Posts Tagged ‘steak’

Red. Meat.

Tuesday, November 26th, 2013

Since living on my own, my home cooking diet consists mainly of various combinations of vegetables, some sort of grain and cheese. Lots of cheese. When I eat out I will then choose the meat-focused dish to fill up on my quota of fish/chicken/cow for the week. I had been craving a decent steak and so when my brother said he was coming to visit for dinner on the weekend I booked us a table at Grill on New York Street. Yet another member of the Living Ventures emporium (my ex-employers), the Grill is known for delicious pieces of meat cooked well.

They certainly delivered on this – we both had fillet steaks which were still deliciously rare on the inside but nicely seared on the outer. The peppercorn sauce was creamy and had a good kick, and our sides of hand cut chips, carrot and suede mash, and roasted sprouts were all well done.

Mmm… cow.

Mmm… cow.

As an ex-employee of Living Ventures, it is hard to go into one of their restaurants and not mark the service by the criteria that I was taught as a waiter at Artisan. Times for welcoming guests and bringing drinks to the table are well engrained in my brain and unfortunately the service was a bit lacking on this occasion. There was also a general air of disinterest in our presence – none of the staff members really seemed to care that we were eating in their restaurant.

The other down side were the desserts – Ben had a trifle that was 80 per cent cream and covered in multi-coloured sprinkles, and my apple pie had a soggy pastry bottom (Paul Hollywood would not be impressed.) It tasted ok but it wasn’t remarkable. I was pleased I went against my habit of choosing the chocolate dessert but I had doubts about how enjoyable it would be. The table next to me ordered it and were delivered a giant slab of cake that resembled the Cheese Cake Shop mud cake. A wise decision on my part.

Apple pie with Lancashire cheese crust. Couldn't taste the cheese...

Apple pie with Lancashire cheese crust. Couldn’t taste the cheese…

It was a decent meal and the steak was seriously good. But considering the prices and hoity-toity reputation of the restaurant I expected better.

They are Wrong About English Food

Friday, April 6th, 2012

As I am sure you all realise by now, I generally base my enjoyment of a country on how many delicious meals I eat, and I can therefore declare that I thoroughly enjoyed my trip to England. Most people poo-poo British food, and while I agree that some of it is awful, I can also inform you that some French food is awful and that is apparently one of the best cuisines in the world. British food is definitely moving away from stodgy vegetables and mushy peas and you can now find some wonderful restaurants.

The numerous times that I have been to England, I have always managed to have a really good meal at one of the many, many pubs scattered throughout the country. They are a bit like the Parisian bistro – you have to pick wisely but you can find some that offer excellent meals. The area around Creswell isn’t exactly a culinary hub, however, in a nearby town there is a pub called the Elm Tree which I went to with Ben for dinner.

Elm Tree

British Cider at the Elm Tree

Where English pubs differ from Parisian bistros is the presence of friendly staff. AMAZING. A smile and a friendly welcome – who would have thought? Anyway, the Elm Tree is a simple local pub which appears to be very popular as we attempted to go there three times but each time it was fully booked. We ended up there on a Monday night and it wasn’t particularly busy. I had a steak which was served with hand cut chips and vegetables, and I chose a peppercorn sauce to go with it.

Elm Tree steak

Mmm... steak.

The sauce was an extra two pounds but considering I got a bucketful it was worth it. And oh was it delicious. The steak clearly came off one of the cows in the paddock nearby – very tender and perfectly cooked. Ben had a cottage pie which was very well put together and very flavoursome.

Elm Tree Cottage Pie

Ben's Cottage Pie

We both had dessert – I went for the sticky toffee pudding because I think it is the ultimate british pub dessert, while Ben had a chocolate and marshmallow brownie. My pudding was rich, sweet and moreish and was served with a tooth-breaking lump of honeycomb sticking out of it. Wonderfully good. I turned up my nose at the inclusion of marshmallow in the brownie but I was wrong – it was served with a rich, dark chocolate sauce which cut the sweetness of the marshmallow and it was a really good chocolate cake. A fantastic meal.

Sticky Toffee Pudding

Look at that lump of honeycomb!

Another food highlight was a lunch in Sheffield with Ben’s friend and co-bread-maker, Martha. We went to a café called the Blue Moon which offers three vegetarian mains which come with a plate-load of salad. The meals are made from organic produce and were HUGE and very, very delicious. It was a wonderfully relaxed environment and a fun place to eat.

Blue Moon vegetables

It doesn't look like much but it sure was tasty!

Not Disgusting At All

Thursday, March 1st, 2012

Restaurants should really change the name “Degustation” because, in my limited but existing experience, they’re not disgusting at all. HA. Get it? Hilarious.

Anyway, moving on from that pun, while visiting the South-West last weekend, my parents demonstrated how much they love me by taking me to The Studio Bistro for a degustation. I think they REALLY love me. I have never had a degustation menu before but my ever growing love for food has made the idea of eating that many courses potentially the best possible thing to do. Ever. I was very excited.

The Studio is a relatively new establishment with an art gallery and restaurant under the same roof. At dinner time, they spread tables throughout the gallery so you sit amongst paintings and sculptures contemplating what you will purchase after you have had a few glasses of wine. What I really liked about The Studio was the lack of pretentiousness – while the food was of a high quality and there was a general feeling of elegance, I didn’t feel like I was under review or that I had to sit with my hands folded in my lap. This was potentially due to a couple of the wait staff who were clearly still learning the ropes of how to serve in fancy restaurants. Walk to table, place hand behind back, pour water from jug slowly into glasses…

Our dinner consisted of five main dishes, plus numerous little surprises in between. One of my favourite dishes was the amuse bouche – a slice of nectarine wrapped in cured ham. Very simple yet very yum. We had crab, hot smoked tasmanian salmon (an entire fillet – it was incredible), pork belly, fillet steak and then a chocolate mousse cake for dessert. The salmon was a highlight – it melted in your mouth and has a soft smokey flavour. I had never tried pork belly before as usually the idea of eating that much fat doesn’t sit well with my stomach or thighs, so I was keen to give it a go. WOW. Who knew fat could taste so good? Well… lots of people, probably. But as a regular remover-of-skin-and-fat-from-meat, it was news to me, and I am pleased to announce that I ate every last drop of artery clogging flab. Amazing.

By the time we had reached the fillet steak, my stomach was questioning whether or not I really needed to eat more food. Shut up, stomach, was my response. The steak was beautifully cooked and despite thinking I was full, I managed to move things around in order to fit it all in. Then came the dessert.

When I had first read the menu I became instantly excited by the description of the dessert – Caraway and chocolate mousse cake with compressed stone fruits and vanilla. Oh, yes please. Sadly, the description was better than the real thing. I was expecting a real kick from the caraway but sadly I could barely taste it at all. Plus the consistency of the mousse cake was very strange – they had created multiple layers of cake, mousse, cake, mousse, but as a result, the cake had spread out through the mousse layers, giving it a very sandy texture. Mousse needs to be smooth – it’s a fact of life.

Chocolate cake

Degustation Dessert

I am still trying to work out how the stone fruit was ‘compressed’. It just looked and tasted like a piece of peach to me. Plus it was under-ripe peach to make things worse – the consistency was like eating an apple. The plate had a drizzle of a peach and vanilla sauce which was probably the highlight of the dish – lovely and refreshing. The dessert wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t what I had imagined it to be.

I found that to be the case with many of the dishes in the meal – while the food was of a high quality, the ingredients were generally fresh and the presentation was nice (except for the steak that looked a bit like someone had thrown up on it), there was something lacking. Sometimes it felt that the chef was putting too many things on one plate, other times the combination of flavours didn’t quite work. There were also far too many dishes with carbohydrate-filled root vegetables so by the end of the meal you were feeling very heavy.

It has, however, sparked a new interest for me in long, multiple-coursed meals and I plan on trying some more. I suspect the French do it very well – it is their word, after all.

Here Comes the Harlequin

Thursday, November 3rd, 2011

Tom and I hadn’t been out for a dinner on our own for a while so I asked him out on a date. Yes, I asked him. But let’s not get stuck on who did what to whom – I chose the restaurant and I booked the table. Seeing as I was paying, I booked through La Fourchette to choose the restaurant with the cheapest menu and biggest discount. I settled on a restaurant just up the canal from us called L’Arlequin Café – it had received decent reviews, it was close by and the menu sounded a-okay.

An hour before our arrival at the restaurant, a woman from La Fourchette rang me and said that there was no response from the restaurant and that despite me receiving instant confirmation that I had a table booked, our reservation had been cancelled. Great. It was too late to book another restaurant on La Fourchette so we decided we would still go to the restaurant and see if they would accept us anyway.

At 8pm we were the first customers for the evening (typical…) and the waiter who served us was very friendly and welcoming and said we could still have the La Fourchette discount, not a problem. And so we stayed. Something I really dislike is being the only people in a restaurant. For the two hours we were there, only one other couple arrived. It was a Wednesday night and clearly things were quite slow, but it is so quiet and you feel like you have to whisper. Luckily they had some utterly terrible music playing slightly too loudly so there was a bit of background noise. The other thing I hate is restaurants with televisions and L’Arlequin had almost-naked ladies dancing around in video clips for us to enjoy. Then the football started and we got to watch Real Madrid play Lyon. Lucky us.

The food wasn’t bad – Tom had duck and I had beef but really we could have ordered the same thing. Both plates consisted of our chosen meat, a pepper sauce served separately in a little bowl, two lettuce leaves with a little bit of grated carrot for extra pizzazz, and what were apparently potatoes. I say “apparently” because we both reached the same conclusion without discussion that the potatoes had come out of a packet. No one can peel potatoes that evenly and make little round domes that are all exactly the same shape. Plus they were coated in salt and had an “I am a potato from the freezer section” taste to them. Despite our difficulties to decipher between our two plates, both of us thoroughly enjoyed our chosen meats – my beef was tender, nicely blue as per French standards, and had far more taste than my last steak at Le Bistro du Coin. The pepper sauce was particularly good – spicy, flavoursome and not too creamy. The lettuce was lettuce and we’ve already discussed the potatoes. Tom’s duck was also very good so if they could have managed to chop and sauté their own potatoes then it would have been a really great dish.

Steak and potatoes

Lots of 'potatoes', giant lettuce and a little (Jess sized) steak

As per La Fourchette requirements, we had to have dessert in order to receive our discount. Quel dommage! Tom had a crème brûlée which was nicely set and contained real vanilla beans which is always a good sign. I went against my usual instant decision of the chocolate fondant, and chose the tarte tatin with vanilla ice cream. The waiter informed me that I had made a very wise decision and that it was going to be ‘bon’. Excellent. He was right. It wasn’t your usual tarte tatin – it had huge pieces of apple, caramelised and soft, on top of a soft but tasty pastry. The vanilla ice cream was homemade, creamy and delicious, and if they have avoided putting a whollop of whipped cream (from a can) on the side it would have been perfect. It was a truly wonderful, homely dessert and I had to resist ordering a second round as I licked the last of the caramel off the plate.

Tarte tatin

YUM.

As we sat feeling overly satisfied (stuffed) with our meals, we were then provided with some light entertainment. A noise suddenly appeared outside and a woman around the age of 50 walked into the restaurant talking very loudly about something, something, police, something. I recognised her raised voice and intense way of speaking from a week or so ago when I had been walking up Rue du Saint Martin wondering what on earth that horrible sound was. I then saw her standing next to a bus stop, talking very loudly into a mobile phone but I’m not entirely sure that there was someone else on the other end of the line. So here she was again, looking very upset and demanding to speak to a policeman. The Prefecture (Police station) is just across the road from the restaurant and the two waiters strongly suggested she headed over there. No. She declared she would wait in the restaurant until the police came. But none were on their way – yet. One of the waiters went across the road to announce the presence of a noisy lady in their restaurant but he returned sans-policeman, however stated that the police were on their way. At least five minutes passed between the waiter going over the road and the policemen coming to investigate. Clearly they either had more pressing matters or they were in the middle of dinner. They eventually strolled over, by which time the woman had given up and had decided to move on, wandering down the street and around the corner. Instead of walking at a slightly faster pace in the direction that she had headed, the policemen wrote down a description on the woman and headed back to the Prefecture in order to get a car so that they could patrol the area. Because she was walking SO fast.

I spent most of the time laughing at how useless the policemen were and at the strangeness of the whole situation. The waitstaff were very apologetic and dealt with the situation well, plus it provided a little bit of entertainment for the evening and helped me stop staring at the television screens.

Now That’s a Steak

Monday, October 31st, 2011

I can’t remember if I have discussed this previously, but Tom and I are currently involved in a small competition with two other couples – Sonia and Guibril, and Becky and Vivien. The competition is boys vs girls and involves the daily punishment of sit ups, push ups and the plank (hold yourself up off the floor with your forearms and toes. Fun fun.) It is in its third month, with the first month involving 20 sit ups, 20 push ups and 20 seconds of plank. Month #Two was 40, 40, 40, and now we have 60, 60, 60. It’s hard. But the reward for the team who does the most exercises at the end of each month is a dinner paid for by the losing team.

The first month was won by the girls (WOO!) and the boys took us for indian at a remarkably good indian restaurant. Unfortunately, due only to Sonia being incapacitated due to a sore back and Becky having to spend an entire day on a plane, the boys won the second month. It wasn’t a particularly spectacular win but we let them feel good about themselves and took them to a restaurant called Le Bistro du Coin on Saturday night.

I had booked the restaurant via my favourite website, La Fourchette, which granted us a 40% discount on the meal. There was no way we were paying full price for the boys’ dinners. When we arrived at the restaurant we had to wait for our table as it had been given to someone else. That’s never a good start. The owner of the restaurant was smooth and relatively friendly, however he had that French cockiness about him that lets him get away with things like not having a table for us.

When we were eventually seated, it took a while until we were served and then the food itself wasn’t all that spectacular. I ordered a piece of beef which was chewy and a fairly ordinary cut, and the eschalot sauce was gloopy and unremarkable. Others had the duck that was small although apparently quite tasty. Tom was the winner – for an extra 11.50 Euros, he ordered the côte de boeuf. A huge 500g piece of meat, perfectly cooked and very, very tasty. Back in Perth, Tom would often choose the T-Bone steak and would hack away at the huge slab of flesh, and he hadn’t found anything that could compare in Paris. But here it was.

Bistro du Coin steak

It was even served with bone marrow

The desserts were ordinary – my moelleux au chocolate tasted like it came out of a packet and Tom’s profiteroles were mostly whipped cream. The other waitstaff were a bit strange, too – they managed to drop two wine glasses in the time we were there and one waiter kept asking us if we wanted the bill. None of the other food we ate was worth photographing – that’s how much I am not going to go back. Unfortunately Tom has now had a taste of the giant steak so will be wanting to return but I think he will be going on his own.

Six Months in Paris

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

I have been extremely slack with my updates lately. I have been busy working though… that in itself is a story but one for another time. Monday marked the six-month point of Tom and my stay in Paris. As I said when we reached five months, this isn’t exactly a good thing. But I have started thinking more realistically about what I can do next year and there are ways for me to stay in Paris next year – I just may not be able to work. I’m sure Tom will have a high-paying CEO job by then so he can support me. HA. I’m funny.

Anyhoo, to mark our six month moment, Tom and I went out for dinner. We spent about an hour scouring La Fourchette for a decent bargain meal and ended up picking a winner. We went to a restaurant called Le Muras, located not far from our place in the 11th arrondissement. The restaurant was in a very suburban area, surrounded by residential apartment blocks and it had a very ‘local’ vibe about it. The walls of the restaurant were painted bright red, yellow, blue and green and Tom was pleased that he got to spend the entire evening staring at a wall covered with a large image of a naked lady.

Le Muras

How French.

The owner of the restaurant welcomed us warmly and was a wonderful host for the entire evening. It was a relaxed and easy going place and clearly somewhere that people come back to regularly.

After being served complimentary homemade tapenade to nibble on while we worked out what we wanted to eat, I chose the salmon fillet while Tom couldn’t look past the words “Côte de boeuf” and “400g.” He has been missing his t-bone steaks and saw this as an appropriate opportunity to refill his system with a large slab of meat.

My salmon was delicious – perfectly cooked with a crispy skin and juicy flesh, it just melted in my mouth. It was served with what was originally described as a ‘white wine sauce’ but I think it was more butter than wine. Whatever it was, it was moorish and fatteningly awesome. The beans weren’t overcooked (MIRACLE!) and it was a light and extremely tasty dish.

Salmon

That's a good fish.

Tom was overjoyed with his beef and it fulfilled his dreams of meaty-goodness. I managed to score a bite; the meat was tender and not at all chewy like most French steaks and the pepper sauce was spicy and delicious.

Steak

That's meat.

For dessert Tom had the pannacotta with berry coulis while I chose a five-spice poached pear with home made vanilla ice cream. When I ordered the pear the owner of the restaurant informed me that it was “trés bonne” and I would have to agree. It was lightly spiced and matched perfectly with the ice cream.

Poached pear

It's (somewhat) healthy AND delicious!

Tom made “Oh wow” noises as he was eating his pannacotta, with one of the main highlights being the perfectly shaped and oh-so-sweet raspberries served on top. Berries in Europe are glorious. Yum.

Pannacotta

Look at those raspberries.

We left Le Muras feeling great – we have found another wonderful restaurant in Paris that I would happily return to. It is a great feeling when you find local restaurants that serve good food and have friendly and welcoming staff. It just shows that I haven’t completely wasted my six months here.