Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Breakfast and a breakdown at The Botanist, Sloane Square

I always get the heebie-jeebies whenever I venture into Sloane Square (which isn't often to be honest) and before you ask, it's got nothing to do with a fear of running into the likes of Spencer Matthew or any of his excerebrose* skinny red trouser wearing ilk. It's to do with the memory of going to see Sarah Kane's Blasted at The Royal Court Theatre when I was younger and a bit more cultcha'd than I am today. After watching the controversial play, I distinctly remember walking into the nearest pub with friends afterwards, all of us silent. Having stepped up to the mahogany bar, the Australian behind cheerfully asked me what I would like and I barked back - "Give me the strongest f*cking thing you've got!" -  before shuffling off into a quiet corner to contemplate and weep upon what I had just witnessed.

The funny thing is that I am sure the pub was situated exactly where The Botanist stands today. So after wandering in there this morning to partake in a breakfast tweet-up, when I started to read the menu, the flashbacks came on quite strong.

"Hmm smokey porky bacon (Oh my God! The buggery!)"

"Ooooh eggs benedict! (His eyes! He is gouging his eyes out!)"

"The Botanist's Infamous Bloody Mary (Blood! So......so, so much blood!)"

Which is not what one wants to be going through when one is breaking their fast at 8AM, I can tell you that right now. Thankfully they do do a mean flat white in there, so after a slurp or two, I was able to sort myself out and get on with the business of instagramming a plate of fruit. Which now makes me think that my 'problem' isn't with Sloane Square but with caffeine. Which I must look into at some point.

BUT ANYWAY! Breakfast at The Botanist was indeed very good today. Not only did it cover all the nutritional requirements needed to start the day i.e. vitamin C, monounsaturated fat, complex proteins, alcohol (etc), it was all pretty damn fine to eat. Although I have to say, their infamous Bloody Mary did deliver a spicy thwack to the back of the throat and was a lot more pokier that I am used to. It was very off putting at first actually. However, by the time I got to the bottom of the glass I was laughing.

Highlights in particular, should you wish to repast there for breakfast, were the sweetcorn fritters with avocado. These crispy nuggets, loaded with nuggets of golden corn, married up perfectly with the soft yet spiky green salsa served alongside. They really were gorgeous Thane. And the blueberry buttermilk pancakes with streaky smoked bacon and maple syrup were lovely too and reminded me that the Yanks do know a thing or two about brekkie don't they. Whenever I've eaten them in the past, in the back of my mind, it always feels like none of it should work but it really is a beautiful combination you know. Pancakes, syrup, bacon, blimey.

The one low point was probably losing out on winning a bottle of wine (for best tweet) to a pregnant lady who can't touch a drop until July at the very earliest. But hey, I got a free breakfast in exchange for some manic tweeting so I am not bitter. Well, not much anyway.

Would I return back to The Botanist for an evening session? I have to say that the menu does look very good and I do like the sound of the Peterhead cod fillet, king prawn risotto and crisp squid. This isn't a nudge by the way, you cynical bar stewards. I would happily pay for a meal in this sexy establishment. I might even put on a pair of red trousers and bouffe my hair up for the occasion.

I do need to get over that fear though. Of horrors engraved, of visions that still linger from the past, of that damn play. I'll shall see my doctor tomorrow. Or maybe I should see my shrink instead.

Disclaimer: I was, if you haven't already guessed, a guest of The Botanist, eating breakfast in praise of Breakfast Week

Menu. Fruit. Flat White.
The Botanist Infamous Bloody Mary. Eggs Benedict, Royale and Florentine.
Blueberry buttermilk pancakes with maple syrup. Avocado on toast. A plate of things, including bacon.
Sweetcorn fritters, roast vine tomato, baby spinach, avocado salsa.
*My new word for the day

Sunday, 25 January 2015

A poem for Burns Night...

We had our Burns Supper at the disqualified time of three o'clock today, which isn't really in keeping with proceedings I know. Celebrating both the Scottish poet and the wee devious beastie that is haggis should be done under the cover of darkness bar the odd candle or two. With whisky in hand, fire roaring in the background, bagpipes playing, absolutely steaming and guests a' screaming as you take to the table to blast out Tam o' Shanter. With hardly any clothes on. I am only saying that because that is what happened on the last time I went to a Burns Supper and that was a very long time ago.

Today was different because tomorrow is Monday, we have children and it really wouldn't do to have them watch their father vomit indiscreetly into a handbag, in some corner of the kitchen. But still,  we did have our own little dalliance with tradition and I am happy that we have got the twins hooked onto the delights of haggis; along with clapshot and a whisky cream sauce.

It really is lovely is haggis. Full of peppery, spicy, offally goodness and as a dish, it should be celebrated at the table more often, without the requirement of pomp and ceremony and debauchery Especially since you can do so much with haggis. Whack it in pies, sausage rolls, you can even serve it with octopus (it does work, honest).  In fact, I have only just caught wind of Deeny's, who make haggis toasties that look farking amazing and I must get down to their stall to try one soon.

So yes, let's see more eating of haggis please. And always go for Macsween. I am a big fan. A touch pricey but their haggis is well worth it and it's far more easier going to the shops to buy them. Rather than having to don a deerstalker, wellies and loading the potato gun to go hunting the buggers yourself.

One important element that we didn't stray from this afternoon was the recital of poems around the table. You don't have to make things that long winded but is it fun to inject a little burst of prose or verse. Mrs FU gave us 'The Owl and The Pussycat'. Isla gave a us ''The Messy Giant'. Fin gave us 'Incy Wincy Spider'. And I gave a hearthrending and powerful performance of 'It was on the bridge at midnight....'

Enjoy your haggis tonight folks.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Dieting, Uddles and Happy New Year

Meat supremos Hawksmoor (gawd love 'em) posted this up on their Facebook page this morning, inviting Kara to come in for a steak and if anyone is searching for the perfect antidote to beat the insane proliferation of January dieting....bilge that is everywhere at the moment, then this has to be it. I don't know Kara Rosen from Adam and who I am I to judge someone's approach to eating and living but for the love of God, if I subjected myself to that sort of regime, I would be in mortal fear every time I approached the toilet. Hell, I would be in mortal fear every time I ventured 5 metres away from a toilet. And plus I would want to avoid all mirrors totally. For fear that every time I saw my smug mug staring out at me, I would probably want to slap it back and slap it hard.

Forgive the ranty nature of that opening salvo and please forgive me Ms Rosen. I am sure your diet suits you and your needs but f**k me, this dieting business is all pervading at the moment and it is getting me down a bit. I think it was watching Channel 4's Weighing Up The Enemy that finally done it. Pitching two overweight people to bet against each other to lose the most weight, whilst a sanctimonious, pile caressing celebrity doctor (with ill-fitting hair) waggles his fingers and tut-tuts from the touchline is a new nadir. If it had been helpful, informative, inspirational, then fine, great. But I didn't find it helpful in the least and when the credits started rolling I got angry. Rather than focusing on really helping two people out, WUTE simply jumps upon a merry-go-round of voyeurism and competitive panting and puffing; throwing in some glib social commentary and inane study surrounding the nation's weight for good measure; and drums up a message of "Unless you do something with your lives, you obese scum, you will forever burn in hell." Thus fanning the flames of shame and intolerance and boosting the coffers of the diet industry by another billion or so. It really is the most insincere pile of sh*te I've seen in a long while.

"Oooooooooh, what's rattled his cage," I hear you say. Whilst hiding behind a handbag, going "Oooooooooh."

Well, if you really must know, I am pretty heavy at the moment. The heaviest I have ever been actually and so perhaps I am a touch sensitive. Yes, like a glorious sun disappearing at dusk beyond a thick, grassy hillock, bathed in crimson rays, I have steadily watched my penis disappear and I am quite worried about it. Plus my jeans are tight and I can no longer talk on a phone and walk up the hill at the same time. So I am absolutely and unequivocally resolved to do something about it this year.


'Diet'. I think that word, pronounced in that quick fix sense, should be banned. Especially in front of children.

(Notice that I am trying not swear by the way, a bit of a resolution that. Again, especially in front of the children)

Instead, I am going to eat healthier, drink less, exercise more and take a long, sustainable view with regards to shrinking my belly. There will be rewards and the occasional blip of course, for life is too short to continue purging on kale salad with pistachios. But I am not going to go on a diet.

Up to now, the healthy eating approach has been going quite good. Root veg, fruit, oily fish and and porridge have featured heavily, with small tummy grumbles on the side. Then I went away to Suffolk at the weekend where I ate and drank a lot of cheese and wine. And wine and cheese. Last night though heralded a breakthrough, the first proper steps in cooking vital yet fulfilling nourishment, revealing a dish that is low in calories but packed with flavour. A dish that came in the shape of Uyen Luu's 'Udon noodle soup with fishcakes'. As it comes from her book My Vietnamese Kitchen, I am not sure if I am at liberty to share the recipe but if I am allowed I will stick it up on FU because it is a humdinger. It is fresh, cleansing, hot and tangy but most importantly, it leaves you feeling like you have actually eaten something. And feeling sated is very important to me. Without that feeling, you may well find me gnawing on a block of cheese in a corner of the kitchen at midnight. Oh cheese, you are definitely my downfall.

So a good start and a good start on my freezer too. Another resolution is to start making my way through the mystery bag and boxes of food that reside in that bleak landscape and I had a lot of whiting, fished by Mrs FU's uncle before Christmas to use. I love the way Uyen recipe's treats white fish for fishcakes. Blitzed in a processor with chilli, shallots, fish sauce, dill and baking powder, the resulting cakes are quite different to your usual Bird's Eye fare. Dense yet light and once fried off in a pan, totally moreish. A worthy end for Barry and his mates. And you'll have to look at my Instagram account too to work out what I am on about there. Some people are worried.

In other news, I am looking forward to the year ahead, although I can't quite believe that we are half-way through the 'dieting' month already. I have got lots of things planned.

In the meantime, I just want to wish everyone a Happy New Year. It's not too late for that is it?

Nah, it's never too late.

Barry and friends journey yesterday

Udon (or 'Uddles') noodle soup with fishcakes