haven’t been, it is definitely worth considering for your next holiday, especially if eating and drinking is your thing.  In addition to this, we are embarking on a honeymoon road trip through Andalucia, again very much with culinary endeavours in mind.  I will be returning to London in July when, hopefully, normal service will be resumed.  Until then, I simply ask that you bear with me.

Instead of writing up one of my recipes (I haven’t cooked anything in days) or writing a nice long post about a restaurant I’ve been to (too stressed to pay too much attention), I have instead cobbled together a few things from the last week that have popped up on my food radar.  Kind of like the old days of ‘Monday Miscellany’ but, of course, on a Wednesday.  Even the days all roll into one these days.  I must buy a diary.

 Pizza Making

Anchovy and olive pizza

Anchovy and olive pizza

Last week could have easily been entitled ‘Life in Salad’, so I was obviously thrilled to come home from a particularly gruelling Friday to Ollie making pizza in the kitchen.  Needless to say, I devoured them all.  I looked back through my previous posts for something on pizzas and was surprised to find I had written nothing.  I even have a list of ‘London Pizzas I Love’ scrawled on a piece of notepaper and tacked up next to my desk, so I will write that up at some point.  The picture above is one of three pizzas he made using Dan Lepard’s absolutely foolproof pizza dough recipe, and a topping of anchovies and olives. Bliss.

Southampton Street Food Market

Pork souvlaki - Southampton style

Pork souvlaki – Southampton style

To the sounds of a chorus of “it’s about bloody time”, street food has finally arrived in Southampton.  Yes, I know the majestic 7Bone had a burger stall, one that even featured on the BBC’s Restaurant Man, but that was ages ago.  This market has taken over the strip along the pedestrianised part of the city centre at weekends, the spot previously occupied by the ahem, German market at Christmas.  It hasn’t quite reached the standard of similar markets in London, but is a good starting point (and far cheaper).  I had a perfectly decent pork souvlaki from Greekville, that certainly helped to undo the hangover I had from sinking G&T’s in The Alex the night before.

The Grazing Goat, Southampton

Goat curry with dumplings

Goat curry with dumplings

This is the first of two visits I am making to this new Southampton gastro pub, so will leave the review until I have time to write up the full post.  I just wanted to praise their goat curry with dumplings, which was sublime.

Toast, East Dulwich

Quail with gremolata

Quail with gremolata

Orange cake

Orange cake

Toast may be the perfect place to hide out when the heavens open during a Lordship Lane expedition – warm, cosy and with a good wine list – you could find yourself there for hours.  I have been several times before, but only for coffee and a slice of their delicious banana bread (OK, and some wine), and used to go regularly when it was the old Green & Blue, but yesterday was the first time I actually went in for lunch.  We started with an off menu order of quail with gremolata, £10 including a glass of Cote du Rhone (bargain), then shared a slice of moist orange cake alongside our espressos.  As soon as I am back from Spain and eating out again, I expect Toast will become a regular spot, not least because it is great to have such quality food within walking distance of our flat.

On Using Up What You Have

My, aren’t we a busy bee this week?  Seriously though, I have had so much to do I have barely had time to sit down, let alone write.  Mostly this has been to do with my job at a certain public service broadcaster, it’s awards season, don’t you know (dahling) and I have been super busy.  It’s not been all bad, though, at the weekend our dear friends Simon and Natalie came to visit us from Bristol and we had a weekend of mostly eating and drinking.  Saturday night was a Peckham extravaganza of pizza and wine at The Gowlett (Gowlettini, in case you’re interested), eye-poppingly strong pisco sours and keeping it real at Peckham Springs and then some gimlets and martinis at the Peckham Refreshment Rooms.  We would have gone on to Blow Up at The Bussey Building, had we not been too pissed.

On Sunday we took our tired selves up the East London Line to Hoxton for a hangover-busting lunch at MEATMission.  After talking the boys out of the Triple Chilli Challenge for the second time, we ordered (deep breath) Dead Hippie burgers, bingo wings, chilli cheese fries, currywurst, deep-fried pickles and a greek salad.  More on this later, but needless to say, I wondered if I would ever eat again.

Just one half of our feast at MEATMission

Just one half of our feast at MEATMission

In the interests of pacifying my bank balance and my waistline after such an indulgent weekend, I have been on a bit of a mission to make meals primarily out of what I have in the cupboards, fridge and freezer and buying just a few items to supplement this rather than a great big shop.  One of my new years’ resolutions (God, doesn’t that seem like a million years ago?!) was to reduce the amount of food waste in our household.  As the issue of food waste was given more coverage in the media, I began to notice that we did tend to throw a bit of food away.  Not huge amounts but often a wilted half-head of celery, a few slice of mouldy bread or some manky herbs would end up in the bin.  The main reason for this was that we would do a ‘weekly shop’ at the beginning of the week, allowing for meals for each lunchtime and evening, and would then end up going out for lunch or dinner on a whim, wasting some of the meals.  So since January, the big trips to the supermarket have ceased and I buy food only when I need it.  Saves money too.

I’ve also recently been thinking that our obsession with following recipes is partly to blame.  We not only have more access to recipes than ever before with an unprecedented number of cookbooks being released each year, a boom in food blogging and a number of recipe databases, such as those created by BBC Food and UKTV Food, we also have access to a wider range of recipes with our interest in global cuisine reaching further and further.  Wanting to follow recipes all of the time means that we end up buying more and more from the ingredients list to make specific dishes rather than focusing on what we have.  It was difficult to shift my focus, but I now look in the cupboards and think “what can I make with this” rather than look in a recipe book thinking “what do I need to make this.”  The results are sometimes experimental, but on the whole they are good.  At first I was apprehensive about using a mix of single cream and creme fraiche in my second batch of naan bread, rather than the specified yoghurt, but it all turned out OK.

Another wonderful outcome of this approach is that I rely less and less on the big supermarkets.  Let’s face it, nobody wants to trek to the Sainsbury’s Superstore to pick up a tin of lentils and a couple of red peppers, so I have been embracing local shopping a little bit more.  I am lucky enough to live in a part of London where the ethnic diversity is reflected in the type of shops we have available to us.  In Peckham there are Indian shops selling enormous bags of cheap spices, far better value than the little jars you get in supermarkets, a brilliant Persian shop, Persepolis, that sells anything and everything from the middle-east and two Chinese supermarkets.  There are also a number of vegetable stands where you can pick up a range of veg for next to nothing (I like the one right outside the entrance to Rye Lane station).  In East Dulwich there is the ‘triangle of love’ in the form of William Rose butchers, Moxons fishmongers and Le Cave de Bruno wine shop, destination of choice for a dinner party or lazy weekend dinner.  Brockley Market is a 20-minute bike ride away each Saturday and there is a new farmers market up in the Horniman Gardens in Forest Hill.  Of course, I still have to make the dash to the John Lewis food hall from time to time, if only to pretend that I’m one of those rich people that actually lives in central London. (OK, it’s a bit poncey, but it’s right next to my office).

Spinach and chickpea curry

Spinach and chickpea curry

This dish, otherwise known as ‘last night’s supper’ is an example of how to use up what you already have.  This is a spinach and chickpea curry made completely with items lurking in the flat.  There is a little exception here, as the spinach I had planned to use was ruined due to the fridge being up too high, so I had to make an emergency dash to Rye Lane for some fresh stuff.  The aforementioned grocer outside the station sells three bunches for a quid which, when you consider how much you pay in the supermarket, is a bargain.  Despite being a fridge-raid meal (or ‘storecupboard meal’, as my mum would say), it’s still a pretty decent little vegetarian curry in its own right.  If you do decide to make it, it’s best not to take the ingredients list too seriously.  Mix stuff up here and there, add things, subtract things, or use a different flavour paste.  Be a rebel.

Spinach and Chickpea Curry

  • 2 tbsp any old curry paste you have lurking about (I used Bhuna paste)
  • 1 onion, or a couple of shallots, finely chopped
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tins chickpeas
  • 250g spinach (or two bunches from the man in Peckham)
  • Few drops lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper

In a large frying pan over a medium-high heat, fry the curry paste for a few minutes until it starts to separate.  Add the onions and reduce the heat, cooking them until soft and translucent – about another 5-10 minutes.  Increase the heat again and add the chopped tomatoes, cook for about five minutes, stirring regularly,  until the sauce has thickened slightly.

Add the chickpeas and cook for a couple more minutes.  Season and turn the heat down to low before adding the spinach, stirring until the leaves have wilted.  Stir in the lemon juice and serve with whatever you have in the kitchen (fortunately, I had a load of basmati rice in the cupboard and two peshwari naans in the freezer – win).

Adapted from a recipe by BBC Good Food.  Serves Four.

Breakfast at No. 67 at the South London Gallery, Peckham

Breakfast in the sun

Breakfast in the sun

Another belated post, I’m afraid, but with the sun shining so brightly in London this morning I couldn’t resist writing about a bit of alfresco dining.  One week ago today, just before we flew out to San Sebastian, Ollie and I went to the registry office in Peckham to register our intent to marry.  It was a pretty painless process really, but we still felt that anything that required us getting up early on our day off and bringing along our passports deserved a big breakfast afterwards.  Just across the street from the registry office is the excellent South London Gallery and it’s in-house cafe/restaurant, No. 67 – so named because of its location at 67 Peckham Road.

The good weather arrived in London a couple of weeks ago after months of torrential rain, and last Friday was the best day of all.  The sun beamed down on an empty picnic table on the front terrace of the cafe, where we quickly established ourselves and started to look at the menu.  At that moment, I received a text from my Dad to say that Southampton, a mere 75 miles away, had been enveloped in fog.  If there was a moment to develop weather-smugness, that would have been it.

The breakfast menu at No.67 is similar to what you might find in other smart south-east London cafés: good coffee, juices, organic yoghurt and muesli and a range of scrambled egg dishes with ham, salmon or spinach.  One anomaly, however, caught my eye – a baked egg, tomato and red pepper stew.  There is something wholesome yet rather decadent about having a stew for breakfast and at the weekend, if I have time, I will often make a the classic Mexican egg dish Huevos Rancheros (literally: ranch eggs) or the middle-eastern equivalent, Shakshuka (David Lebovitz’s version with chunks of feta is my favourite).  Both involve making a thick, spiced tomato sauce and cooking the eggs in it – either on the hob or in the oven – so that when served, the yolk spreads throughout the sauce.  Can you think of anything better?

Baked egg, tomato and red pepper stew

Baked egg, tomato and red pepper stew

The baked eggs, tomato and pepper stew at No. 67 arrives with two slices of lightly toasted sourdough drizzled with olive oil, which I set aside for mopping up the remnants of the sauce later.  The egg, sat in the middle of the dish, is fresh and, although perhaps a touch overcooked for my liking, yields a little yolk into the sauce.  The stew itself is rich and thick, made with what I suspect to be the best quality tinned tomatoes, rather than fresh, which for this time of year will give a more substantial flavour.  A strong kick of black pepper and a smoky hint of paprika give it a deep flavour that works alongside the richness of the egg.

A very substantial and tasty breakfast.  If you want something that sets itself apart from the usual Eggs Benedict / Florentine / Royale, this could be the spot for you.

No. 67 Café and Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Two Weekend Lunches: Ganapati and Cafe East

Whilst working from home on Friday, head in my hands and surrounded by piles of paper, Ollie suggested that I take a break and join him for lunch.  I was about to say that I didn’t have time when he suggested Ganapati, so I closed my laptop and off we went.  There is no shortage of Indian restaurants in our little part of south east London, however Ganapati sits head and shoulders above the myriad of curry houses on Lordship Lane and the Old Kent Road and is a real local favourite.  Ganapati has recently set up a take-away kitchen around the corner from its main site just off the Bellenden Road, which has caused a great deal of excitement in many a delivery postcode.  They also have an extremely good value lunch deal.

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We started by sharing the vegetarian street snacks:  a plate containing two mysore bonda, potato and cashew dumplings fried in chickpea batter; and two vadai, ground chana dal with curry leaf and green chilli, shaped into patties and fried.  Both were perfectly hot and crispy without the greasiness that often accompanies fried starters.  We both agreed that we could not choose between them but, in hindsight, would have ordered a plate each.

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The vegetarian thali main came on a large metal tray separated into sections.  The tomato-based vegetable and lentil curry had a huge kick of spices and curry leaves and was far hotter than I expected – so much so that Ollie the chilli fiend kept trying to sneak forkfuls when I wasn’t looking.  The accompaniements were great, by far my favourite part of the dish was a sweet and slightly spiced beetroot pickle that complemented the heat of the curry perfectly.  Ollie ordered the kingfish curry, which has perfectly cooked soft pieces of fish in a coconut and tamarind sauce. 

Most of the main courses on the Ganapti lunch menu are under £6, which makes it an excellent value lunch, especially as the prices are considerably higher in the evening.

Ganapati, 38 Holly Grove, Peckham, London SE15 5DF

Having a rare day off together on Sunday, we went over to the Museum of London Docklands for the afternoon, where I have not been since my first year at Goldsmiths.  London’s history is so fascinating, especially that of the communities that lived and worked by the river.  I found this amusing piece of information about the women that worked at the fish market.

“Fish, espeically herring, was the staple food of the London poor.  In the 18th century, boats brought their catch bacl from fishing grounds off the coast of Norway, the Baltic and north of the Shetlands.  Women working at the fish market had a reputation for toughness and sharp language.  Some even earned additional income as bare-knuckle fighters.”  – The Museum of London Docklands

The museum is rather enormous, so by the time we got to the bit about rebuilding the docklands we had worked up quite an appetite, so headed over to Cafe East in Surrey Quays for a late Vietnamese lunch.  When you first get off the Overground, this seems like the last place you are going to find one of south-east London’s gems.  To get to it, you have to walk past all of the usual horrors you would expect to find in a retail park:  Frankie & Benny’s, Pizza Hut, generic-American grill restaurants et cetera.  However, when you get right to the back, there is a little unassuming brick hut that makes some of the best Vietnamese food south of the river – obviously the Kingsland Road is the go-to destination for pho but sometimes you just don’t want to go to Shoreditch…

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After the customary chuckle at the “We do not serve tap water” sign at the entrance, we took up a table and ordered some Vietnamese iced coffee.  It’s always a bit of a shame that they don’t offer hot coffee with condensed milk as other restaurants do, as I prefer this to the iced stuff.

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We started with an order of banh cuon, steamed rolls filled with minced pork and chinese mushrooms and topped with meatloaf and some delicious fried shallots; and the goi cuon, known to the rest of us as ‘summer rolls’, filled with pork and prawn.  Both were generous in size and very fresh.  The summer rolls were not overloaded with fresh mint, which many often are, so the other flavours were able to come through.  They came with a peanut sauce and a ferociously spicy chilli dipping sauce.

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I ordered the lemongrass pork chop, a sweet, slightly spicy, sticky sliced pork served over boiled rice, which was just the right combination of moistness and chewiness.  Despite being well-coated in the sauce, the flavour of the pork still came through well.  I thought a splash of the summer rolls’ dipping sauce might ruin it, but the pork actually benefitted well from the extra spice.  On the side were some innocuous looking pickles – shredded carrot and daikon – that were so perfect I wished there was more than the little pinch put on the side of the plate.  Ollie ordered the Pho Bo Hue – a slightly spicy variation of the traditional beef pho.  The beef brisket, cooked in the heat of the soup, were sliced perfectly thin and the slippery noodles and crisp vegetables made it a very substantial dish.  The little bowl of red chillies accompanying the soup were for the very brave only – even Ollie, who has the highest heat tolerance of anybody I know, only added three-quarters. 

I didn’t eat for the rest of the day after that.

Cafe East, Surrey Quays Leisure Park, 100 Redriff Road, London SE16 7LH.

Ganapati on Urbanspoon

Cafe East on Urbanspoon

The Hide Bar, Bermondsey Street

Yesterday evening it took me no less than one hour and twenty minutes to travel from my office in Portland Place to Bermondsey Street.  Under usual, non-tube strike, circumstances, a half hour journey at most.  After jumping off a bus that had been crawling down the Haymarket at a painfully slow pace and walking the rest of the way to Charing Cross, I was surprised to notice how few people were out in the bars and restaurants and how many people were racing in the direction of the bus stops and train stations.  Perhaps the frustration of the tube strike had made them weary.  It made me crave a strong drink.

For somebody with such a ‘boozy’ handle, I write surprisingly little about drinking.  It’s not that I don’t do very much of it, quite far from it, it’s more that I never seem to be in the mindset to start taking photos and really think about what I’m consuming in terms of writing about it.  It’s a shame as there is a great number of excellent watering holes in London worth writing about.

Take The Hide Bar, for example, the venue for last night’s bi-monthly cocktail club.  Situated on Bermonsdey Street, it is close to central London, although we south east Londoners fiercely claim it for ourselves.  It is the kind of bar you want to retreat to after a hard day:  a hazily lit, beautifully decorated room with a combination of high tables and leather banquettes.  They have a ‘seated only’ policy, so you never feel that you are having to push past crowds of people to get to the bar. Tres civilised.

The cocktail menu is extensive and mainly lists the classics and a few invented drinks – it is unlikely that you will find a double entendre here.  They also have a good wine and beer list and sell a selection of bar snacks, should you start to feel the pitfalls of drinking on an empty stomach.  Due to an early morning meeting, I limited myself to three cocktails, but here they are:

The ‘Ginotto’
If there is a cocktail to trek across London on tube strike day for, this is it.  A face-flushing combination of Bermondsey dry gin, China Martini aperitif, blood orange and cassia bitter tincture – all carbonated.  It arrives in a little glass bottle with a stopper, ready to pour into a glass with two pieces of dehydrated blood orange.  Do not be deceived into thinking this is a long drink, it has the strength of a martini.  A good one to start you off.

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The ‘Fine and Dandy’
One of my fellow drinkers, Elliw, and I came to a general consensus that all drinks are better when bitter, sour, strong and dry.  No Pina Coladas at our table, then.  The Fine and Dandy is a twist on the classic gin sour, but with bitters replacing the egg whites, so ticks a couple of those boxes.  It is Plymouth gin, cointreau, lemon and Angustoura bitters.  It hits those tastebuds right in the corners of your jaw.

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The London Cocktail
In a bit of a shift from the gin-based drinks, I opted for a whisky based cocktail, purely based on its name.  Not my favourite, but delicious all the same.  It’s creamier than the others with an ingredients list of Rittenhouse rye whiskey, orange flower water, orgeat, egg and nutmeg.  A bit of a bedtime drink.

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The Hide Bar, 39-45 Bermondsey Street, London SE1 3XF

Petitou, Peckham

Pain au Chocolat

Pain au Chocolat

Sometimes on Fridays I have a day of working from home.  As I am spared the 45-minute commute from East Dulwich to Portland Place, I allow myself a bit of extra time for a leisurely breakfast.  South east London has a myriad of breakfast options from little backstreet cafes that bake their own bread and serve excellent coffee, to acclaimed restaurants with gourmet, and well-priced morning menus.  As all of London seems to go out for breakfast and brunch at the weekend, a day off in the week is a gem of an opportunity to sample these places when they are at their quietest.

I first discovered Petitou a couple of years ago.  I was having a particularly stressful morning trying to shop on Rye Lane for last minute essentials for a trip to Australia, flying later that afternoon.  Almost on my knees from balancing shopping bags, trying to find Australian dollars and taking a barrage of work calls, I needed a coffee and there it was.  Two espressos and some homemade crumpets with Marmite later and I was good as new.  Petitou is a lovely little cafe on the backstreets of Peckham, just off of Bellenden Road.  In the summer, you can sit out on their mosaic-tiled terrace and people-watch and in the winter, the windows completely steam up to create a warm cave, cut off from the world.  Theirs is not an extensive menu, but has enough small and large dishes to satisfy the needs of their diners.

Scrambled eggs and ham on toast

Scrambled eggs and ham on toast

The breakfast menu has a selection of pastries and bread options, including the aforementioned crumpets – so good I had to mention them again.  We shared a pain au chocolat, that was fresh and warm with a decent amount of chocolate inside.  We also ordered scrambled eggs and ham on toast – you can subsitute the ham for other items, including smoked salmon if you wish.  The ham was sourced from the excellent local butcher, Flock and Herd, and had a subtle smoky flavour and a tender texture that didn’t even require a knife to cut through it.  You could just gently flake it with your fork.  The eggs were creamy and flecked with chive and the toast hearty with a good amount of butter.  We also drank rather a lot of tea.

I intend to go for lunch very soon, the salads on their website look fantastic.

Petitou, 63 Choumert Road, Peckham SE15 4AR.

Petitou on Urbanspoon

Street Food Saturdays: Spit & Roast

This morning I woke up with a slight hangover and a hankering for chicken.  It overwhelmed me to the point where I dragged myself from my bed and persuaded Ollie to join me in a walk of four miles across south east London to Brockley Market so that I could buy the best chicken sandwich in the world.

Buttermilk fried chicken bap with slaw and Korean hot sauce

Buttermilk fried chicken bap with slaw and Korean hot sauce

Spit & Roast have been trading at Brockley Market for a year or so and quickly became my favourite street food vendor.  They specialise in chicken: luscious birds spinning on the rotisserie until they have beautifully crispy skin, and some very special buttermilk fried chicken that gets put into a bap with coleslaw and some spiky Korean hot sauce to create a particular kind of sandwich heaven.

The buttermilk fried chicken bap costs £6 and comes piled high with perfectly moist chicken – they will even give you a slick more hot sauce if you ask.  Spit & Roast also offer a quarter, half or whole chicken with chips and will, occasionally, add a pork belly bap to their menu.  This week they had a festive offering with pork, stuffing and cranberry jelly that I saw many market-goers tucking into.  On my next visit, I am going to try the intriguing-sounding turkey poutine.  Roll on next Saturday.

Half a rotisserie chicken and chips

Half a rotisserie chicken and chips

Spit and Roast can be found some Saturdays at Brockley Market and at other street food markets around London.  Check their twitter for details.

Street Food Saturdays: The Dogfather

Going out on the search for good street food has become a Saturday morning tradition in the past year or so.  It is the perfect tonic for the malaise resulting from the overindulgence of the night before.  We are lucky to have several good markets in south east London that have an abundance of food trucks ready to feed and invigorate the weary – I always feel that if I can make it from my bed to one of these markets, all will eventually be right with the world.  One of these markets, North Cross Road, is less than a five minute walk from my front door – perfect for when driving or dealing with public transport is simply not an option.

I have been visiting this market for some time, and even wrote an article on it for Londonist back in 2011.  Even since then, it has changed enormously – some of the old sellers are still there, but it has grown in size and a few new stalls have started popping up, including a truck selling burgers and burritos, which I am very excited to try.

The signature dog from The Dogfather

The signature dog from The Dogfather

One of the oldest stalls on the market is a hot dog stand called The Dogfather, which sells 100% beef hotdogs with a variety of different, and sometimes enormous, toppings.  They also make a rather good vegetarian hotdog, which was great news to me as for a long time I did not believe there were any good vegetarian hotdogs in London.  It was previously run by Cooper, who I made friends with when writing the Londonist piece, however he has since moved back to his native Australia and the stall has been taken over.  There have been a few changes, it seems that my favourite dog – the Mexican Elvis (best hangover cure ever) – has been removed from the menu, but on the whole the basis is more or less the same as before.  I must confess that I prefer the dogs of the old days, but am still glad to have this so close to my flat.  I had the signature dog, The Dogfather, topped with chorizo, jalapenos, onions and cheese, and it certainly did the trick.

The Dogfather, North Cross Road Market (Saturdays Only), East Dulwich.

Burger League: Tongue ‘n’ Cheek

The Heartbreaker Burger

The Food Stand:  Tongue ‘n’ Cheek, Brockley Market (Saturdays Only)

The Hungry Ones:

Left to right: Gemma (The Boozy Rouge), Ollie (Burger King)

Left to right: Gemma (The Boozy Rouge), Ollie (Burger King)

Gemma and Ollie ordered:  The Heartbreaker Burger (beef and ox heart patty, cheddar, lettuce, dill pickles, ketchup and mustard)

The Scores:

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Tongue 'n' Cheek at Brockley Market

Tongue ‘n’ Cheek at Brockley Market

Brockley Market has been a Saturday morning habit for me since it opened about two years ago.  I have made it my mission to try all of the street food stands from Mike & Ollie, who have been there more or less since the market started, to Rainbo, who I discovered there only a few weeks ago, to Spit & Roast, very, very often.  A visit to Tongue ‘n’ Cheek this weekend was a first for me, and it was about time.  The stall always looks a little quieter than the others, I’m guessing because people are iffy about offal, but those who have been sing its praises very highly. Apparently the Philly Cheese Steak (£8 and bloody enormous) is the best in London.  The Heartbreaker Burger is a mix of beef and ox heart, not for the squeamish, but a great alternative to the generic beef patties found across town.  It had a delicious moist texture and a subtle offaly hum.  The bread was decent, the cheese was good quality and the pickles sharp, however I couldn’t help but think it was missing something in the toppings – perhaps an extra slick of sauce to bring it all together.  For £5.50 this is an excellent value burger, especially considering the high quality of meat that goes into it.  A must for the burger lover who thinks they’ve seen it all.

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