Places to Eat: 32 Great Queen Street

I had been meaning to book a table at 32 Great Queen Street for years, having been recommended to eat there ages ago. I went to uni near the restaurant and occasionally walked past it and thought to myself that I had to go (I once saw Gregg Wallace eating at a table in the window, which didn’t influence my decision either way). Now, at least five years later, I finally got round to going, only to be disappointed by the experience. The restaurant is in the gastropub tradition (I’m told it was one of the first places to open with this ‘affordable-gastro’ approach) and so I expected high quality food with some interesting, even new, flavours, but not a fussy atmosphere or a large bill.

What we (four of us went for dinner on a Friday night) got, was food that was good but nothing special, and certainly nothing to rave about, and bad service. The place was very busy, which seemed to have caught both the waiting staff and the kitchen off guard; we waited too long for someone to take our drinks order, then too long for our food order to be taken and finally way too long for our food to come out. By the time it did arrive we were ravenous and disinclined to look favourably on the food. Starters of salt cod and goat’s curd lacked any depth of flavour; the curd was positively bland. Our mains were better but not brilliant. I shared a huge cassoulet, which had a decent amount of black pudding and chicken, but wasn’t anything special.

Overall, 32 Great Queen Street seems to be behind the times, serving good food, but lacking any dynamism in ingredients or style. I have certainly had better food in other gastropubs in London.

Places to Eat: Pizza Pilgrims

My friends and I weren’t that impressed when we ate at the Pizza Pilgrims Pizzeria in Soho. The pizza pilgrimspizzas were good but didn’t stand out from the crowd, and there is a lot of competition in London. I did enjoy the portobello mushroom and truffle oil pizza I ordered, because the mushroom was thick and earthy, and the base was nice and doughy without being stodgy, which is how I like my pizza. My friends however didn’t think the bases were crisp enough. We were a group of five men and were sat in an alcove in the small basement dining room occupied by a glass-topped foozeball table. So of course we spent about an hour playing foozeball and drinking beers, which were very good Oro di Milano blonde beers.

A taste of the Philippines, Part II

My second visit to the Philippines afforded me more opportunities to experiment and explore, admittedly not always at the fine end of dining out. I should start by describing the breakfast buffets in the hotels I stayed in, which were disorienting; alongside the familiar European buffet of cereals, bread and rolls, sweet bread and cakes, fried bacon, eggs and sausages, were the decidedly local ‘egg drop’ soup, green salad, and chicken, pork, beef and fish cooked in any way you could care to imagine. Filipinos seem to like heavy dishes pulled pork or adobo chicken for breakfast. I embraced this for the first few mornings, on one occasion eating ‘white fish in butter sauce’, a ‘jalapeno liver roll’ (pretty good), a mini croissant, and a plate of pineapple and watermelon, lubricated by plenty of coffee. That morning the couples and business-people sat at nearby tables were eating noodles. The following day I ate some seasoned, flaked tuna, a cheese roll, a fried egg, a mini croissant and several orange wedges, and needless to say, I had indigestion. Continue reading


Making pizzaMy friend Tom will probably remember the time he and I, aged about 13, made the lumpiest home-made pizza possible at his Mum’s house in Berkhamsted. It looked like crap, but tasted delicious, smothered with melting cheddar. Our pizza making skills have improved a lot since then, his no doubt more than mine. Last week I dug a bag of risen dough out of the freezer, let it defrost over night and kneaded it a bit before making it into two ultra-thin pizza bases. These turned out to be too thin, soaking up the juices of the toppings and becoming almost soggy, but the pizzas were delicious nonetheless.Chorizo pizza P1040602

Both had a thin tomato sauce topping made from stewed tinned toms with olive oil, mixed dried herbs, 3 garlic cloves and a couple of sage leaves added (taken from the freezer and still full of flavour). On one I added quartered chorizo slices, sun-dried tomatoes, lumps of Italian buffalo mozzarella and a sprinkling of chopped cheddar, while the other was loaded with capers wrapped with salty anchovy fillets instead of the chorizo. Despite the slightly soggy base in the centre of each pizza, the outer edges were nicely crisp. Both were perfect with a Friday night movie and a glass or two of cold lager.

Fried chicken with lentils and roast beetroot

Fried chickenThis made a quick mid-week dinner and would have stretched to feed four.

I started by peeling and dicing three fairly large beetroots. These went into a roasting pan with a good splash of olive oil and then in a hot oven for 35 minutes at 200C. That was probably longer than needed; 25-30 minutes would do. I then heated a tbsp of groundnut oil in a frying pan and, once the oil was hot, added a teaspoon of sesame seeds, another of fruity sumac, a good shake of paprika, and a half tsp of aromatic caraway seeds. After only about 30 seconds I added the chicken; two drum sticks and two thighs, all organic and free range. The pan was then covered and left on a medium heat for 25 minutes until the juices of each piece were running clear. Continue reading

A taste of the Philippines, Part I

A trip to the Philippines is an opportunity to explore an incredibly eclectic cuisine that is diverse in terms of ingredients, methods of cooking and culinary heritage. Filipino food draws upon the natural ingredients available throughout the 7,000 Philippine islands and the surrounding seas, especially a wide variety of fish. It brings together dishes with origins that are indigenous  Filipino, Spanish, Chinese, American or combinations of these cuisines.  Food lovers are guaranteed an adventure, and because Filipinos love their food, the adventure is never far away. Continue reading

Chateau Maris Minervois

Chateau Maris Minervois La Liviniere is a lovely, smooth, fruity, full-bodied example of a red Minervois, from the Languedoc region in the south of France, well worth a tenner or so and great with cheese and meats. Chateau Maris is an organic vineyard and most of its bottles are recycled and lighter than most, using less material. 2011; 14.5%.