Friday, December 19, 2014

Monty's Deli: Bliss Between Bread!

Monty's Deli Monty's Deli, London Salt Beef at Monty's Deli Reuben Sandwich Monty's Deli
There is only one thing that would make me walk around freezing Bermondsey Market in London... the thought of biting into juicy, tender meat stuck between two thin slices of bread. And what better place than Monty's Deli?

I first heard of Monty's Deli while watching Tom Kerridge's Proper Pub Food on BBC 2. When I watched the show with my wife she literally grabbed my arm, fingernails digging into my flesh, and said, "sweetie, you have to take me there!" Fast forward a year and I've finally fulfilled my promise to her. And it did not disappoint.

Having lived in Manhattan for a couple of years I have eaten my share of deli sandwiches. I was a regular at Katz's Deli and I have even learned the ancient art of dislocating my jaw in order to receive the delicious deli sandwich squarely and wholly into my mouth.

Monty's Deli doesn't mess around. Their meats are so good, so juicy, so tender and so flavorful that there is really no comparison to anything else I've had in London. Each giant mouthful takes me back to the Lower East Side and suddenly I can hear New Yorkers yelling their orders across the restaurant and the smell of meat cooking so slowly, it almost goes back in time.

My Reuben with Salt Beef, Toasted Rye, Melted Cheese, Russian Dressing and Sauerkraut, served with Coleslaw and a crunchy Pickle was as nice as any sandwich I have ever tasted. At a crisp £7.50 it wasn't the most expensive meal I've ever had either.

Well done chaps!

To view my professional food photography visit: Taylor Young Photography

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Monday, November 24, 2014

Duke of Cumberland Arms, West Sussex: Picture Perfect!

The Duke of Cumberland Arms Pub Henley, West Sussex The Duke of Cumberland Arms Pub The Duke of Cumberland Arms Pub Menu Inside The Duke of Cumberland Arms Pub Mussels Mussel Fish and Chips Burger Lovely Scenery Beautiful Views Outside Fireplace Panoramic Views
We are so fortunate to have a plethora of excellent pubs in the South of England. It seems like every time I read an article on the food scene in the country, there's another pub that is touted, "must-try", "the best in the country", "as idyllic as it gets". This is both a good thing and a bad thing. Why? Well, have you ever visited a shop early in the morning and there are a million parking spaces? Normally there aren't any and you dive into the first space you find. But when the parking lot is empty you take ages and finally pick the one that looks like it's been preordained by God as the space for you that morning. Usually it's no closer, or better than the space you normally get and it took you half an hour to decide. It's the same thing with the pub scene here in the UK.

If it were up to me I would visit the same few pubs week in and week out. I live in one of the best pub areas in the world and for me, The Bottle House, The Griffin Inn, The Coach and Horses and The Cat Inn are as good as it gets when it comes to English pubs. But, my wife and I like to get out of the area every once in a while and travel to pubs that are further afield.

The Duke of Cumberland Arms in Henley, West Sussex is one of those pubs.

Now, I have been accused of being far too hard on restaurants in the past and I'm actually going to be a bit harsh about the food in a minute. So let me start with something positive. The drive to the Duke of Cumberland Arms and the scenery that surrounds it are among the best I have ever seen. It's like a mini-Lake District, right in the heart of West Sussex. Just minutes from the South Downs Way, this is truly a stunning place to visit. I felt like I was in The Hobbit, it's so pretty.

On to the negative. Ouch, this hurts me. I'm sorry to say, that I was disappointed with the food. Granted, I only had three items on the menu, but only one of the three was good. Actually, it was brilliant. The Mussels, served with Crusty Bread was the best example of this dish I think I've ever tasted. But the Fish and Chips and my wife's Burger were very poor quality, indeed. My wife's Burger was bursting with meat, but not in a nice way. It was seasoned too much and it was more than well done, it was cremated. It was supposed to be medium. The meat sat between two dense pieces of... what seemed like pine or maybe cedar wood. I'm joking of course, but it was a dense, horrible bun. As you can see from the photos above, the Burger just doesn't look right.

My Fish and Chips was slightly better. I enjoyed the Pea Puree. The Fish itself was glorious. However, the batter was dripping with grease that inevitably fell onto my Chunky Chips and made them soggy. It was one of the only times I haven't finished my Chips. They were soft and nearly flavorless. The Tartare Sauce was lovely though and I kept dipping my Chips into it in order to impart some flavor into them, but it just didn't work.

In the end, my wife left all of her bun and 1/4 of her meat from her Burger. I left quite a bit of my Fish, nearly all the Batter and a handful of Chips. £13.95 for her Burger and £14.95 for my Fish and Chips, plus £4.50 for Sparkling Water and I didn't feel like it was the best value meal I've ever had. £7.95 for a half portion of Mussels did help to ease the pain though as they are worth much more.

Having said all that, I will definitely be going back. I can be honest and I know that Fish and Chips and Burgers are not the best way to tell if a pub is good or not. It should be two of the simplest dishes to make, but so often chefs get these two easy dishes wrong. If you want to see how delicious these dishes can be, check out The Crown at Bray. Then you'll understand why I love them so.

Having won The Good Food Guide's Pub of the Year in 2012 I'm sure there are better items to be had on their menu. And I'll be trying them in the summer when I'm sure those views are nothing short of marvelous.

To view my professional food photography visit: Taylor Young Photography

Duke of Cumberland Arms on Urbanspoon

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Lucky Chip, London: Lost in a Crowded Market?

Cheeseburger and Fries, Lucky Chip
Firstly, I must apologize for the poor iPhone photos and the general lack of photos altogether. I recently found myself in meetings around London and without a proper camera. Something that doesn't happen to me often. Normally I would have just left this review for another time when I did have a camera that was larger than a business card, but Lucky Chip is a restaurant I've wanted to review for some time now.

London is getting extremely crowded with Burger Joints. They are popping up at a phenomenal rate. The U.S. chains such as Five Guys and Shake Shack have caused quite a stir and more and more people are jumping on to this cash cow, if you'll pardon the pun. In fact, Burger Joints in London are so popular now that I read somewhere Byron turns over something silly like £10m a year. That's nothing compared to the large U.S. chains, but Byron is not that old and is managing to make that kind of money in this, quickly becoming, an overcrowded market.

Lucky Chip is one of the new kids on the block, (new to me anyway). Started in a trailer in Netil Market, it now also occupies the trendy Sebright Arms pub. However, walking into the Sebright I thought I was in CBGBs in New York instead of a burger joint in Hackney. Upstairs there were bands rehearsing and the bass was echoing through the floorboards and making my Fries dance.

I opted for the Plain Cheeseburger, although it would have been prudent to try one of their Burgers with a clever name, such as: the Royale wit Cheese, or the Kevin Bacon. But, I have learned over the years that it's always best to try a Burger joint's simplest Burger. If it's good, you've got a winner on your hands. Anyone can throw a Chipotle Sauce on a Burger and top it with a Brioche Bun and it will be tasty. The real trick is to master a Plain, or Cheeseburger.

And Lucky Chip has done a good job of it. Their Cheeseburger was big and had minimal toppings; French's Mustard, Ketchup, Lettuce, Tomato and American Cheese. All lovingly placed between a thick Brioche Bun. The Burger was very tasty, but not amazing. The Fries, however, were excellent.

Whenever I eat in a new Burger Joint I always judge it by, would I go back? And the answer is, no. It's a nice Burger, with simple ingredients, but it's too far out for me to travel for it and it just wasn't good enough. Add to that I was sitting on couches that were too low for the table and far to tatty and it made for a slightly less than ideal experience. Patty and Bun and Hawksmoor still reign supreme in the fight for best Burger in London.

To view my professional food photography (which is far better than what you see above) please check out Taylor Young Photography.

Lucky Chip on Urbanspoon