Monday, November 30, 2009

Duck Rice at Four Seasons

A short post on an old favourite. Roast duck is about steaming hot plate of rice, token pieces of chinese lettuce and gravy as much as it is about the duck. English ducks are big, robust, meaty creatures unlike the wiry ones back home. Yet, the skin ain't any crispier. In fact, it ain't all that if you think about it. The reason why I always go back to it is because it reminds me of what once was and its the familiarity that provides me endless comfort. I have so many good memories of roast duck rice at Four Seasons. Running to the restaurant in the rain, feeding Bubur roast duck skin (RIP Bubur), farewell dinner, countless lunches with friends and family, ta-pauing on those cold nights and waiting in the car with heating on,... And who doesn't like those freshly cut oranges to clean your palate at the end of the meal eh? This trip I figured out the difference between Four Seasons and Gold Mine. All it really comes down to is a few more pieces of lettuce and one gravy is sweeter than the other. I kid you not. So don't fret if you can't get a table at Four Seasons because Gold Mine is only a few shop lots away!

Four Seasons is at 84 Queensway, London W2. Tel +44 20 7229 4320
Gold Mine is at 102 Queensway, London W2. Tel +44 20 7792 8331

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Gastropubs: The Garrison VS Anchor & Hope

Clockwise from top left: mussels in saffron; pan-fried seabass with white beetroot; apple sorbet and hazelnut ice cream; seabream fillet with cornish crab and squid ink taglierine.

Ahhhh, walk into pubs these day and you can breathe in fresh, clean air. Well relatively speaking anyway. London is now a smoke-free zone. Yaaaaay! Happy days! It is so nice that I can sit in a pub and not smell like ashtray and greatly reduce my risk of cancer from second-hand smoke. I wonder when Malaysia will adopt this policy? In the last ten years, people have really begun to eat well and be more aware of where their food comes from. I'm sure a great part of it is due to the popularity of celebrity chefs and their tv shows. Even pubs have elevated their usual stodgy grub to gastronomic feasts. They are so popular that supermarket chains have gastropub meals. So it was definitely on my list of must-eats. After doing some research on the web, we narrowed it down to Anchor & Hope and The Garrison. We chose them because they had positive reviews and they were easy to get to from where we were. The Garrison surprisingly looks nothing like a pub. Or rather, it looks like a pub that I, and probably most other women, would design. It definitely has a more feminine touch compared to the rest. We met up with my cousins for dinner one night. It was completely full despite it being a weekday. Eventhough they had made a reservation there were only had bar seats left.

Clockwise from top left: my lovely and succulent barbary duck; the view into the kitchen; Hunky's surprisingly delicous sardine and scallops on toast; the packed tables at The Garrison

The menu is certainly seasonal. They must change it very regularly as I tried to look up the menu online and it is totally different to what we had. There are also many daily specials written on the board. We ordered a few starters to share. Hunky's sardines and scallops on toast was really good! Like a fancy bruschetta but with a lot more bite to it. Al’s mussels cooked in saffron was disappointing. The combination of saffron with the not so fresh mussels was quite stifling. I ordered deep-fried marrow with bacon, girolles and spinach. Need I say more really? The outer crust was crispy and golden giving way to an almost liquid centre. It’s a good thing we were sharing it. It was incredibly rich. The main courses were even better. I thoroughly enjoyed my roasted barbary duck with savoy cabbage and pink peppercorn sauce. It was subtle, succulent and divine. Surprisingly, Hunky did not order pork. Instead he had the venison saddle with puy lentils. There were a lot of lentils and not much else. I think he was disappointed because he kept eyeing the braised pork with stewed apple and sweet potato mash. The pork was gorgeously moreish! The venison was really tasty and when paired with the lentils it made the dish rustic and simply gorgeous. He of course regretted he did not go with the pork which happened to be really good! It was comfort on a plate. The kind of dish you want to be eating curled up infront of the telly and its raining outside. Bliss. All in all, I would definitely go back again on my next visit. The only thing I have to gripe about is probably the lackluster desserts. Wow, the apple sorbet was really coarse. It was like eating cold coarsely blended apples. Not quite my idea of sorbet. Oh well, can't win 'em all.

Amazing pot roast of grouse served with a side of lentils and buttered kale

A couple of days later we met up with Hoots and Sam at Anchor & Hope. Its been awhile since I last saw them and now I remember why I don’t see them very much. I love them to bits but boy do they zap all the energy out of me! Anchor & Hope is pretty well known from what I gather. Perhaps the fact that they don’t take reservations is an indication of how well they are doing. All the websites warn of long waits but obviously people don’t mind waiting. We got there fairly early and the dining room was already full. We managed to get a table outside after standing round stalking people who looked like they were leaving. After 45 minutes of Hoots, Sam and drinks, we got seated for dinner.

The menu here changes daily and features lovely rustic pub grub. Stews, roasts and all the other gloriously comforting food. I normally avoid mackerel like the plague. A combination of early childhood culinary trauma and fishy fillets at Japanese restaurants. But Sam’s smoked mackerel with beetroot and horseradish was really quite superb! It was moist, flavourful and delicate at the same time. Hoots roast grouse was amazing! I’ve never had grouse before. For me was like a big pigeon. It was served rare which sounds a little scary but its not bloody like beef or lamb. Who knew? Sam had rabbit stew which was mediocre in a sense that it could have been any meat that had been cooked with tomatoes. Not very exciting. My roast pork loin which was the most popular dish that evening (mine was the last serving left) wasn't great. The meat was on the dry side and frankly lacking in taste. In hindsight, we should have ordered the roast lamb shoulder. It sounded daunting at the time as it was meant for 5 people. The problem was also that not everyone wanted to eat lamb. The table next to us ordered it and all of us salivated with regret. It was a robust atmosphere at the pub and that makes for great eating. I would definitely recommend either of these restaurants if you happen to be in the area.

Clockwise from top left: smoked mackerel with beetroot and horseradish; chopped Dorset crab on toast; lemon delicious pudding; roast pork loin with prune, celeriac and lentils

Anchor & Hope, 36 The Cut, London SE1 8LP.

Opening hours: Tues-Sat 12N-2:30pm / Mon-Sat 6-10:30pm / Sun 12:30-5pm

No reservations taken.

The Garrison, 99 Bermondsey Street, London SE1 3XB. Tel +44 20 7089 9355