Eating out

Can't cook, won't cook

Kaye Holland can't cook, won't cook

Once upon a time, tourism boards wanted to tell us that their destination was fantastic for ‘live music’.  Then the tagline was ‘art’, followed by ‘fashion’. Fast forward to the present day and it’s all about food.


Make no mistake: food has never been more fashionable. Without fail every tourism board I talk to tells me that their city/country/region (delete as appropriate) is a foodie’s paradise brimming with farm to table (aka locally sourced food) dining venues, funky pop ups, trendy microbreweries et al.

 

And more often that not, they’re right: ‘It’ restaurants are everywhere and travellers and locals alike are scrambling for seats. We’re reading reviews for restaurants all around the world – from Bristol to Budapest and Bali – and queuing around the block to get in and Instagram a picture of the go- to dish.

Yet while I love to dine out the latest hotspots (in London the buzz right now is all about Hoppers and Gymnasium) and will happily spend my Saturday mornings slumped on the sofa watching James Martin’s whip up a recipe on Saturday Kitchen, I can’t – it dawned on me on Christmas Day when I was trying to assist my Mum in the kitchen – cook for toffee.

 

For me, dinner is about wine, cheese and flatbreads – perhaps, at a push, some olives or anything else that is ‘instant’. I thought I was alone in my kitchen crap-ness but it transpires that I am anything but. I canvassed friends as to what they had eaten on Christmas Day and the answer ranged from “dips, Pringles and panettone” to “profiteroles and Prosecco.” Very few faffed around with a Turkey, with those who had their heart set on traditional Christmas dinner heading out to a restaurant.

 

Why are my friends and I so useless in the kitchen? I think it’s because – thanks to daily modern life with its endless deadlines, to-do lists, gym classes, hen nights and non stop social media pressures – we’re all so damn time poor. If I actually have a free hour, I’d prefer to watch paint dry  than spend it shackled to the stove while trading 101 things to do with a ripe aubergine.


And thankfully – with M&S to the left of my door and Morrisons to my right – I don’t have to. Food halls, hummus and packets of pitta bread  have set me free.  It may not be the most nutritious diet,  but it’s one that has given me the greatest gift of them all this Yuletide: free time.

Restaurant review: Dirty Bones

TNT reviews Dirty Bones - Carnaby's latest dining hot spot.

Already a hit on High Street Kensington, Dirty Bones has now opened an outpost in Kingly Court off Carnaby Street. 

With its communal tables (surrounded by numerous smaller ones), wooden beams, bricks walls, parquet floors and rambling assortment of tables, chairs and comfy sofas scattered throughout,  the interior exudes warmth – even if it is slap bang in the middle of what is basically an al fresco shopping centre. 

The ambience is enhanced further by the intimate cocktail bar at the back- a good spot to unwind with friends over a cheekily named cocktail (the Mutt’s Nuts - an enticing combination of Woodford reserve bourbon, cinnamon and vanilla infused maple syrup, ago posture bitters, lemon and apple juice - gets our vote), while waiting for your table.

Once seated, prepare to peruse the menu which is all about comfort eating: get stuck into irresistible starters such as Charred pardon peppers in citrus glad (£4) or - our favourite - Deep fried mac balls (£5.50) with sweet chilli sauce. You’ll hate yourself as you hover them all up…



That said Dirty Bones’ specialty is dogs - aka sausages to you and me. Choose from Classic Yankee (spring onions, sauerkraut, Frenchies mustard and ketchup), Brit Dog (treacle bacon, mature beer, cheddar, curried gherkins, ketchup and english mustard), Dirty Dog (BBQ pulled pork, crispy bacon, jalapeño cheese sauce, crispy shallots) and Asian (kimchee puree, wasabi mayo, crispy seaweed and sesame seeds), all of which are available in pork, beef and veggie versions. The dogs can also be served naked (i.e. sans bread) making them a great option for herbivores and the gluten intolerant.

Carnivores, however, will wait to order the chicken - a generous serving of Crispy fried chicken coated in a sort of spiced buttermilk sauce that you’ll want to lap up like a kitten. Good tasting sides include the Heritage tomato salad and Collard greens- for those looking to get their five a day - and the less saintly (but very more’ish) Mac and cheese. Think bliss in a dish... 

Dessert defeated us - if you do plan on visiting, arrive with a large appetite as you can eat at Dirty Bones until your stomach threatens the waistband of your trousers - but we’ll be back. Most likely for the brunch which features bottomless Prosecco for £15. Result! 

 

Regardless of when you visit, expect to be served by bright, chatty and vivacious staff (presided over by manager Joe) who are clearly having a blast. 

For essentially Dirty Bones specialises in fun and upscale American fast food - what more could you want? Do yourself a favour and check it out.


Restaurant review: the Brass Rail at Selfridges

Shopping in Selfridges – voted the Best Department Store in the World – this Saturday? When you need a break between browsing, indulge in a (not so light) bite in The Brass Rail.  Selfridges’ heritage salt beef bar, which launched in 1966, has reopened with a new look and expanded menu.

On arrival, chances are you’ll be dazzled by the display of Salt beef sandwiches such as Brass Rail Reuben (200g of succulent salt beef, sauerkraut, gherkins, melted Swiss cheese served on Marbled rye & Caraway bread) and Bialy Roll (a towering pulled hot salt beef sandwich with melted Swiss cheese, gherkin, gem lettuce and exclusive Brass Rail relish), Carrot cake and other calorie-laden, creamy treats. 

Once you’ve managed to drag yourself away from the counter, sink into a well upholstered red banquette, soak up the buzzy atmosphere (on our last visit, the Brass Rail was as busy as a bookie’s on Grand National Day) and wait for your goodies to arrive.


In addition to a the sumptuous section of Salt beef sandwiches, there’s also a good choice of salads (try the Broccoli, lentils, bulgar wheat, sunflower seeds and pomegranate salad) and specials such as the made to order Mac and cheese which, with its cheesy béchamel sauce, is addiction on a plate. You’ll hate yourself as you hoover it…

To drink, it’s got to be coffee. (Although it’s only been open a few weeks the new incarnation of Brass Rail has already developed a reputation as a coffee connoisseur’s paradise thanks to its partnership with Origin coffee). Don’t miss the exclusive coffee blend, provided by the Mierisch family in Nicaragua.

Sure the cost of coffee and cake or a Salt beef sarnie and salad can be pricier than other places on Oxford Street but it is special and staff are utterly charming. For exceptional salt beef in an elegant setting, head here.


Restaurant review: Jar Kitchen, WC2

Kaye Holland can't get enough of Jar Kitchen - a friendly, new café in Covent Garden.

Entering Jar Kitchen (located on Drury Lane near the New London Theatre) is the equivalent of walking into an episode of Friends: everyone looks happy to be there and eating the food which is fabulous - hearty yet healthy, and imaginative. 


For a bit of stomach lining, start with the Courgette flowers, goats cheese, honey, walnuts (£7) - sure to send shivers down the spines of the capital’s veggie contingent. Moving onto mains, Diana - my dining companion - appreciated her impossibly huge Earl Grey salmon, fried egg, hollandaise and pickled cucumber served on Rye bread (£10.50 from the all day breakfast menu). Our gold star, however, goes to the Ottolenghi-ish Mixed-grain salad with roasted heirloom carrots, coconut yogurt, pomegranate and herbs (£9.50) - a simple yet satisfying dish that’s perfect for a late summer meal.

 

Complimentary bowls of nuts magically materialise with jars of water but, if you’re need of something stronger to drink, there’s around a dozen wines to choose from - all sold by the glass.

Dessert defeated us but the Mini doughnuts served with cinnamon sugar and salted caramel cream and Creme fraiche cheesecake with lemon sorbet (both £6) caught our eye for a future visit... yes we will be back.

Elsewhere décor is charming (think parquet floors, warm blue walls and rustic wooden surfaces adorned with jars - a nod to the caff cum restaurant’s name) while service is sweet - our waitress Kay was friendly and efficient, without being overbearing.  All told, you’ll leave a lot happier than when you first arrived.


Jar Kitchen, 176 Drury Lane, Covent Garden, WC2B 5QF (Open Tues-Fri 8am-9pm, Sat 10am-4.30pm; 0207 405 4255; hello@jarkitchen.com; www.jarkitchen.com)

Read more: http://www.tntmagazine.com/london/food-and-drink/restaurant-review-jar-kitchen-london-wc2

Restaurant of the week: M Restaurants

Top of the charts of popular New Year resolutions? To lose the pounds we packed on, over Christmas. However half way through January – if you’re anything like the Haute Time team – chances are you’ve had enough of being cooped up at home, consuming a carb free diet.

Happily eating healthily doesn’t HAVE to mean house arrest. If you want to dine out sans guilt, follow in Haute Time’s well heeled footsteps and make for M – aka Martin Williams’ first solo venture.

The former Gaucho boss’ new venue – whose launch in November 2014 attracted the A list likes of Keith Allen, Michelin-starred chef Tom Aikens, cricket ace Michael Vaughn, Heather Kurzner and Tiny Tempah who performed a string of hits including Earthquake, RIP, Pass Out andTrampoline – encompasses a drop dead gorgeous cocktail bar, a wine tasting room, a secret den and four private dining and events spaces plus two restaurants, Grill and Raw. The former serves serving £149 Kobe steaks and  £3,000 bottles of wine but if you’re still on a January health kick, then Raw – which as the name suggest, specialises in small plates of raw food – is the restaurant for you.


Sounds tedious? That’s what we thought until we picked up our chopsticks and got stuck into that’s full of some of the most saintly sounding but delicious dishes imaginable.

Standouts include the Smoked baby beets (balsamic, goats cheese, almonds) - a riot of colour and texture – and the sugar snap peas accompanied with wasabi, both from the ‘Leaves and grains’ section of the menu devised by Jarad McCarroll (formerly Chiltern Firehouse).

Scallops and bacon made with scallop tartare, apple jelly and bacon crumble from the ‘Tartar and Tiradito bar’ and sashimi are equally satisfying but the knockout dishes are the Forbidden hotspots: the Chicken Yakitori was beautifully presented while the veggie version – Crispy aubergine, tofu and salted chilli – was no less fabulous.

For dessert, there’s a wonderfully creative White chocolate and lavender soup, served with poached apples and coconut tuile, Ginger toucan (toasted granola, organic honey granita), Fruit ceviche (pineapple, torrontés, black cardamom, vanilla bean yoghurt) and a Trio of scummy sorbets (coconut, plum, quince).

To drink, choose froman array of Organic and bio-dynamic wines as well as an extensive sake list. If that sounds too virtuous though, you can always move up to the mezzanine level where you’ll find M Bar – designed by Lance Perkins, bar and beverage director of the Edition Hotelwhich recently won the ‘Best Hotel Bar’ at the London Bar & Club Awards.

Raw’s setting also elates: think polished, concrete tiling and brightly coloured seating that includes sharing tables and high stools. And don’t forget to visit the unisex bathrooms before you leave: the imported heated Japanese-style toilets are a real talking point!

Factor in perky yet professional service (our waitress, Natasha, was impeccably smart and efficient) and you’ve got an extraordinary restaurant – you’re unlikely to have been anywhere like it before – at the top of its game.

Bottom line? Being healthy has never been so fun or so easy. We’re going back next weekend.