Back in January…

So there I was going though some photographs from January when I saw some delicious looking dishes from Wahaca. I realised that I had this great meal and hadn’t written (well I had started but not finished) a blog post about it.

Well, so back in January I was in London for a morning meeting, so I had been up early and was feeling hungry so was looking somewhere for lunch. I know how much I had enjoyed the food at Wahaca I decided it was pretty much a no brainer to go there for lunch, especially as I had a special offer in my email inbox.

The nearest branch to me was the Covent Garden one. Each Wahaca branch has its own style and feel. The Covent Garde branch is downstairs in the basement, but does feel quite bright and open.

There was a lovely warm welcome from the staff and I sat at the table and viewed the menu.

I had a special offer which meant I could get a dish for a pound.

Pack your January with veg and treat yourself with our ultimate range of vegetarian street food dishes. From buttermilk cauliflower bites to our mushroom and grilled cheese tacos there’s plenty of delicious veggie dishes to add to your meal. Just show this email to your waiter to get your dish for £1 

For me that was an easy choice and I went with the crispy cauliflower bites, crispy buttermilk-battered florets, with roast serrano allioli.

crispy cauliflower bites, crispy buttermilk-battered florets, with roast serrano allioli.

These were delicious crunchy florets with a soft melt in the mouth centre, accompanied with a tasty allioli. I really like these and enjoyed these.

I had another dish, the prawn cocktail tostada. 

prawn cocktail tostada

This was sustainably sourced prawns with red chilli mayo, crisp lettuce & avocado on crispy tostada. This was the Wahaca version of the prawn cocktail. It was not as good as I hoped, the prawns lacked flavour, as did the avocado, but it was still fresh and tasty.

My third dish was grilled mushroom & cheese tacos.

grilled mushroom & cheese tacos

These were sweet ancho rubbed mushrooms with crispy grilled cheese. The mushrooms were delicious and I really enjoyed that strong flavour of funghi and spicy ancho. I do find that Wahaca often add crispy grilled cheese to dishes, which I don’t always see that it adds anything to that dish.

I was feeling hungry, so I went with another dish and went with the steak and cheese tacos.

steak & cheese tacos

This was chargrilled steak served with grilled cheese, chipotle salsa & avocado. Again more grilled cheese. This use to be an optional extra, but now was part of the dish. I’ve had this dish a fair few times, and this was not the best version I’ve had of this dish, but it was still quite tasty.

Overall I enjoyed my four dishes, the mushrooms and cauliflower were certainly the ones I enjoyed the most.

Waffling

This is one of our quick favourite meals, savoury grilled waffles.

I had an electric waffle iron for years (over twenty) and then it eventually stopped working, so we bought a double sized waffle iron, so we could make two at once.

My waffle mix is as follows, take a cup of self-raising gluten free flour, a cup of milk and one egg, Whisk the ingredients together until you have a smooth batter.

If you are making sweet waffles add some sugar and some vanilla essence.

I cook the waffles in the iron and then set them aside.

You can then choose which toppings you want. Some in the family like the classic ham and cheese, whilst others (like me) go for spinach,  mushrooms with onions and pepper, with cheese on top.

The waffles, complete with toppings are then finished off in a hot oven for about ten minutes.

Cheesy

grilled cheese toastie

Near to my office are various eating places, I often drink coffee at the Exchange and have heard good thing about many of the places on Old Market, but apart from buying bread from the Assembly Bakery I’ve not actually eaten at many of the establishments.

So it was with some hopeful anticipation that I went for lunch at 25A Old Market. From what I was told they usually offer a range of (posh) sausage rolls and cheese toasties. On the day we went only the toasties were on the menu.

The welcome was warm and friendly and after placing our orders we went downstairs into the basement and our food was brought down to us.

There was a choice of two toasties a five cheese one and a meat one. I went with the meat one.

It arrived hot and toasty with a really nice side salad. They use the sourdough from the Assembly Bakery and it was really tasty, good strong flavoured cheese and great bread. I think I would have been perfectly happy with the cheese variant, not sure how much extra the salami added to the toastie.

I am not usually a toasty or panini fan, but this was a really nice toasty.

Another visit….

the view from Waterloo Bridge

Back in London for a meeting and needing a bit for lunch, I did consider where I should go for lunch, and if I should go somewhere new, but did like the idea of Wahaca again. It wasn’t that long since I had been, but I had really enjoyed that meal. So off I went, over Waterloo Bridge to the South Bank to partake in some Mexican street food. So once more I went to the Street Food section of the menu to make some choices.

I hadn’t had quesadillas before so chose one from the menu. These are large toasted tortilla oozing with melting mozzarella, chorizo and potato. This is British chorizo, made to a special recipe, with diced sauteéd potatoes and fresh thyme.

Quesadillas Large toasted tortilla oozing with melting mozzarella and classic Mexican ingredients.  British chorizo, made to our own special recipe, with diced sauteéd potatoes and fresh thyme.

The large tortilla is folded and then cut into two. I did initially think that I had been given the wrong dish, as I didn’t think there was much potato or chorizo in the dish. There was more in the second though. I did enjoy the quesadilla it was nice and spicy.

My other dish was the smoky tomato fideus. These were east coast Mexican angel hair noodles in a chipotle tomato sauce, with sliced fresh avocado, capers & crumbled Lancashire cheese and topped with a touch of hand picked white Devon crab meat.

Smoky tomato fideus East coast Mexican angel hair noodles in a chipotle tomato sauce, with sliced fresh avocado, capers & crumbled Lancashire cheese, topped with a touch of hand picked white Devon crab meat. #wahaca

This was a much larger dish than I thought it was going to be. When Wahaca recommend 2-3 dishes, I usually go with three, but if this is one of them, then I think you can get away with just two, even if you are hungry.

This is very much thin noodles in a tasty spicy tomato sauce. I liked the avocado and cheese. There was a nice topping of crab, which to my surprise was chilled and hadn’t had a chance to warm up. I did like this dish and it was full of flavour, and something I wouldn’t expect in an Mexican eatery.

For my third dish, I did order a dish I had before, and went once more with the tacos, three toasted soft corn tortillas with flash grilled skirt steak with chipotle salsa. They also came with raw diced onion and some guacamole.

Tacos flash grilled skirt steak with chipotle salsa with crisp grilled cheese

These were very generous filled with steak, more than I have had when I had these tacos before. These were delicious, I really enjoyed the chargrilled steak and the different textures and flavours.

The service was excellent, friendly, efficient and lots of smiles.

So what’s close by?

I have really enjoyed my previous visits to Wahaca, visiting central London and looking for somewhere to eat, I did wonder if there was a Wahaca close by, a quick search and 0.2 miles away on Charlotte Street.

This is a very different establishment to the one on the South Bank, more traditional in appearance from the outside. Inside it felt more like the one on the South Bank, the furniture was very similar. The staff were friendly and welcoming. Inside there were the similar tables and chairs, but as the place isn’t made from shipping containers, the walls were brick and the ceilings high.

Looking over the menu, I decided to go with one of the specials as they were different from those at my last visit. There was a choice of two, so I went with the lamb taquito, this was slow-braised lamb shoulder marinated in ancho chilli and orange rolled in a crispy fried tortilla.

slow-braised lamb shoulder marinated in ancho chilli and orange rolled in a crispy fried tortilla

Unlike my previous experience with taquitos, these were very tasty, strong flavours. The fried tortilla was nice and crip and I enjoyed the accompanying slaw.

I also went with the Tostadas, two crispy corn tortillas topped with fresh, light layers of Mexican flavour, served chilled.

Tostadas, two crispy corn tortillas topped with fresh, light layers of Mexican flavour, served chilled.

These were smoky chargrilled chicken, avocado, guacamole, chipotle mayo and fresh slaw. This was delicious and refreshing. A wonderful combination of tastes and textures.

I did also order a dish I had before, and went with the tacos, three toasted soft corn tortillas with flash grilled skirt steak with chipotle salsa.

three toasted soft corn tortillas with flash grilled skirt steak with chipotle salsa

They also came with raw diced onion and some guacamole. As before they were delicious. I was asked if I wanted grilled cheese with them, I said no, but they arrived with the grilled cheese. I felt this added very little to the dish and wasn’t really needed, pleased that I wasn’t charged for this extra.

Another enjoyable visit to Wahaca and some great food.

Grilled Halloumi

halloumi

One staple of many of the salads I have been making over the recent weeks has been grilled halloumi. I don’t recall the first time I had this Greek cheese, but I have over the years found it a tasty addition to salads. Halloumi is a Cypriot semi-hard, unripened brined cheese made from a mixture of goat’s and sheep’s milk.

I usually slice mine into 5mm slices and then fry (so not grilling) in a hot frying pan with a little olive oil. They only take a few minutes to cook on each side. The end result is a crispy outer and a soft salty inside, that complements the greenness and freshness of a salad.

Some people like to add a little rock salt to their halloumi, but I find it salty enough.

One thing I have not tried yet is cooking it on the barbeque.

Grilled Halloumi

Grilled Halloumi Salad #photo365 #fb

This is a quick and easy addition to any salad or as a starter.

Halloumi s a Cypriot semi-hard, unripened brined cheese made from a mixture of goat’s and sheep’s milk. I slice the cheese into 5mm slices and these are then placed under a hot grill, cooked on both sides until browned.

For speed though I have been taking a large frying pan, using some a little olive oil and then frying the slices until browned on each side. You need to take care, as it can be easy to overcook the slices.

Homemade Quiche

Quiche

I haven’t made quiche for a while now, but over the weekend decided to throw one together.

I made some shortcrust pastry and baked it blind in the oven in a flan tin. Everytime I do that I always think I should be using some baking beans, but I don’t have any, so I lined the top of the pastry with baking parchment and used another pan on top to keep the pastry flat. One tip I picked up from the television was to fold the pastry over the edge of the flan tin and once cooked this is carved off, and creates a level pie base.

I filled the base first with some fresh spinach and the cooked onions, peppers, mushrooms and pancetta. I then added some grated mature cheddar cheese. There are lots of choices when it comes to quiche fillings,

I placed the flan in the oven and then filled it, covering the rest of the filling with an egg and milk mixture.

The quiche is then baked in the oven until the egg has set and the top of the quiche has started to brown.

Delicious warm, it can also be served cold with salad.

Pie with all the trimmings

I mentioned in a previous post how much I had enjoyed pie and mash at Pie Minister. The Pie Minister in the Oxford Covered Market on a Tuesday has a special offer, basically any pie with all the trimming for just £5, the usual price is £7.95 so quite a good saving.

Normally I can’t get in on a Tuesday as, you might well expect, the queues are quite long. I generally don’t have a lot of time for lunch, but also I don’t like queueing! However on a recent Tuesday I was lucky to get in quite quickly. The place was busy though. 

I went with the traditional steak and kidney or as they call it Kate and Sidney. This was served with mash, gravy, a side order of mushy peas and topped with cheese and crispy onions.

Pie with all the trimmings

It certainly looked the part. I did enjoy the pie which was full of a rich delicious filling, big chunks of steak and kidney combined with a nice crunchy pastry shell. The mash was smooth and well seasoned, the mushy peas were also very nice. However I am not sure if the cheese added anything, there was something rather disconcerting about biting into a portion of hot pie with cold cheese, in some ways it was a little unpleasant. If I go again, though I will go with the mushy peas, I will avoid the cheese!

Breads and Cheeses

Sometimes you find really nice places in the most unobivous of locations.

I don’t go to Cabot Circus in Bristol that often, but when I do I am somewhat surprised by how busy the restaurant places are. There are loads of people queuing to eat at Nandos, Bella Italia always looks packed, as does Yo Sushi.

Though I have to say I was somewhat surprised to find out the other day that La Tasca at Cabot Circus had closed (and will be replaced by a Wagamama). I went to La Tasca last July and said back then:

It wasn’t awful, it was just okay, nothing special and I do think that the restaurant could have done a lot better.

I finished off by saying:

I think it might be a while before I go to La Tasca again…

I wonder if my experience was similar, as a result there was a lack of repeat custom and if you are losing sales, it makes sense to close.

It might be more that people have fallen out of favour with tapas and have moved onto other things… Nandos judging by the queues if you were to ask me.

We went to La Tasca back then, as we didn’t want to eat at the restaurant in Harvey Nichols, as my wife put it “she didn’t want to have a celebrationary dinner in an upmarket BHS or Primark!” So it was somewhat strange that on our most recent visit to Cabot Circus we did end up in the bar at Harvey Nichols.

This was a really peaceful haven from the hustle and bustle of the shopping quarter and it was nice to just sit down, relax and be waited upon.

We weren’t there for a meal, just a glass of wine and a snack. The wine list was comprehensive and interesting, and I thought very reasonable, a lot cheaper than I was expecting and anticipated. It was also very nice wine.

In terms of snacks we ordered the rustic homemade bread with Harvey Nichols olive oil and balsamic vinegar was a nice bar snack at just £3.50.

 rustic homemade bread with Harvey Nichols olive oil and balsamic vinegar

We also splashed out and went with the cheese board, artisan cheeses, served with Harvey Nichols chutney and homemade bread, which was a little more pricey at £8.00.

 cheese board, artisan cheeses, served with Harvey Nichols chutney and homemade bread

The breads were really nice and interesting. There were ciabatta style breadsticks, focaccia, and some very unusual gingerbread style bread (not quite gingerbread, but similar). The cheeses were really nice, there was a farmhouse cheddar, a type of brie and a hard Spanish cheese. The chutney was nice, not too strong, but still full of flavours. Alongside came some celery and apple. Both snacks were really tasty and complemented the wines we had chosen.

Now they do that thing, which I don’t really like “a discretionary 10% service charge will be added to all bills” and to be honest I don’t understand. Either include the “service” in the prices or let the customer make the choice about rewarding good service. Using a term like “discretionary” implies that it is a choice, but unless you had really terrible service, you wouldn’t likely say that you were going to not pay it. I also think it stops people tipping more!

Just as an aside really, what I did notice was that (even with the discretionary 10% service charge) many of the prices were quite reasonable. The different coffees available were cheaper than those you would find in a high street chain nearby, and unlike those where you would have to wait at the counter for your coffee, here you would have a waiter deliver the coffee to your table. Much more civilised, wouldn’t you say?

Overall this was a peaceful respite from the hustle and bustle that is Cabot Circus and recommended for a quiet drink, whether that be wine or coffee.