Upping the cool factor at the hot, loud & down right delicious Black Axe Mangal…

If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to eat somewhere that’s part restaurant-part rock concert-part tattoo parlour, you’ve obviously never dined at Black Axe Mangal.

Small, loud – yes even at the yuppiest of meals, Sunday morning brunch – and sat on the Highbury & Islington roundabout next to Maison d’Etre, a prime piece of caffeinated yummy mummy real estate, this place is dangerously close to straying into the ‘if you have to ask, you’re not cool enough to know’ territory. Devoid of all obvious signage and possessing just one small menu in the window, don’t be fooled into thinking no-one knows about BAM; opening at 11am and, by midday, full of people after cold beers and hot meats served in flaky flatbreads served fresh from the Gene Simmons face painted grill, this place is as popular now as when it first opened. Read More

Clucking great chicken at Absurd Bird…

Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

Crispy. Crunchy. Plump. Juicy. With personality traits like these, it’s hardly surprising that fried chicken is the current king of low-key London dining. Type ‘chicken restaurant London’ into Google and 38’900’000 hits appear. Remove every Chicken Kingdom-Palace-Village-Town from the list and you’re still left with an insane number of places to get your poultry fix from so when a new spot opens up that promises cold beer, hot birds & the sort of relaxed vibe that makes you wanna take up residency there like some sort of feathery freak, you know it’s got to be checked out.

First things first, we like a place that doesn’t have the same bare filament light-bulbs and beaten copper plates, mugs & tankards as the other 93 million new restaurants in town. I love the cosy booths for two that line the wall, I love the plaid-shirt-covered bench seating at the larger tables, I love the fluttering notes strung across from wall to wall and I love the birdcages that swing gently from the ceiling.

I also happen to be a big fan of polite, friendly and personable service which was delivered from each and every member of staff; when the people bringing your food have favourites that they wanna share with you, you better believe I’m gonna listen. Combining an earnest passion for the sort of street food currently circulating around London with a deep love of Southern states USA soul food, the menu slings one dribble-inducing dish after another at you. Some of them you know and some, well you definitely wanna get to them too.

Delivering trans-Atlantic sized portions at very reasonable prices means you need to come here hungry and with your big girl, extra stretchy pants on. A beautiful vintage skillet of Spinach & Artichoke Dip with snappy, deep fried tortilla chips was so comforting and delicious I could have cried with relief when J – generous to the end or maybe just fearful of losing a finger? – graciously allowed me to scrape the creamy dollopy dregs from the bottom of the pan onto the  last of the chips, my fork and yes, my fingers too.

Fried Pickles with Ranch Dressing were piping hot, juicy, crisp and battered to just the right point; fully coated, super gnarly, begging for a ranch bath and kicking ass alongside a frosty pale ale.

If it’s soul food on a plate that you’re looking for, it’s Fried Chicken & Waffles with maple syrup and a sweetly smoked gravy that you need. There might not be many things I share in common with everyone’s favourite Dogg, Snoop, but a love of the bird and the baked goods is it. Light & fluffy with syrup seeping from every golden pouch, in the humble waffle I can confirm that crunchy, spicy chicken has found its soulmate. Forget stuffing, forget avocado, forget pot pies, waffles my friends, waffles are what your chicken should be laying beside, sandwiched next to and standing proudly on.

Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

While there are commendably lighter options on the menu, the possibility of my going out for Friday night fried chicken and ordering the brown rice salad is, like sunshine on a Bank Holiday weekend, slim to none. Instead, a trio of baby sliders were chosen & devoured, each potato bun stuffed with bacon jam slathered chicken & chin adorning, creamy slicks of mayo.

Batting in at the last round was a portion of some of the biggest chicken wings I’ve ever seen; fresh but fiddly, they were spattered with a creamy garlic-lemon-Parmesan sauce which cut nicely through the richly delicious heaviness of some of the other dishes.

Try as I might – and with two buttons undone, I promise you I did – there was absolutely no room at the inn for dessert but in the interest of feeding back to you dear readers, a wedge of the Crack Pie was taken home for midnight grazing; butter, cream, two types of sugar and an oaty-cookie crust made this bounce-off-the-walls sweet but well worth sharing a forkful or two of.

You know it’s a good shout when you’ve already picked what you’re having on the next visit – FYI, that’d be Sweet Potato Pie topped with marshmallows, tear & share Dipsy Cake and Jalapeno Cheese Biscuits with Apple Butter. Yes the chicken is good here and yes, I would happily come back and eat it again if only to reassure you that it’s still delicious but this Bird boasts a menu of sides & starters I’d be delighted to eat my way through accompanied by some of the awesome sounding cocktails from the mixologist superstars, Soulshakers. Great for a mid-week date or bang on for a weekend group dinner, this is a brilliant little place to get down, get dirty and get soulful at.

The 12 best dishes of 2015…

Hello darling readers and welcome to the last post of 2015, a year that has been immense for so many different reasons. I really want to apologise for being very MIA over the last few weeks…between searching for and then moving into a new home, being out of the country, changing jobs and getting ready for Christmas, my free time has been scarce to say the least; not an excuse I promise, rather a small explanation of what has kept me from you lovely people – I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your support and readership and here’s hoping 2016 is a touch calmer!

I always find the start of a new year is accompanied with a multitude of feelings, not the least of which is awe that another 12 months has skipped by in the apparent blink of an eye! There are always things to celebrate in the form of accomplishments made & steps taken, however there can sometimes be a tinge of regret or wistfulness if the journeys begun haven’t walked quite the path expected. Be it good or bad, I hope each and every one of you can commend yourselves on surviving the year, whatever it brought for you and however you feel as you bid it farewell.

As we look back on all that we have done and seen and of course eaten in 2015, I wanted to pick out 12 of my own favourite dishes. Some I have enjoyed in London, some I have loved further afield and a few, I’ve been proud to make in my own kitchen with the help of J of course, the man who is the (freshly baked sourdough) bread to my (salted of course) butter. I hope some of them inspire you to get cooking in the new year and to get out and explore your own neighbourhoods…I would love to know what dishes rocked your world this year!

Tomato salad with pomegranate molasses from ‘Persiana’

Persiana

Sabrina Ghayour’s seminal cookbook has had pride of place on my shelves since it came out in 2014; I have loved many recipes from it including the lamb & sour cherry meatballs which are so perfect for a dinner party as they can be made the night before and the chicken bastillas which manage to be both light & filling, sweet & savoury, delicious & err, even more delicious at the same time!

This simple and elegant tomato salad drizzled with pomegranate molasses and speckled with crescent moons of pepper & red onion as well as earthy chunks of walnuts is about as perfect a side dish as you could wish for. Visually it’s a glorious Technicolor feast and each mouthful is refreshing & energetic; if you’re after an unassuming but show stopping platter to accompany a dark, rich & meaty main course, this is what you’ve been searching for. Read More