Monday, July 14, 2014

The George Inn, Alfriston: A Perfect South Downs Way Stop!

The George Inn, Alfriston Inside The George Inn Chips at The George Inn Lamb Duo Trout Close up of Trout Beautiful Trout
There are some villages in England that truly take one's breath away. And there are some pubs that transcend time and are so old that you can't help but sit in awe and wonder what it looked like back then. Alfriston is such a village and The George Inn is that pub. Opened in 1397 The George Inn was one of the first pubs in England to be granted a license to serve alcohol. It's foundation can be traced back to 1250 when tunnels beneath were used by smugglers. In fact, Alfriston itself was home to a gang of smugglers and it's ground is riddled with tunnels built to escape any unwanted callers.

With such a rich history Alfriston has become one of my favorite English villages and I can now call The George Inn one of my favorite English pubs. The food is simple and traditional. There is no chefy-cooking here, only honest, true cooking using the best local ingredients available.

My Duo of Lamb: a Pan Roasted Loin with a Braised Shank Parcel and served with Cabbage, Chestnuts and Red Wine Jus was a very tasty dish indeed. Brimming with flavor and perfectly cooked. My dining partner for the day; Simple Foodie had the Fillet of Trout on Red Lentils, Vegetables and Chorizo, with Braised Fennel and Saffron Sauce. A lovely, sophisticated dish that would please any Fish lover.

If I'm speaking plainly, The George Inn isn't a foodie pub in the way that The Griffin Inn or The Ginger Fox are. People flock from all over the region to dine at these highly revered pubs and for good reason. However, while I dined at The George Inn I couldn't help feeling that I was part of a unique club. A small band of wannabe smugglers that have visited this tiny, but exceptionally beautiful little village and an even smaller group of people that have dined at The George Inn.

If I have one complaint it is that the prices are a little steep for what you get. Looking at the menu for the first time I was reminded of the prices at The Hinds Head in Bray, which has a Michelin Star. However, I'm not sure you can really put a price on dining in such a place. And I have no regrets.

The George Inn is the quintessential English pub and I highly recommend a visit if you're anywhere near Alfriston. See the village, fall in love and have a great meal.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Hummus Bros, SoHo: New Favorite Cheap Eat in London

Hummus Bros, SoHo London Chunky Beef Hummus Falafel and Chunky Beef Hummus Falafel Hummus Chunky Beef Hummus Vegetable Salad Hummus
I am constantly amazed by how many restaurants there are in London. Correction, I am constantly amazed at how many very good to superlative restaurants there are in London. They are popping up at a rate that no food blogger, unless connected to an oligarchy with unlimited funds, could possibly visit. So, one must pick and choose accordingly.

On this particularly sunny day in London I chose Hummus Bros.

The idea is simple; produce world class Hummus and top it with a mouthwatering array of fresh ingredients. Simple yes. But the best ideas usually are. Hummus Bros is an understated joint. It reminds me of a mini cafeteria. The lines are long, but go quickly. Hungry patrons whiz past the checkout, their palates ready to get stuck into Hummus that has been perfected over the years and is, in my opinion, perfect! It's hard to pinpoint exactly why their Hummus is so lovely. Perhaps it's the precise ratio of Chickpeas to Tahini. Perhaps it's the texture, smooth and creamy and not weighed down by the oil. And definitely not grainy as most Hummus is.

Like a 1982 Saab, their Hummus just works. Toppings like Falafal, or Fresh Salad just enhance the flavor of the Hummus, it doesn't take away from it. This is worlds apart from your ordinary shop-bought Hummus.

My favorite? Chunky Beef of course!

Their menu changes often and on this occasion it was a toss up between Lamb Rogan Josh and Chunky Beef, but I've eaten more Curry lately than I care to mention. So, the Beef won out. And it was gorgeous!

I left feeling a bit like a school girl who just got a kiss from One Direction... all of them! Right now I'm all about cheap eats done really well. And Hummus Bros delivers on that order in spades!

To see my professional food photography please visit my website: Taylor Young Photography

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Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The Crown at Bray: Heston Blumenthal on the Cheap!

The Crown Pub at Bray Menu The Crown Pub at Bray Fish and Chips The Crown Fish and Chips The Crown Pasta at The Crown at Bray Pasta at The Crown at Bray Burger at The Crown at Bray Burger at The Crown at Bray
There is one thing about food and restaurants that I know to be true, we are currently going through a gastronomic renaissance, the likes this world has never seen before. And as a result, we have raised celebrity chefs up to a point where they rival A-List actors in their celebrity. When a chef like Heston Blumenthal opens a restaurant it is almost guaranteed to have no tables available for the foreseeable future. This is both good and bad for the business. In the case of The Crown pub in Bray, this is, most definitely good!

Heston already had two restaurants in Bray, The Fat Duck, which made him a star and The Hinds Head, which made him approachable. Now, he is even more accessible with The Crown.

If I'm being honest, I'm a pessimist. I don't think any restauranteur should spread themselves too thin. Thomas Keller could open a new restaurant every single day and they would be booked up in minutes. But he doesn't. He chooses to run full control of his mini-empire and as a result he is regarded as the best chef in the world. And not just by gooey eyed food bloggers like myself, but by the professionals in the kitchen. And despite all of Heston's media attention, TV shows, Waitrose gigs, etc. he still manages to produce world class food.

The Crown is a simple pub. It's not Michelin starred, it isn't particularly beautiful, it's just a nice, straightforward pub. Which was the intention. The Hinds Head is his gastropub. The Crown is Heston's version of a local. Where people from Bray and all over can come in for a pint as easy as they can come in for Fish and Chips. And what Fish and Chips they are. I have never tasted better. The batter was crispy and perfectly cooked. The fish served skin up to allow the oil to drain through the fish and not onto the plate. The chips, triple cooked of course, this is Heston after all, were bite sized beauties. The tartare sauce, exquisite and the mushy peas, the perfect example.

In fact, that is what I found when I visited The Crown. Every dish we had that afternoon was the model on which to base all other pub dishes. My wife's burger was absolutely choice. The meat beautifully tender, the brioche the perfect wrapping for this gorgeous gift.

And let us not forget the pasta. Tagliatelle in a pub. Never thought I'd see the day. And yet again, the dish is done to perfection. Fresh pasta, asparagus, peas, cream, it was like being on the Amalfi Coast, minus the glorious weather and beautiful Italians.

As much as celebrity chefs are boring me and I'm turning my attention to the underdogs, the street vans, the market stalls, etc. Heston is one of those chefs that just keeps churning out greatness. Well, in his restaurants anyway, his range at Waitrose is an abomination and he clearly doesn't taste-test everything before it's put on the shelves.

The Crown in Bray is exactly what I think the perfect pub is; full of old stuff, serving real ale, excellent food for a price that doesn't make me look for pocket change under my sofa.

Well done Heston!

To view my professional food photography please visit my website: Taylor Young Photography

The Crown at Bray on Urbanspoon