Monday, June 05, 2006

A Weekend in London

I apologise in advance for things getting a touch out of order here but then again, you wouldn't know if I hadn't told you!

Sat 03 Jun 2006

The big trip down to London left us feeling pretty hungry (surprise) and at my behest we headed towards Busaba Eathai, on Wardour Street in Soho. I first ate at this Alan Yau project back in 2001, and at the time was suitably impressed with the food and value. I like the fact that, as a rule, you sit at large communal tables, and that the service is quick, the servings generous and the price low.

So, when it came to somewhere that was going to be good value in central London, it was to Busaba Eathai that I turned.

We managed to arrive at Wardour Street on foot, in the lovely weather, all the way from King's Cross. We stopped off along the way for a swift and restorative pint at the Northumberland Arms on Tottenham Court Road. A pint of San Miguel and one of London Pride set us back just over £5 but we were able to enjoy the pint in peace (quite a rarity down TCR!), and the pub is lovely, airy with a fantastic feeling of space.

Not quite in the mood for pub food we set off again and arrived at Busaba Eathai to find it relatively quiet - which I guess was not that surprising for a venue which features no outdoor seating on a lovely day. To be honest, on this occasion I was a little disappointed. Andy ordered the sitr fried rice with crab and I opted for the Thai green curry stir fried rice with char grilled chicken.

Hmm ... at around the £7 mark per dish this wasn't exactly bargain basement and to be honest, Andy's dish was tiny - a perfect mound of rice, laced with crab ("you've won as far as food goes"), while I had an identical mound of rice but with some char grilled chicken slices on the side. Mine was OK ... which is as generous as I'm prepared to be ... Andy's was substandard. Service was poor. But at least the Singhas were cold.

Busaba Eathai once had the formula absolutely spot-on but I feel they've really lost the way. Next time I'm in London I won't be seeking them out.

Sun 04 Jun 2006

More food adventures ... this time south of the river in Vauxhall, where I had bravely suggested (this somehow turned into 'recommended') a trip to the Fentiman Arms ... a gastropub, but part of a chain. There was a fair degree of confusion about meeting time and place but somehow we managed to make it to a table just next to the door, so we could enjoy the fresh air and bonhomie of the beer garden.

The pub was pretty chaotic but we secured our table and a couple of beers (San Miguel and Deuchars IPA, although Bombardier was also available so it was a tough chocie) and made our way swiftly through the menu. Online I'd already chosen the grilled chorizo with butter beans and red onions. Andy followed suit, while our hosts opted for the baked salmon with risotto and the roast pork. While the grilled chorizo (yummy, spicy and laced with ... was it? ... fennel) was definitely the winner of the day, the baked salmon looked good too (while overcooked by our definition it was still moist) and I did cast my envious eye over the roast pork more than once.

The wine service was hilariously lackadaisical - the Stelvin capped Western Australian white was, initially, poured into a cracked glass (no excuse, check glasses before they come to the table), and promptly decantered into a whole glass. We were not offered a taste of the wine, a trail of wine ended up across the table and one wallet, and the bottle was unceremoniously dumped into a cooler. Tut tut tut!

But the food was good, and after four main courses, a bottle of wine, a couple of beers, sparkling water and a good tip we escaped for under £20 a head.

And then we headed back to our hosts' flat in Vauxhall, to enjoy some Extra Saucy Kahlua Puddings (strictly fondants), views of the Thames, some New Zealand sauvignon blanc and a bottle of champagne ... roll on summer!
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