Posts Tagged With: Angel

Gotta get down on Sunday: A roast for you and a roast for me at The Pig & Butcher

Copyright of Pig & Butcher. Sourced from Pig & Butcher website

Copyright of Pig & Butcher. Sourced from Pig & Butcher website

Cuisine: British

Address: 80 Liverpool Street, N1 0QD

Area: Angel

Nearest Station: Angel/Highbury & Islington

Tel.: 020 7226 8304

Website: http://www.thepigandbutcher.co.uk/

Pricing: Medium

Good For: Buzzing atmosphere, Filling meal, Smart-casual dining, Beer selection

“The earliest booking I can get for Sunday Roast is 6pm,” my friend’s message read. This was a perfectly good time for an early dinner – but as a lunch (which was the original intention), this was somewhat pushing it a bit.

The Pig & Butcher in Islington is a popular place, no doubt about it. It was heaving with people by the time I got there, and so it was a struggle to get through the closely-packed tables and the pressing crowd to meet my friend at the bar.

The atmosphere was buzzing, to say the least. The sounds of a thousand conversations reverberated off the wooden panelling, the wooden floor, the wooden fixtures and the wooden furniture, making for an exciting feel but also a bit of loud environment for talking. This was a bit of a shame, as there was a lot of catching up that needed doing.

As we waited at our booth for the others to arrive, I was able to sample the very extensive beer list and display some ale snobbery (I am such a sucker for these). The Hackney Brewery Golden Ale was a good choice, being suited for lovely spring evening – not too bitter, with a rounding and warming flavour that enveloped my tongue in a slight hint of sweetness. Now that I read that last sentence, my gosh doesn’t that sound pretentious? If I ever start carrying around a spitting bucket, please do feel free to slap me.

In any case, the pretentiousness was not allowed to blossom, as the rest of the crew arrived and we got down to the business of ordering. Sunday Roasts all around – what else could it be on a Sunday?

Roast beef - all juiced and raring to go

Roast beef – all juiced and raring to go

I managed to get a good glimpse of a friend’s roast beef, as it was mistakenly placed in front of my salivating eyes. As you can see from the photo, it looked ridiculously juicy and almost creamy looking – it was an enticingly pink colour all throughout, but still had a tasty-looking charred exterior. As it was taken away and given to the right recipient, I could feel the food envy building…

Roast lamb - meek and mild

Roast lamb – meek and mild

But as my roast lamb arrived, the envy dissipated and was replaced with pride. Again, pink all throughout, with a layer of charred fat and skin looking extremely juicy and devilish. But whilst the lamb was juicy and really flavourful, I did find it a bit chewier than expected – it wasn’t as melt-in-the-mouth as other lamb I have had, and so it did put my jaw to work. As for the vegetables, they were cooked just right and had a satisfying bite to them, but could have done with just a smidgen of seasoning to liven them up a bit (my family’s local in Surrey actually goes the extra mile and has a selection of maple-glazed vegetables, usually parsnips, carrots and squash, with lightly-pickled red cabbage). However, the potatoes were superbly crispy, and the Yorkshire pudding was fluffy, doughy and crunchy, all at the same time.

Feeling the food envy come back, I desired to try the beef and so managed to swap some lamb with a friend – and yes, that small mouthful of beef was as good as it first looked. Perhaps next time I will have to go for that.

Surprisingly, we were not all completely stuffed with those hefty roasts: there was still space for dessert! Or some dessert at least – there were six of us sharing three desserts (the girls were watching their petite waist lines; me, not so much).

A sweet way to end the day

A sweet way to end the day

We had the parkin with toffee sauce and clotted cream (a luxurious sticky toffee-type pudding without the dates; the clotted cream added good richness to the slightly-thin caramel sauce), the apple & rhubarb crumble with vanilla ice cream (lots of crumble which I always enjoy, along with soft and sweet apples and rhubarb) and what I think was the malted chocolate mousse with hazelnut praline and milk sorbet (I remember this less well, as it was at the far end of the table).

It was, all in all, a leisurely (and very) late Sunday Roast lunch, perfect for a group of friends to meet and catch up over. We therefore rolled our way out of the Pig & Butcher, big and contented smiles on our faces, ready to face the oncoming night and the dreary Monday morning that it heralded.

VERDICT – A good place. It had a nice feel about it, as befitting a rustic city pub in the middle of classy Islington, and the busy atmosphere definitely contributed to the vibe (if you don’t mind the noise, at least). It was a good solid Sunday Roast, which whilst not the best I’ve had, would be more than enough to tempt people out of their homes and away from their own home-cooked versions. It’s definitely a place to check out for the rest of the week.

Currently listening to: Our Lady Peace – Middle of Yesterday

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A slice of Bangkok in London: Heat and spice at Naamyaa Café

Elephant-tastic

Welcome to the jungle

Cuisine: Thai

Address: 407 St John Street, EC1V 4AB

Area: Angel

Nearest Station: Angel

Tel.: 020 3122 0988

Website: http://www.naamyaa.com/

Pricing: Medium

Good For: Smart-casual dining, Spice, Filling meal, Fresh ingredients, Buzzing atmosphere, Warmth in your belly

“Did you come because of the magazine?”

The place had become rather busy not too long after we’d arrived at just after 6:30pm. After some impressive reviews in both the Evening Standard and Time Out, perhaps this shouldn’t be so surprising. However, because of these glowing reviews as well as all the hype circulating around town, I was just a bit sceptical as to how good Naamyaa was actually going to be.

As a take on the sort of modern café you would find in Bangkok, it does stand out a bit in straying away from the standard dishes and in offering dishes more attuned to quotidian Thai tastes, but at the same time, I do question how many people are going to order the burgers and/or things like the salad Niçoise, as popular as they would be in Bangkok.

As my friends and I found, the dishes that we really wanted – namely the turnip cake starter and the tom yam goong hotpot for two – were the over-subscribed and hence missing options of the night. Our server promised not to break our hearts with further bad news, and she managed to keep her vow.

So, to snack, we had cashew nuts lightly fried with garlic, chilli and herbs, which was quite revelatory for all of us in terms of flavour combination. And of course, any dish with crunchy garlic and chilli bits has got to be good. It’s a definite must-have snack whilst browsing the rest of the menu.

Just be careful though – if you are not on the ball, they will take the bowl away even if the bottom is carpeted with the delicious crunchy bits. We successfully batted away our overly-eager waitress, but it did become a bit of a running joke that she was constantly eyeing up our empty plates. On the other hand, she has to be commended for her attentiveness.

As for the starters, we ordered the jasmine tea-smoked baby back pork ribs, the Thai baby calamari, and the chicken wings. The ribs were delectable – falling off the bone, tender, sweet and juicy, though my taste buds aren’t well-trained in picking out tea-smoked flavours. The calamari had what I would call a husky flavour, warmth imparted by the mix of spices coating each squiggly piece, all delivered without the customary crunchy batter (which I usually prefer, but in this instance I can forego). The chicken wings, I think though, were the best of the lot, having a real crisp skin overlaying soft and well-cooked meat.

We also ordered the green papaya salad to accompany our starters as our token healthiness for the night. Alas, I was not particularly wowed by it – I felt that it lacked real tartness and bite, and although we were offered and promised spice, it was a bit of a mild affair. Overall, it added little to the meal.

Isaan chicken - delectable grilled chicken

Isaan chicken – delectable grilled chicken

But not so for the main courses that we had. I tried some of Friend A’s beef laksa, and was pleased with its grainy coconut curry sauce; however, though both he and I enjoyed the flavours, I would suggest that if you’ve come to Naamyaa for Thai food, then laksa (being of Malaysian origin) shouldn’t really feature on your radar. The Isaan chicken, on the other hand, should. A bit more of a unknown dish from northeast Thailand (at least when compared to usual Thai restaurant fare), Naamyaa’s version was succulent and fully infused with charcoal flavours – I would have ordered this if Friend B had not gotten to it first (we were operating a policy of trying as many dishes as possible), and I always defer to ladies.

Curried stir-fried soft shell crab - not pulling any punches

Curried stir-fried soft shell crab – not pulling any punches

So, onto my dish – the curried stir-fried soft shell crab rice set. Ignoring the fact that the rice seemed a bit dry and hard (I’m not just saying this because I love my rice soft and sticky), this was a wonderful dish. The lumps of soft-shell crab were distinctly-flavoured, and the meat softly textured – it was a bonus that there was plenty of it mixed up in the thick and highly-spiced curry sauce, amidst the copious amount of chillies and fried spring onion pieces (I looove those). The heat was tempered by a generous side salad that included cucumber, and so I was able to clean everything out of my bowl. It’s fair to say I had a good time with the soft shell crab rice.

Black tapioca pearls in coconut cream, topped with pomegranate seeds and toasted sesame seeds. A bit of a (tasty) mouthful

Black tapioca pearls in coconut cream, topped with pomegranate seeds and toasted sesame seeds. A bit of a (tasty) mouthful

I similarly had a good time with dessert, too. After an impassioned recommendation from our waitress, I changed my original choice of pandan and coconut agar-agar and instead opted for the black tapioca pearls in coconut cream, and was well-rewarded with a very fetching dessert. The pearls were chewy bordering on the too-soft, but the coconut cream was lusciously smooth and superbly enhanced by the crunch of pomegranate seeds and the striking toasted sesame seeds that formed the topping. An imaginative and fun dessert, I felt that that it was far superior to Friend A’s balsamic strawberries with yoghurt ice cream and Friend B’s mascarpone ice cream with strawberries, both of which looked very much like each other once subjected to mixing.

We left that night, warm of belly and content of heart. Naamyaa’s performance that night, in our eyes, justified those glowing reviews and all that hype. Although we did miss out on our tom yam goong and our turnip cake, I guess it means that we’ll just have to return for a second visit… *sigh*

VERDICT – A good place. Naamyaa was a fun experience and we did enjoy our meals, but there’s just something nagging away at the back of mind about the place. Maybe the decorations make it look too slick, maybe it was the dry rice, maybe it was missing out on the turnip cake; I don’t quite know. Just don’t let that get in the way of you going along and giving it a good shot.

Currently listening to: A Day to Remember – The Downfall of us All

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