Chiringuitos, Ibiza

Chiringuito are restaurants stripped down to the essentials – a view, you are on the sea maybe, you have a table, the wine choice is curated, the fish is super fresh, the grill is hot, the kitchen is on top of itself, the turn around is quick enough, the staff are usually the owners. Good places in that they represent the real values of restauration. Not always cheap-cheap but still good value. Worth looking out for. Wiki tells me loftily that they are a ‘small entreprise in a more or less provisional building’…otherwise known as a shack…This is Ibiza.

Item one: the shack at the crossroads of the harbour at Pou des Lleo is in fact operated by the illustrious and accomplished restaurant of the same name up the hill known for its paella and rice and anything else these fisherman land.

Item two: round the bay a few miles further south, on the beach itself at Cala Masetella which also houses the guide book favourite El Bigotes – fried fish at 12, bullet (the local fish stew) at 2 – is this beach hut that serves grilled sardines, or grilled dover sole. With salad or chips, only these chips are thinly sliced potatoes which you might otherwise call crisps, homemade.

Item three: The receptionist at the smarter Punta de Talamasnca said wistfully – you mean the little place round the corner? Yep. Further south again, almost touching Ibiza town, Maria, Juan and Mari has no web site, has no phone, has no address apart from 07819 Talamanca. No credit cards, cash only. No Booking. Just a queue at the end of Calla Calandria. Five o’clock is probably a good time to get a table for lunch. It is a sort of container kitchen to which sails have been added and tied down with string. The yachts anchored in the bay may be worth more than a central American economy. There is no menu – just a list of fish of the day, each served with the same crisp salad and boiled waxy potatoes. No sauce, no mayonnaire, no ketchup. Just grilled.

In the past it has been called the Fish Shack and you can find that incarnation here

Item four: On the more fashionable northern shore of San Antonio, again near the better known sunset restaurant Hostel del Torre is the seemingly modest Cala Gracionetta which calls itself a chiringuito but it has now morphed into taking bookings, even for your wedding…evolution. Part of the etiquette is you may get offered a free coffee, slaked with loal hooch.

Eataly, Liverpool street, London

SHOULD you live in the east, or that part that is connected via Liverpool Street Station, you may well soon be receiving parcels of fresh pasta, ciabbatta, bottles of sauce, wedges of Parmesan, a whole anti pasto from the salumeria.  Eataly is not just a big deli, it is a HUGE Walt Disney style experience of italiana gastronomica including wine shop, three restaurants scheduled soon, grazing, classes, tastings. It is a spaceship of produtti. You are being connected to the Italian countryside on a scale that is perhaps bigger than most Tescos, Far from being in the vanguard, London is actually the 43rd outlet of Oscar Farrinetti’s grand vision which he began in Turin in 2007 after touring that country commissioning producers of Slow Food. So this is the reverse of fast food, this is eating as in the last part of the agricultural process. Your money is being meaningfully spent. It helps of course that Italy regards itself as one of the homes of gastronomy, so everything here is joined up thinking, you will not go home and find yourself stocking for a nuclear bunker, you will not waste half the morning ready the labels for what is in your food. The point is, it is curated. It all fits. If there is mozzarella left over for tomorrow, no problem. If you have sauce, then there is pasta in the cupboard. Suddenly you are an Italian housewife. You are Ada Boni. You are Marcella Hazan. And if you don’t feel confident, there are classes, there are even children’s classes. And as a lot of the staff seem to be Italian, omg, if they don’t know what they are talking about…here is a picture of the sweet alley, which is a bit like a duty free for all things dolce…

Btw note to food producers UK, this is how it is done.

Welome to the COMPOS

SO, we emerge, blinking out of this lockdown, things restaurant wise will not be the same for reasons I will go on to enumerate later. Meantime, it is pretty much ground zero. Some places will pick up swiftly, others fall flat, still others will be permanently re-arranged, so these are not reviews as was the style back in the day, just little complimentaries, mentions in dispatches, for valor, for opening, somewhat randomly compiled according to where I have been allowed to roam or in the increasingly problematic task of just booking a table: Welcome to the COMPOS.

The most gastronomically excellent experience thanks to lockdown is that Brawn the shop has managed to get a supply of various sausages and pigs feet from Coombeshead Farm in Cornwall, deliveries on Friday (although the shop is morphing back into restaurant mode next month (and a new branch in newly arty old Margate). Sausages: COMPO, COMPO.

Lockdown restaurant of the year remains Master Wei in Bloomsbury with special COMPO for the hand pulled noodles.

Farang at the top of Blackstock Road, N4,  has morphed into a style we may see more of which is dining rooms converted to shops/markets but the kitchen still cooking to order for takeaway, kits, for a chill counter. They have excellent supplies of fresh Thai ingredients plus a few tables on the street…fried chicken is easy enough but the depth of the dipping sauces is not so easy…COMPO

Equally a mention for another Thai, Diep on Finchley Road, NW11 a dedicated takeaway, built to order and bravely keeping up the spices, good value especially for the mixed green vegetables, despite a feew TV grumps…COMPO

An old stager, maybe THE oldest old stager whose car park has been requisitioned for tables is the Royal Standard. A COMPO for roast potatoes, for huge Yorkshire pudding, mentions for the roast vegetables.

Cute too is the Japanese Necco in the busy Exmouth Market… good value lunch served in interlocking laquer bowls…super sushi menu is almost double the lunch but at £17 but may well be worth it, modern Japanese grazing. Nice folks… COMPO

Master Wei Xi’an, Bloomsbury, London 15/20

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Reporting back: the most excellent noodles here about which I have written before, but in lockdown have become doubly desirable, testimony to the queues of Uber and Deliveroo drivers outside. We had numbers 35 and 36. The latter is Qishan hand pulled noodles with pork in sour and spicy soup pictured below, just the kind of comfort food one needs in a pandemic. So too the addictive pork biang biang noodles with tomato and egg sauce and chilli oil. They are about £10 apiece but you probably won’t want to share. There are tables outside on the pedestrian concourse and with social distancing room for perhaps 12 inside…or order online because of 52 dishes there are very interesting things going on that London has not seen before. Mistress, Wei Guirong (for yes it is a she not a he) runs a pretty capable kitchen. If you can get on the orbit for delivery, it is a must.

Quishan

Yiannis, Krouzeri beach, Corfu 14/20

There is one villa placard by the road signaling a deep descent, say four per cent, say a double black ski run, between Nisaki and Agni pointing to the bay. Nisaki Bay, as opposed to Nisaki itself, which is actually the other side of Kaminaki, another beach outlet reached by a vertiginous stretch of old concrete, another three per cent descent from where you could also walk along the shore. There are lots of confusing Ks around here going north to Krouzeri, Kalami (where the Durrell family hung out), Kaloura, Kerasia, Kasiopi. In season it is a bit Kensington on sea, a public school summer camp. Google struggles with Greek and if you search for the Koyrzeri Taverna, you will end up in Turkey. This is Corfu.

A krouzeria might be an excellent moniker for a tavern – but walk on a bit to the falling down wooden jetty and to your right snuggled into the cliff, almost invisible in fact. That it has three doors next to the WC sign might suggest things are not as sleepy as they may seem. An illuminated cocktail bar wedged into the cliff beams affluence.

Yiannis is the kind of place hippies used to write home about, the kind of place nice girls stayed all summer or longer. This is Leonard Cohen and Marianne territory (well not really, that was Mykonos,  but might as well be). You want a view, try this one. There is no music, just a lapping, swoosh of the flat sea and the hum of an outboard motor.

Yiannis’s is a proper restaurant, part of the shore economy, mother in the kitchen, family out front. For mysterious reasons sparkling water is the same price as beer at 4 euros, either of which will make up a goodly percentage of the bill.

Beyond the stifado and dolmades we have Pork in the Oven – belly rolled around local hedgerow herbs mainly sage which is Corfu’s emblematic leaf , thick slices, so not quite souvlaki which is loin. Enough people must have asked what the stifado was that it is now just Beef in Red Wine. No bling.

Taramosalata is white (bread not tomatoes), the aubergine salad is an elegant mix with tomato, not bread which comes warm in a paper bag, courgettes are thinly sliced and fried crisp.

How fresh do you want your fish? Here is the boat moored outside. The morning catch is in the chill cabinet, pick your own. The grill is on. The coals are hot. Mullet? Snapper? Bream? Bass? Mixed? Grilled prawns are 16 euros, add spaghetti for another two euros. The fish comes with chips and very fine chips they are too, shallow fried in olive oil. To the side as garnish is a tomato. Now on Corfu the tomato is not what you find in Waitrose. It  is a nmotata pronounced as in No Matter. They are different things, even laid up as a garnish. A nmotata is even a  ντομάτα. It is changing the typeface on my computer as I type as if to make the point that my spellcheck is confused. It might aswell be hakuna matata, the basis of much of the cooking. This is a country where an anchovy translates as fried where a sardine means grills.

Yiannis is the quintessential restaurant-you-may-never-have-heard-of, even a bit of a surprise to the visitors who stumble off the ferry three times a week for the authentic taverna lunch off the same pier, ironically where the water taxi picks up to whisk people staying locally to other restaurants with a free boat ride thrown in…probably no better than here anyway. They should have stayed put.

Daffodil Mulligan reopens

The most excellent Daffodil Mulligan has re-opened. Here is the review I wrote just before lockdown. If you go to the Hot Dinners website there is a deal for weekdays from now until October, although to be fair, given the parlous state of most restaurant finances, if you can afford, you might pay the full price. It is a good crack.

Charlie, the organic milk float, north London

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IS IT a bird? Is it a plane? No it is an organic, zero waste milk float…heads turn in the street as something unusual comes along….

Meet Charlie. Charlie is a converted van that trundles around north London, available to book, will come to your door, you just need the containers because that is how they make their margin (and save the planet). It is organic or natural, zero waste, fair trade.IMG_3340

They tell me they are one of only 10 shops in north London that refill rather than selling everything in packets. They started last year in Tufnel Park and have plans…Essentially it is a wholefood store on wheels stacked with pulses, rices, fashionable things like chia and quinoa and some rarities like mulberries (very sweet) and golden berries (very sour) – full product list here.

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You book, she comes, you hand over your empty jars, she fills. Prices are pretty much in line with the cheaper end of supermarkets so Arborio rice is £4.40 a kilo compared to Waitrose own label £2.78 but brands like Gallo are £5. Chia seeds are a snip at £7.6 a kilo against Waitrose £12.30 but what to do with a kilo of chia seeds is one for postcards and answers on, only.

Good produce. The van itself is a bit of head turner so they are making friends on the street and overall it beats queuing for a supermarket. You can social distance all you like.

While the notion of the resuarant has been hauled off for a refit at the local garage, I will give these pages over to endeavours that have if you like restaurant values and concerns or if you like a return to the original meaning of the word… restoratives.

Takagiya, West Hampstead, London 12/20

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LET me tell you a story about a lovely couple who thought of opening a restaurant of their own. They picked a nice spot on a semi main road in West Hampstead. Opposite a Tesco. What could go wrong? And they decorated it nicely with lovely plants and vases and benches outside and a bar for sake and intimate little tables. And that was in March.

Undeterred they put up a little takeaway sign…I am not saying this is the best Japanese restaurant in town but it is one of the best that is open and it actually tastes of Japan rather the usual out of a box formula of miso and cold rice. Their rice is warm, and seasoned. Their miso soup has colones, if that is not an image or a culture too far. The full bento takeaway is £14.20 and here it is, this one based around wild seabass but it can be salmon.

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The menu changes daily and when it runs out, it runs out. Makoto Takagi used to cook at Zuma in Knightsbridge. His wife Yoko is front of house. There is a vegetarian option but otherwise it leans towards pork katsu, wagu beef, chicken yakitori but with lots of asides. If you are in the area, they deserve your support.

https://www.takagiyalondon.com/takeaway-menu/

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Sable d’Or, north London, 12/20

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THE only concession for this page to the lockdown is not to travel too far but I can report in miscroscopic local detail where there are vibrant examples of what will surely be a new culture taking shape. I have one this week and another next week, so we are not dead yet.

I am rather hoping that mom and pop style operations are going to survive this chaos, if for no other reason than mom and pop don’t really have anything else to do. Sable D’Or has soldiered on as if trying to nurture a queue as big as the neighbouring chemist shop or Tesco. Ours is in England’s Lane, Belsize Park, one of three in the group with others in Crouch End and Muswell Hill.

Such places start as retail bakery and confiserie, then realize like all the coffee shops, that a few tables and chairs were super profitable. But that has all had to stop. It is back to basics, but very very good basics. Another similar which is open again with a more Nordic slant is Fabrique.

For the moment breakfast is cancelled. Pancakes are terminated. So it is back to an honesty box in the corner, only two people allowed at a time, a table full of intelligent salads, and a window full of small tea-time cakes that bear the imprint of a master baker. The espresso machine survives, so it is shopping with coffee (and juice). That queue is growing. By way of validation I can offer photographic evidence of its quality from the local constabulary and witness testimony to the fire engine parked up outside too.IMG_2976

There is a choice of salads – three for £10 that usually feature a healthy slant in quinoa and kale or just roast potatoes. IMG_2968

Quiches also survive. Individual items of absolute excellence I could cite at random are the Viennoiseries, the brioche, the tarts all very high quality, with a bias towards apricot rather than chocolate which differentiates it from the excellent Paul (which has also reopened in Hampstead at least).

This photograph reminds me of one I took some years ago in Paris here. The comparison is not an exageration. You will be glad you supported them.IMG_2969

https://www.sabledorpatisserie.com/

Daffodil Mulligan, Old Street, London 18/20

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DAFFODIL Mulligan sits right in the middle of the Old Street maelstrom of construction work, beautifully trimmed in steel and black stone with yellow motif, surrounded currently by ubiquitous orange cones and bright red crash barriers. And a scarf of idling cars and buses.

Daffodil herself is according to the 1938 song “hale and hearty and the life of the party” and there is a basement bar for music and carousing

Welcome to the nightmare of Old Street, perhaps a tarmac manifestation of these troubled times, Mr Corrigan, aka Richard, aka Mr Bentley. As it happens I am reading Margaret Hickey’s excellent book on Food in Ireland (Unbound) and Corrigan has his name blazed across the front and in the preface by way of endorsement.

I am half expecting cabbage and bacon on the menu but Corrigan is not really what you would call an Irish chef, more of a Marco Pierre White with an accent. There is kale on toast. There is stout. There are oysters. But there are other things too.

Many years ago, in another era, when Richard first opened in Soho, a young A.A Gill, aka Mr Amber Rudd (yes there are politics even when it comes to restaurant writing) penned a very rare complimentary review in the Sunday Times, the first for many months. The switchboard and telephone exchanges collapsed as five million readers tried to book 10 tables. Newspaper reviews can be a bit disproportionate like that.

There is a sign on the door saying One thousand welcomes. It is a modern space, an L shape dominated by a bar  from where you can see every corner of the room and big overhead lights drop down on you like dumplings.

IMG_2825It has more of the feel of a slick diner than a comfy cushioned restaurant. In the corner tucked away is a burning woodfire for cooking.IMG_2837

There is a tasting six course menu at £50 including a glass of stout which is about what you can expect to pay here which is not excessive given that we are on the City fringes and the heart of hipsterdom. Well not for this quality anyway. We got distracted by the starters, which was a mistake. We could have had grubben (trotters) with mashed swede or even Totenham curd with beetroot and pomegranite.  We opted for the kale:

IMG_2829 And then something rare by way of a Dorset cherry clam which had been spiced with a tiny shard of lime pickle that looks like sea urchin.IMG_2828 And three mounds of cod’s roe with some salmon as garnish and some seeded crispbread to smear it on.IMG_2832And then this pretty as you please ceviche of bass with chilli and orange.IMG_2833And a beef tartar which came in an oyster shell and a blob of oyster cream and is one of those that get you talked about. Very, very good.IMG_2831All or a few of these are good sharing dishes which makes them good value and leaves some change for main events from the wood oven including lobster or Hannah’s sugar pit pork or diverting specials like salt baked chicken or scallop ceviche with a Goan curry. Or game pie.

This is the back sole from the wood fired oven, cut horizontally off what must have ben a sizeable fish, set on a mess of cavolero nero or something you might have to refer to Hickey’s book to identify, together with some sparkling roasted grapes and hazelnuts which gives a totally different idiom from a pan fried and grilled versions. The pumpkin garnish also gets a roasting.IMG_2834Side dishes include mash with bone marrow crumb, roasted carrots or pruple sprouting brocolli with an anchoide mousse.

Front of house is run by Richie who is Richard’s son. The downstairs bar Gibney’s is an offshoot of Dublin’s which boasts 27 beers on tap and a wine cellar more than 500 bottles strong. A serious craic, you might conclude. They are not messing around here. If you have to choose one restaurant to survive the coming onslaught, I would opt for this one.