Going gaga for Tata…

Those looking to eat Tata Eatery’s katsu sando at Tayer & Elementary should know that two things are required; a love of food that melts softly in a puddling pool of its own delicious fat and the ability to unhinge your jaw like something simultaneously alarming yet endearing from ‘Planet Earth’.

Pitched somewhere between anchovy soldiers & burrata flatbreads on a beautifully brief menu in a gloriously industrial space, this crispy buttery sandwich is prime edible real estate. Held in place between two slices of toasted brioche, layers of sweet raspberry sauce, crunchy cabbage & an umami power bomb red pepper paste, the panko pork is rich and quivering, falling apart in your mouth with the barest of efforts.

Perfect rhubarb highballs look like something lifted straight from Barbie’s hen-do cocktail menu; slightly sharp, vaguely sweet and poured around giant ice blocks, I drank them without hesitation or delay, congratulating myself on a job well done as they disappeared without trace or struggle. Even the water looks exquisite here, held captive in beautifully fashioned tree bark glasses.

Softly curled up gently in their bowl like an otherworldly translucent underwater plant, endive leaves bore no trace of their characteristic bitterness and were dotted with candied walnuts, a deeply savoury smoked yoghurt sauce spooned on the side that I could have spooned over everything.

Flatbreads were crispy, pocketed with golden bubbles and slathered with molten-middled burrata & soft salty seaweed…

…whilst briny baby Cantabrian anchovies lay draped across fat, fluffy toasted soldiers like fanciful pin-ups from the forties…

…and ox cheek quesadillas arrived gossamer thin and incredibly crispy, almost shattering in your mouth one great greedy bite at a time. Loaded with thick tangy yoghurt and a waterfall of herbs, you might go for the sando but don’t leave without eating the quesadilla.

Too full of good stuff for dessert – the notion of pacing oneself will be a lifelong struggle for me – the suggestion of a coffee slushie from our gorgeously bouncy waiter was a perfect one. Frozen coffee blended with Havana rum, coffee liqueur, both condensed & coconut milks and little bit of magic create the ultimate grown-up hard shake. Drank here in teeny tiny glasses, this would be a totally credible day-time way of cooling down in the summer even if you might find your afternoons fading into a delightfully mellow haze after one or two or six…

There’s a lot to like about eating here – the brevity of the menu, the extraordinarily friendly service, the global influences all muddling together into small plates full of elegance and flavour – but what’s really special is the love of food & the confidence in what this team is doing that radiates out of each dish. Come the summer, those drinks and that menu are going to be one of the best things about living within walking distance of this new Old St beauty.

The very best things I ate…January 2018

January.

It’s cold and dark. You’re poor and chubby. Everything that only days before had seemed warm & inviting in the cosy twinkle of fairy lights now seems a world away and in the last few hours of holiday, you find yourself stuck between two warring sides of your brain, one which desperately wants to start the new year virtuously and is throwing everything green and leafy into the Nutribullet, itself in possession of a layer of dust so thick across the top that you have to resist the urge to write ‘wash me’ on it and the other that demands you finish everything good bad good in the house – Bailey’s, brandy butter, blue cheese – in one final gluttonous sitting because really, until that alarm pierces your slumber at 6.20am the following morning, you. are. still. on. holiday.

Ya get me?

However, new year, new page, new start and there are many things to be thankful for at the dawn of another twelve months through this journey we call life.

One of the best things about January for me is the opportunity to leaf through new cookbooks, to mark so many pages with post-it notes that rifling through them creates a gentle rainbow breeze on your fingertips and to plan weekends around what dishes you’ll explore and savour. I don’t make new years’ resolutions as such – too often they strike me as being things that you either know you probably should be doing anyway (put down the cigarette, the whisky and/or the bag full of sale bargains please) or that will cause you to leap into some new activity with relentless enthusiasm until midway through the month when you make it home at the end of a long day, trip over the roller blades/ballet shoes/how-to-learn-Japanese book, fly into a rage, throw the offending items across the hallway and then drown your wilting anger in a wineglass big enough to keep koi in.

That said, my non-new-year-resolution for 2018 was to be more patient in the kitchen because try as I might not to be this way, I am bossy, restless & demanding in that particular corner of the house. I like to be in control to the point where I’d hazard a guess I’m not always much fun to be around unless there’s an open bottle of Pinot Noir on hand to soothe all concerned so this year I’m trying to share my love of food & cooking rather than keeping it all to myself before presenting something on a plate that is beautiful but rather meaningless. In less than four months time, I become a different tick box on every form and really, if I’m going to undertake that journey, the biggest of my life and the one I’ve waited for above all others without fear or worry, wouldn’t it be nice to turn what is often a solo obsession with perfection into a joint venture that’s fun with the soon-to-be mister to my missus?

And so, something a little different for the blog this year – a monthly dip into the greatest things that I’ve eaten. No criteria other than full and sincere love for whatever was on the plate in front of me…though let’s be real here, we all know it probably didn’t stay there for long.

1.Blue Corn Tortillas with Baked Avocado, Pickled Chillies & Charred Salsa by Anna Jones from The Modern Cook’s Year

IMG_5022

J & I share a love for many things, movies and California being just of them. Before our paths crossed in London, we unknowingly spent simultaneous but separate time in the same drama school and the same neighbourhoods of Los Angeles. Going back there together for the first time on our achingly wonderful 2014 West Coast road trip gave us the chance to share some of our favourite things in the City of Angels, one of which is soft corn tortillas eaten at shadowy dive bars or with our toes in the sand dunes or in the Chateau Marmont shadowed Pinches Tacos, always with the stain of lime on our fingers and the fizz of Corona on our tongues.

Given that Santa was kind enough to gift me with a beautiful cast iron tortilla press and a gorgeous copy of ‘The Modern Cook’s Year’ by Anna Jones for Christmas, it only seemed right that the first dinner of 2018 – something that for some reason means a lot to me…it seems to send a beacon up for how the ensuing months might pan out – should be homemade blue corn tortillas. Simple to make and a dream when stuffed with cornmeal-Parmesan-ancho baked avocado wedges and served with the sweetest pickled chillies and a smoky tomato & spring onion salsa, these team-effort-tortillas were eaten quickly but with every mouthful savoured as we were transported back to our spiritual home.

 

Read More

Another day, another taco; Del74 hits Clapton with an almighty dose of Mexican goodness…

Right now, there are more taco joints in London than well-dressed socialite wannabes at Pippa Middleton’s wedding and Del74 in Clapton is one of the newest spots at which to get your fill of mezcal, margaritas, Modelos and TBH, pretty great tacos.

Originally a pop up and now a bricks-and-mortar dive in the heart of Hackney, this place is loud, friendly, fast paced and low key and comes from Enrique Vivas (Boho Mexica) and Jorge Felizardo (Taberna Mercado). The menu’s small – bonus points as always for anywhere that doesn’t make me spend longer reading the menu than eating the food – and, in a nice quirk that seemingly pays homage to classic high street champion Argos, comes as a piece of paper for you tick what you want. FYI, in case you’re wondering, that will be pretty much everything.

Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

Six tacos and 3 quesadillas cover everything from barbecoa to steak to roasted vegetables and ooze off the plate & down your arms in a spectacular show of drippy, delicious flavour.

Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

Guacamole is as creamy, salty and chunky as nature – or those super clever Aztecs at least – intended it to be and, washed down with frosty beers or sweet and sour watermelon margaritas, it’s the only way to start.

Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

Make sure you order the tilapia – savoury chunks of fish and a mountain of crunchy, tangy slaw – and the cochinita pibil – absurdly juicy pork topped with avocado and pickled pink onions. There were no napkins left on our table by the time we were done which is frankly as it should be.

Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

You might not imagine you’ll end up spending the whole night here and it would, in fact, be an excellent place in which to kick off your night…however, 2 rounds of drinks and 3 rounds of tacos down, I’d go so far as to say you probably will end up spending all night here – just make sure to ask for extra napkins.