Monday, December 20, 2010

The River Cafe, London: A True Taste of Italy in Hammersmith

The River Cafe London,London Restaurants,Food Photography
The River Cafe London,London Restaurants,Food Photography
The River Cafe London,London Restaurants,Food Photography
The River Cafe London,London Restaurants,Food Photography
The River Cafe London,London Restaurants,Food Photography
The River Cafe London,London Restaurants,Food Photography
The River Cafe London,London Restaurants,Food Photography
There are very few restaurants that actually impress me anymore. Call it vanity, or just experience. But it's true. In order for a restaurant to rate highly on my gastronomic-excitement meter it needs to be fairly brilliant. The River Cafe in the borough of Hammersmith in London is just that kind of restaurant. And it's no wonder when chefs like Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall have called this place home.

Being American, my guests and I were slightly early, as usual. This annoyed the attractive girl that checked us in but only for a moment. We were seated at their very long bar and asked several times if we'd like a drink. As it had just passed noon we declined the offer. At this time the restaurant was completely empty, except for the three of us and the staff, who were having a meeting near the open plan kitchen.

As the minute hand got closer to 12:30pm, the time in which The River Cafe actually opens, the restaurant became filled with anxious, hungry diners. Our waitress ushered us to our table, which was in the middle of the restaurant and I threw a mini tantrum. Exclaiming to her that I had expressly asked for a table by the window and that this simply wouldn't do. Scenes from American Psycho reverberated through my mind, "I'm on the verge of tears by the time we arrive at Espace, since I'm positive we won't have a decent table. But we do, and relief washes over me in an awesome wave." With a few exhalations of slight annoyance she led us to another table that was not only by the window, but right next to the kitchen and more importantly, the stunning wood fired oven.

After I got over the shock of seeing the extortionate prices, £30-£36 for an entree, I ordered for the table. We all watched expectantly as our first course was served, Calamari ai Ferri-Chargrilled Squid with Fresh Red Chili & Rocket. At most restaurants Calamari is served in tiny, thin strips, all tangled together. These were chunky, beautiful, busty strips that reeked of freshness. The spicy Chili was a fine compliment to the delicate Squid.

If I had left the restaurant at this point I still would have rated it very high. But there was more. My Pernice al Forno-Whole Partridge Stuffed with Sage, Wood-Roasted in Amarone with English Porcini Bruschetta was one of the best dishes I have ever had the pleasure of putting into my mouth. And it was cooked 5 feet from my face. The meat was crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. The English Porcini Mushrooms were soaked in butter and olive oil, but had a sort of Utopian flavor.

My fellow diner's were also in awe as they sat there enjoying and contemplating each and every bite. I inched my fork ever so carefully towards my wife's Coscia d'Agnello ai Ferri-Chargrilled Marinated Leg of Lamb with Salsa Verde, Wood-Roasted Pumpkin, Celeriac, Tomato and Florence Fennel. Which was yet another nonpareil dish.

Could the three of us all been blessed enough to order perfect dishes? The Maiale al Forno-Middlewhite Pork Leg Wrapped in Coppa di Parma, Cooked in Fiano d'Avelino with Fresh Cannellini Beans and Cima di Rape confirmed it. The River Cafe can do no wrong. For dessert we all shared the Caramel Ice Cream. Which is made from burnt sugar and cream. And nothing else! I loved it.

I left with one regret. That I didn't have a tree that grew endless amounts of money. Because if I did, I would be at The River Cafe every day of my life.

My professional photography website: Taylor Young Photography

River Cafe on Urbanspoon

Friday, December 3, 2010

An Ode to Burough Market, London SE1

Burough Market London,SE1,Neals Yard,Wright Brothers Oyster and Porter House
Burough Market London,SE1,Neals Yard,Wright Brothers Oyster and Porter House
Burough Market London,SE1,Neals Yard,Wright Brothers Oyster and Porter House
Burough Market London,SE1,Neals Yard,Wright Brothers Oyster and Porter House
Burough Market London,SE1,Neals Yard,Wright Brothers Oyster and Porter House
Burough Market London,SE1,Neals Yard,Wright Brothers Oyster and Porter House
Burough Market London,SE1,Neals Yard,Wright Brothers Oyster and Porter House
Burough Market London,SE1,Neals Yard,Wright Brothers Oyster and Porter House
Burough Market London,SE1,Neals Yard,Wright Brothers Oyster and Porter House
Burough Market London,SE1,Neals Yard,Wright Brothers Oyster and Porter House
Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale
A tale of a tasty market
That started in this town called London
By a bunch of humbly bumpkins
With wine and fish and meats alike
3 friends used to frequent it like every freaking night

There's more to love than drink me think
They have Wright Brothers Oyster & Porter House
And Neal's Yard Dairy
Let's not forget the Ginger Pig
And the big reds of Burough Wines
May all you traders live long and happy lives

This is the tale of Burough Market
That sits on the mind of thee
And me

So join them there every Thursday
And Friday if you care
But don't go on a Saturday because that's when I am there

My rhyming is a little rough
For that I am sorry
I don't mean to tarry
But the Burough Market in London Town is where I got my starty

So if you like good food than go get in the cary

My professional photography website: Taylor Young Photography

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Wahaca, Covent Garden: Tex-Mex is Not Mex!

Wahaca London,Mexican Restaurant
Wahaca London,Mexican Restaurant,Menu at Wahaca
Wahaca London,Mexican Restaurant,Chips and Salsa
Wahaca London,Mexican Restaurant,Taquitos
Wahaca London,Mexican Restaurant,Tostada
Wahaca London,Mexican Restaurant
Wahaca London,Mexican Restaurant,Tacos
Growing up in California taught me one thing; appreciate the sun, because one day if you move to England you may never see it again. Ok, maybe it taught me two things. California taught me the importance of Mexican food. I haven't done the research on this but I'm fairly confident that California has more Mexican restaurants than people. That was a joke. Take it easy fellow Californians.

I now live in the South of England. A place where Mexican food simply has not caught on. In my town I have one Mexican restaurant. And by the looks of it on a Friday night, bare, desolate and unappreciated, I'm sure very soon we'll have none. The Brits just don't get Mexican. I think it's because you have to use your hands and really get involved with your food. None of this, fork in your left hand, over turned, scraping individual peas onto it with your knife. Having trouble picturing that? Me too. It's not easy. My pinkies hurt after each meal.

When I heard of this incredible "authentic" Mexican restaurant by various bloggers and friends, each extolling the virtues of the Mexican Street Market model, I was more than a little intrigued. A 45 minute train ride to London and I was there. Sitting in the basement that is Wahaca. Hot. Bright lights gleaming down on me and my fellow diners as I scrutinized the menu. Our blond, Nordic waiter gave us our menus and began describing it in great detail.

We ordered the Wahaca selection: 3 Pork Pibil Tacos, 2 Broad Bean Quesadillas, 3 Chicken Mole Tacos, 2 Black Bean Tostadas and 2 New Potato Taquitos. We then waited patiently to see what the results would be. And I'm happy to report that we may have a winner. However, and this is a giant, monstrous however. This is NOT an authentic Mexican restaurant. Nor is it street food. This is Gastro-Tex-Mex in Tapas style and with UK Tapas prices. But it is delicious. The flavors are all very clean and refreshing. I especially liked my Mole Tacos. They brought me back to my youth. A little brat sitting on my tricycle, sucking down Tacos from the Mobile Mexican Truck that used to frequent my area in Glendale, California.

But, that being said, I wouldn't go back. It's too commercial, too pricey, too hot (temperature-wise), and doesn't even come close to the average Mexican restaurant in California. Give me a $1 Tripe Taco with a little bit of Cilantro and Lime and send me on my way.

My professional photography website: Taylor Young Photography

Wahaca on Urbanspoon