Wednesday, 25 February 2015

THE BACKBENCH #11, KOYA

I've made it to my tenth BackBench at Koya! This time going solo for the 6.30pm sitting after a long day at work. I made sure not to have anything too heavy during the day, so as to 'prepare' my tummy for the feast that lay ahead...
For those of you who have followed my previous BackBench posts, you probably know by now how much I love Chef Junya's cooking. He believes in using only the freshest ingredients, which means that the majority of his cooking involves the use of great quality British produce.

I was the first to arrive, as always, and started off with some hot Japanese tea made with roasted tea leaf stalks, which had a stronger nutty flavour.





And now moving on to the food...

| Raw Mussels & Wild Fennel Shoots |

Although mussels can be harvested all year, they are usually best in the cold winter months in terms of taste and quality, before they begin spawning in spring and summer. These were topped with some wild fennel that were foraged, which can be found all year round, as opposed to regular fennel which are usually in season during the summer months.
A couple of refreshing and tasty mouthfuls to start us off.


| Kombu Cured Brill & Wild Onions | 

The brill was cured in kombu, an edible kelp, which absorbed the moisture, resulting in a much firmer and pleasant texture. On the side was some wild onion, yellow ginger, and  daikon and chilli, which gave it a nice spicy kick.


| Mochi & Alexander Flower Buds Miso |

Alexanders is native to the Mediterranean but is still able to thrive further north. There was a slight bitterness to it, which is usually a sign of spring. The mochi, made from sticky, pounded rice, which is considered a seasonal dish in spring, was grilled so that the centre was warm and slightly chewy.
This may not look very photogenic, but it was still one of my favourites - a simple, satisfying, and comforting dish.
Chef Junya also did warn us to be careful not to choke on the mochi, as you may have heard about the news in Japan earlier in the New Year...


| Shiro-miso Soup with Swede, Scottish Girolles & Wild Chervil |

The swede, often an underused vegetable in the UK, was boiled in water with a bit of sake and salt, and had a pleasant sweet taste. Served in a warm bowl of white miso soup with Scottish girolles, and topped with wild chervil for extra fragrance.


|  Scottish Kombu, Tokyo Turnip & Bramley Apple |

The Tokyo turnip and bramley apple were cut into cubes, which were really juicy and refreshing. It was also fun not knowing which was which until you bit into it. The kombu was the first batch of the year, and Chef Junya felt that it was best to be enjoyed fresh.


| Young Stinging Nettle & Cured Egg Yolk |

The egg yolk had been cured in salt, which had a gooey centre, that we used as a dip for the lovely and crisp nettle tempura. 


| Lamb Sweetbreads & Calçot |

The meat dish this time was lamb, which is another sign of spring. The calçot and lamb sweetbreads were grilled over charcoal, giving them a delicious smokey flavour - similar to Kyoto style of cooking, which Chef Junya loves.
Somehow I have just realized what sweetbreads actually are...and not usually something that I would normally eat. But surprisingly I did enjoy it, as it was really tender and delicious. Sometimes it is just best not knowing what you're eating until you have tried it.
The guy next to me seemed to have some 'texture issues' with this dish, as I eyed the leftovers that he had on his plate...
Blasphemy.


| Hay Smoked Mackerel & Fermented Rhubarb |

The mackerel was cured in salt and then smoked, and served with rhubarb that had been pickled in salt for a couple of weeks, resulting in a slightly fermented taste.
A beautifully executed dish, and my favourite one of the evening.


| "Senbajiru" Udon with Brockmans' Turnip & Sea Radish |

"Senbajiru" or otherwise known as "Fishermen's soup", is a very traditional Osaka soup, made using the mackerel head and bones. An economical method of cooking which Chef Junya is partial towards as it reduces unnecessary food wastage. The Brokmans' turnip had been boiled so it had a nice, soft texture. The udon was slightly thinner than usual, but still as delicious, and the soup was very clean and light. 
As always, the udon dish which is something I look forward to each time, did not disappoint.


| Amazake Sorbet & Seville Orange |

And finally dessert was amazake sorbet, which we had at the last backbench except this time served with Seville orange that had been boiled in water. Amazake is a traditional low or non-alcohol Japanese drink made from fermented rice. The natural sweetness from the amazake sorbet and the bitterness of the Seville orange proved to be a delectable combination.


All the portions were just about right, and I left feeling very satisfied as always. 
Thank you to Chef Junya for all the delicious food, Ana for the lovely company, and the rest of the Koya team. I'm already looking forward to the next one which falls on the day just after my birthday, which I have of course penned down in my diary already...

For my previous BackBench posts, click on the links below:

The BackBench #1
The BackBench #2

The BackBench #3
The BackBench #4
The BackBench #5 
The BackBench #6
The BackBench #7
The BackBench #9
The BackBench #10

The Cheekster, signing out x


Monday, 16 February 2015

THE SHED RESTAURANT

Created by brothers Oliver and Richard Gladwin, The Shed is an extension of their rural lifestyle back in Nutbourne, West Sussex.
The menu changes daily, with produce sourced from their youngest brother Gregory, based as a farmer back in Nutbourne, as well as other local suppliers.

Their style of cooking focuses on nose-to-tail cooking so that nothing is wasted, which is essential to The Shed kitchen.

The interior is charming and quirky, as we walked past the Tractor Bonnet Bar, through to the restaurant area. We didn't have a reservation, but just about managed to get a table, as we perched ourselves onto our cushioned three-legged stools round our barrel table, eyes hungrily scanning the menu before us.




Despite my initial plan to not drink that evening, I gave in and ordered The Shed Daily Loosener: Damson In Distress, made with steeped damson chase vodka, pear and lemon.



| Bread Basket: The Shed Malt Star Sourdough Bread |


We ordered a couple of mouthfuls to nibble on whilst waiting for the main dishes to be served. The pork scratching was nice and crisp and went well with the sweet apple jam. The crab bombs had a nice, golden crunchy shell, and you could definitely taste the spiciness from the chilli.

| Pork Scratching, Apple Jam |


| Brown Crab Bomb, Chilli, Lime |


The menu, like many places, is based on small sharing plates, and was divided into 'Slow' and 'Fast' categories. We ordered one vegetable dish, which had an interesting combination of flavours and textures. The stout cured mackerel was one of my favourite dishes, the richness of the mackerel enhanced by the deep flavours of the stout, balanced with the sweetness from the pumpkin and cranberry jam.
The braised pork hash looked interesting, topped with a brightly coloured, gooey egg yolk. I did however find the dish to be bland compared to the other dishes.
| Salsify, Pear, Walnut, Red Endive, Chanterelles |


| Stout Cured Mackerel, Pumpkin, Kale, Cranberry Jam |


| Braised Pork Hash, Egg, Black Cabbage, Garlic |


The Nutbourne lamb was nice and tender, with a lovely shade of pink, served on a creamy bed of barley and malt. I am not usually a fan of hearts, as I do sometimes find them a bit too chewy, but I was interested to try out the recommended grilled beef heart. I have to admit that I quite enjoyed it, the texture was much more pleasant than I was expecting, and I liked the additional crunch from the artichoke crisps.

| Nutbourne Lamb, Squash, Barley, Malt, Oak Moss |


| Grilled Beef Heart, Celeriac, Artichoke, Almonds, Lovage Pesto |


And finally, as of no surprise with me, we tried all three desserts from the menu...
I do love a good Vienetta, something that I haven't had for a while, and I really did enjoy The Shed version with the crunchy layers of chocolate and sweet caramel in between. The honeycomb crunchy was sweet and simple, which reminded me of those Crunchy bars that I used to munch on when I was younger. 
The whiskey cream was probably the most 'grown-up' dessert amongst them - soft and smooth like a panna cotta, with contrasting textures from the crunchy oats, complemented by the fresh flavours of the rhubarb and sweetness from the honey. A delightful combination of flavours.

| The Shed Magnum Vienetta Parfait |


| Honeycomb Crunchy, Chocolate, Mascarpone, Tarragon Sugar |


| Set Whiskey Cream, Oats, Honey, Rhubarb |



I really enjoyed my evening there, and I can't believe that it has taken me so long to visit even though it is quite close to where I work. Friendly and welcoming service, and great food in a casual setting - I would definitely recommend a visit.
I also look forward to visiting their second restaurant, Rabbit in Chelsea, which I am sure will be just as good.

The Cheekster, signing out x


Square Meal 

Sunday, 15 February 2015

BRUNSWICK HOUSE CAFE

Another Sunday roast organized by Mr P. before he flew off to warmer climates for the next few weeks! This time at Brunswick House in Vauxhall that I have been meaning to go to in a long time.
Located just down the road from the station, I blindly followed Mr P. as he led me to walk across the wide highway - I'm sure that there was a safer option somewhere, like a proper traffic-crossing... 

I had a good feeling about the place the moment I stepped through the doors. Home to the architectural salvage company Lassco, the room was filled with all sorts of furniture and gaudy chandeliers hanging from the high ceilings. A random mix of quirky items and decor that gave it a bit of a Bohemian feel.
There is a bar at the front by the entrance with a more casual cafe seating area where you can have a coffee, whilst the restaurant area is towards the back of the room, past the elephants...







After some drinks at the bar, we proceeded to our table, hungry and ready to devour the feast that was to be laid before us.
A couple of jugs of Bloody Marys were brought to the table to start us off, with some warm sourdough bread and butter.




Mr P. was raving about the ogleshield churros which were really moreish, and way tastier then regular churros. I have limited knowledge about cheese, but basically ogleshield is an unpasteurised brine-washed, Jersey milk cow's cheese. Served with gremolata that had fresh, zesty flavours. Both the duck rillettes and brawn were also very good, served on toasted sourdough bread and some mustard on the side which gave a nice hint of spiciness.

| Ogleshield Churros & Gremolata |


| Duck Rillettes |



| Brawn, Fermented Pickles & Mustard |


I was initially unsure about how the horseradish with oat and dandelion would come out as, but it was much better than what I had visualized. It had a soft and smooth panna cotta / pudding-like texture, and I really liked the oat biscuits. 
The onion dish also really did it for me.

| Horseradish, Oat & Dandelion |


| Celeriac, Roscoff Onions & Mushroom Broth |


A good Sunday roast is always accompanied by equally amazing sides. I helped myself to a good portion of the cauliflower dish, not giving a care about how much butter that went into the making of it - so good.
I don't usually eat much potatoes, but I just couldn't resist those new potatoes which were coated in delicious anchovy paste.
There was also some really good charred hispi cabbage with lemon mayonnaise that has somehow been missed by my camera...it was scrumptious.

| Cauliflower |


| New Potatoes & Anchovy |


And now for the main star of the show.

Wait for it...

...

...

...

...

...

...

...

...

TA-DAAA...!


Yeah, some things require a lot of imagination and visualization skills.

In case you weren't aware of it already...


Anyway, 


Roast Lamb Leg - Take II: 




There you go...
Look at all that succulent meat, that lovely pink centre...
Definitely not one for the vegetarians...


And to top it all off, a trio of sweet desserts. The bourbon biscuit with custard was probably my favourite amongst them.




Brunswick House is in a bit of an odd location, but it sure is a a delightful place to be in once you step inside this Georgian mansion. Lovely ambience, great food and efficient service - I would definitely recommend a visit.

The Cheekster, signing out x



Square Meal