SW11 Battersea – Entrée Restaurant – Cheese & Wine Evening

Is is me or is it an excellent afternoon? It might be to do with the fact that it has been glorious for the past week. But then, come to think about it, I have been working so I haven’t been outside. Maybe it’s to do with the fact that I’ve been listening to Bruce Springsteen’s discography since I woke up this morning and that I am going to see him play in Hyde Park this summer. Listening to him in the coming months is merely an amuse bouche to the main course. *Boast, and a la carte puns over*.

There is one other thing which is making me smile today (I promised the boasting was over, but if I am honest it has only just begun) and that is cheese.

Cheese is one type of food I don’t buy often. Save for the occasional dried piece of cheddar which has ambled its way to the back of the refrigerator, you’ll not find any in my kitchen. I love it, and not buying it is a damage limitation exercise to prevent the bulge. Despite this, I love strong flavours and am not one to shy away from a stilton, St Agur, or any curded goody which is marbled blue.

I’m reluctant to tell you about Entrée restaurant. Nestled in on Battersea Rise, it’s a bit of a local secret. But if you promise not to tell, I’ll give you a few more details. Last night was their inaugural cheese and wine evening hosted by their new restaurant manager, Chloe Gounder-Forbes.

Cheese Board at Entree

A knife tinkling on a crystal glass signalled that the night was to begin. Sitting side by side in the Bentley Bar, each of us were brought five cheeses on a board with delicately sliced French bread. Chloe, who has been a judge at the British Cheese Awards, entertained us with a description of the first cheese – Sante Maure – a medium goat’s cheese which had been matured for a minimum of 10 days to give it the thin blue circumferential rind. The complimenting wine, Les Acrobats, opened up the creamy, firm yet well-roundedness with a pineapple kick.

We were given a chance to sample the cheese on its own, with the wine, then discuss our findings and thoughts. The evening was really relaxed and Chloe couldn’t have been more helpful – even to a complete Luddite like me (I love and know a little about cheese, but I’ve had little experience of pairing good cheese and wine together).

Chloe ran through each cheese and wine pairing one by one. The lingering mushroom hints of the English (Hampshire) Turnworth Soft, not dissimilar to a Camembert, were a favourite of mine. But the combination of Bleu d’Auvergne and The Opportunist – a 2010 Australian Shiraz – finished the evening off strongly. Late night snogs were definitely off the menu.

The intimate Bentley Bar

I believe Entrée will host more events like this in the future, but in the meantime they are open Monday to Sunday for dining, and or, just drinks. The speak-easy atmosphere and the Bring Your Own on a Monday night in the restaurant (£5 corkage) is going to see my return quicker than you can say fromage.

Entrée Restaurant
2 Battersea Rise
London
SW11 1ED
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SW9 – My food week in pictures – Brixton Farmers’ Market

I remember when I was a child sitting up at our kitchen’s breakfast bar watching my mum curate culinary activities and prepare the dinner. Quite often there was only me and her in our house; my dad worked away from home, sometimes several months at a time, and I used to sit and keep her company while she cooked up mountains of food for me – I may have been an only child – but my appetite was equivalent to that of two other siblings. We used to chatter about our days, plan the activities for the week, or sometimes she would tell me about her jungle experiences when she lived in Brunei.

While we chatted I would give her a hand with the preparations. Even though I was young, I was given responsibility with the sharpest Kitchen Devil – chopping and peeling the vegetables – checking every now and then that the carrots were the correct  thickness. My mum liked things just so, and as her only daughter, I aimed to please. By helping out and observing her I learned how to gut fresh fish, make gravy from scratch, and test how al dente the pasta was – never has there ever been a better excuse to thrown spaghetti at the wall! I learned ridiculously simple, yet ridiculously useful tips – tips which cooks learn only through experience – at a very young age. Most importantly I learned about timing. A roast dinner is one of the simplest meals to cook, but allowing the chicken to rest, ensuring the potatoes have a crunchy exterior, making sure the gravy doesn’t burn, and not overcooking the broccoli can be one of the hardest things to coordinate.  Yet by my early teens I was a comfortable kitchen hand and cook.

Between the ages of 19 to 24 I lost my love for the kitchen and the joy of cooking fresh food. It started when I moved to London. I was studying full time, paying out of my nose to live somewhere that, really, I couldn’t afford. It’s not that I couldn’t afford to eat – I obviously did and have survived to tell the tale – but when you have a limited budget you cook up meals with no more than four ingredients. It means the cooking experience lacks joy and creativity. Meals are filling, but uninspiring. Those who try to pay an affordable amount of rent in London do so through the mechanism that is the house-share. We all shudder with the term ‘Gumtree’.  When your living space is not your own, and you share with strangers, you keep yourself to yourself.  Kitchen space is at a premium and you become increasingly accommodating to a lack of utensils, space, and others’ unusual culinary habits. Also, making soup is mightily difficult when the household only has one bowl (my house-mate and I affectionately, and somewhat originally, named it ‘the house bowl’).

But there is a light ahead of this story’s tunnel. It came in the form of The SW Food Blog. I’ve been blogging now for just over a month, and unintentionally it has given me more impetus and desire to cook that I ever have had before.  I set out to review a few restaurants and local producers, but now I’m finding myself planning dishes for a Sunday night and inviting friends over for dinner. I’ve been rekindling those tips and tricks my good old mum taught me (less of the old, she’d say), and for the best part of Sunday I was completely engrossed in the kitchen; making brownies as a teatime treat, as well as home-made fish cakes and cauliflower cheese.  Not only have I been consumed by cooking once again, I have also been consuming the cooking.

The ingredients for Sunday night’s cauliflower cheese were sourced from Brixton’s weekly Station Road Farmers Market which is open from 10am until 2pm.

Meat and vegetables at Brixton Famers' Market

Perhaps it was the sunshine, but the market seemed to be more bustling than usual. Turning the corner under the bridge off Brixton Road, the eyes were greeted with Brassicas of all hues and varieties. Cauliflowers were selling for as little as 60p, and the purple cauliflower (actually a broccoli, although different from purple sprouting broccoli) was one I couldn’t resist. Cavolo nero, other varieties of kale, and leeks, were among the glut of potatoes, onions, carrots and storeroom essentials.

Brixton famers market broccoli

Sampling the wares I settled on a mature cheddar made by Green’s of Glastonbury. Strong, creamy with a grainy texture, it was going to give my cauliflower cheese a tangy bite.

There are so many other stalls there which I have yet to try. I did however pick up Giggly Pig’s Irish sausages; I have it on authority that they were meaty and filling. They didn’t lose any volume on cooking, which says a lot about the amount of water in your average supermarket saucisson.

Colourful and intriguing was the greenery of Wild Country Organics‘ salad leaves. Tatsoi, claytonia, and their mixed salad with spinach and rocket were just some of the highlights.

Wild Country Organics at Brixton Farmers Market

Veggie lovers can delight at Brixton Farmers’ Market, but those looking for something altogether less wholesome can still tuck into the Carribean vegan cakes of Global Fusion foods, and the pastries of the Old Post Office Bakery.

I even had a go myself at counteracting all this beautiful fruit and vegetables. Decadent brownies made with Green and Black’s cocoa, and a whole bar of 70% chocolate, made my Sunday cooking and domesticity a pleasure. It’s so great to be back in the kitchen after this long overdue absence and put the love of cooking and fresh food, learned from my ma, back into practice.

70% Chocolate Brownies

SW4 Clapham – Nardulli’s Ice Cream – local producer

It was snowing only a few weeks ago…what the hell has happened? I find myself without coat, in a skirt with a thin long-sleeved top, eating ice cream on Clapham Common. I’ve certainly picked the right day for it,  and by the taste of it, I’ve definitely picked the right ice cream.

Nardulli’s Ice Cream parlour sits conveniently opposite the common – going towards Clapham Old Town. On Sunday it was as busy as a summer’s day, albeit the beginning of March – I had to queue!

Nardulli Ice Cream

As you’d expect from an Italian gelateria they’ve got the whole shebang of flavours. I would say that the ones they offer are more classical than some of the weird and wonderful that I’ve tried on my imaginary vacations on the Italian riviera (I went to an ice cream parlour in Sardinia once – does that count?), but the shop is petite and we are in Clapham, lest we forget.

There’s still a comprehensive selection as you can see from the photo.

Among the flavours were coffee, cherry, pistachio, rum and raisin, chocolate, coconut, hazelnut, and several sorbets were available to cleanse the palate. I opted for cardamom flavour – not one I’ve tried before – and hazelnut. Two small scoops set me back a little over £2. Considering one cannot get a Mr Whippy 99 these days for, well, under a £1, I’d say you are in safe hands with Nardulli.

The first few licks of hazelnut were delightful; but like Bruce Bogtrotterafter a whole chocolate cake, one tends to feel a bit sickly. The cardamom was like chai. Delicately spiced and milky, it was a new and welcome taste experience.

Ice cream! Ice cream! We all scream for Nardulli's...

Nardulli's cherry ice cream

With summer on its way (18 degrees I hear on Thursday) Nardulli’s is going to be my frozen cream destination of choice.

 

Nardulli on Urbanspoon

New restaurant Bubbas Dining opens

There’s two rules to the South West London Food Blog.

The first one is that we never speak of The South West London Food Blog.

The second is that we stick within the confines of the SW London postcode.

Or do we? After all, this was a blog designed to be about local eating; celebrating restaurants, food producers, and other independent establishments. So I will.

Bubbas Dining is a new restaurant which is opening in Tulse Hill (postcode SE27 if you were wondering) this Friday. I am lucky enough to be going to their pre-launch event tomorrow.

I’m promised it’s new Caribbean with a twist, and by all accounts it sounds like it could deliver. The kitchen is led by Michelin-trained head chef, Anthony Cumberbatch, who has worked in the likes of The Savoy, The Ivy, and Quaglino’s (Sherlock fans – don’t get your hopes up, I doubt there is any relationship).

Bubbas Dining main course

Bubbas, named after proprietor Antoinette Ledford Jobson’s six-year-old son, aims to produce dishes which are hearty, refreshing and refined; exploring Caribbean cuisine and taking on familiar British fare reinterpreted using West Indian ingredients.

They’re also keen to promote this new Tulse Hill establishment’s cocktail list.

Chili Bubbas Bee

I must admit, I haven’t had a great deal of experience with Caribbean food so I will be looking forward to being enlightened by such morsels as:

– Crab and chive mayonnaise with avocado sweetcorn and beetroot emulsion

– Authentic Caribbean curried goat in a roast petal tuille basket served with avocado puree and plantain crisps

– Carrot cake with rum sorbet and spiced carrot puree

I’ll let you know how I get on!

 

For more information visit www.facebook.com/bubbasdining.

My food week in pictures – I’m no pastry chef

I’m quite organised in life, but when it comes to preparing meals in advance, I’m terrible. I think it’s because I like to eat on stimulus, inspiration, and to be honest I’ll eat whatever I bloody well fancy, whenever I bloody well fancy it. This usually results in paying an extortionate amount in my nearest Sainsbury’s local.

This weekend I was returning to the motherland (Yorkshire) and I knew that on Sunday evening, when I was to return, a flaccid £5 fishcake was not going to cut the horseradish. Pre-empting this disappointment I made, and then froze, an aubergine parmigiana. As it happens, it’s not the most attractive dishes to photograph, but it’s pretty tasty.

Aubergine parmigiana prep

Aubergine parmigiana prep

The aubergines and tinned tomatoes were sourced from various grocers and purveyors of vegetables in Brixton. I’ll give a shout out to A&C Co Continental Grocers on Electric Avenue where aubergines were only 60p! Their parmesan cheese was excellent value and great quality. Furthermore they’ve got a brilliant selection of fresh herbs – even found some fresh oregano which didn’t break the bank. Leave a comment if you’re interested and I will post the recipe.

Thursday night was simply marvellous. I really enjoyed tapas at Seven at Brixton in Market Row which I reviewed. I’ll recommend the patatas bravas, as well as the wilted spinach, rocket and warm manchego salad.

Patatas bravas, Seven at Brixton

Warm spinach, rocket, and manchego salad

I returned a little earlier than I thought on Sunday night, and to keep myself entertained (Sunday night television is simply dire), I made apple pie. Although I love to cook, baking is not my forte. I don’t think I allowed the pastry to rest enough, and as a result it was crumbly and a bit short. But by god, eating it in a cosy lounge when the rain is hitting the window horizontally outside makes it taste flipping good.

Home made apple pie

 

SW9 Brixton – Seven at Brixton – Restaurant review

Post-work drinks on a Friday is something all working Londoners are familiar with. Work ends. You hit the nearest pub. You have four pints on an empty stomach.

We commute and therefore live too far away to catch the tube to freshen up, perhaps grab a light snack, and carry on with an evening which could potentially be a great deal more civilised (next time you see me ask about the night I woke up in Morden).

After a couple of drinks, thinking about finding a decent restaurant nearby, then coming back to the drinking establishment you’ve just left (only to find that the seats you once had have been commandeered by a group of drunken advertising execs) is a not an appealing prospect. Once we’ve found a bar we stay there…Besides, when I’m having a drink I don’t necessarily want a slap-up meal anyway. A light snack suffices; after all, you still want to save room for a few more drinks.

The British don’t do light meals well, and offer little in the way of a solution to combining evening drinks and tasty nibbles, but one of our European counterparts does.

I give you tapas.

More specifically, I give you Seven at Brixton.

In Market Row, once you get past the noisy throng queuing for pizza at Frano Manca, there’s serenity. A low-lit industrial space littered with recycled and distressed tables welcomes you. Pintxos, cake, and a back wall of cocktail fodder are a giveaway as to the motives of Seven at Brixton. Little do you know that there’s a warren of rooms upstairs complete with its own art installation.

Art Installation, Seven at Brixton

Thursday night was busy. Seats were taken, and there was chatter – but not that overriding noise that pervades London’s new found love of canteen-style eating. The brown parchment menu had been thumbed by someone who prefers to manually eat their patatas bravas, and the coca cola crates – our seats – required a bit of patience at first. Industrial hardware fashioned the art installation which created the shabby backdrop to our Cruzcampos and tapas. Had I not known otherwise, I would have thought I was in a pop up bar in Shoreditch.

Between the two of us we ordered five dishes: a warm manchego, spinach and rocket salad; button, shitake mushroom and leek croquettas; tortilla with chorizo and prawns; patatas bravas, and ensaladilla rusa. I thought the manchego salad was a bit steep at £6, but everything else fell between £3 and £4 a dish – not extortionate at all.

Warm spinach, rocket, and manchego salad

Service was great. Our waiter (that seems far too formal) did a cracking job weaving in between the tables and crates while simultaneously, and successfully, balancing Old Fashioneds on his tray.

The bravas were well oiled (not oily) and the sweet fiery red sauce gave the starchy fried potatoes the subtle kick they needed. The ensaladilla rusa, a creamy potato salad, green beans, and carrot was soured with slices of green olive – taking the edge off what could have been on the verge of being too sweet. The piquillo pepper also helped tip the scales in its favour, although the crusty toasted bread could have had your teeth out if you weren’t careful.

Patatas bravas, Seven at Brixton

I couldn’t fault the tortilla which had subtle onion hints running through. Chorizo and prawns are a classic combination, but unfortunately the garlic had slightly caught (a one-off occasion, I’m sure) and didn’t do much to accentuate the flavours.

The mushroom croquettas although tasty, were a little too soft in the middle for me, and didn’t hold themselves together all that well. I would have preferred a little more chew in the chew per bite ratio.

Pinxtos, Seven at Brixton

And at this point I’m going to have to backtrack. I mentioned that I thought the wilted spinach salad with manchego was quite expensive, but come to think of it, it was probably the dish I enjoyed the most. The spinach retained its texture and a bit of crunch – even so, it was soft without being watery; the rocket did its job to give a little zing and the manchego was smooth.

My tarta de Santiago was moist and pasty – like the inside of an almond croissant. Its light and buttery base was not too sweet but satisfyingly wholesome.

Seven at Brixton is as versatile a venue as you could want. It’s a bar. It’s a bar that serves the kind of food you want when you are having a drink. I’m thinking tapas could and should shift the culture in the way we treat social drinking. Therefore I propose you consider Seven at Brixton as a venue for after work drinks. There will be no debauchery, but there will be a friendly ambience, inventive food of modest size to accompany your cocktails, and a soundtrack to tap your toe to. Equally, you could just pop in for a light dinner and a home-made lemonade as I did last Thursday. What’s more, I sense Seven is someone’s well-thought out project; you can tell they care. I’m glad I discovered you, Seven at Brixton, I hope you’ll have me back, although I think I’ll keep you my little secret.

Ambience, Seven at Brixton

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