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7 posts from September 2005

28 September 2005

Leon**** (Redux)

As promised, I've returned to Leon on several occasions since posting on Monday and I have discovered the following:

  • They serve latte's that can only be rivalled by Monmouth's
  • They serve fantastic pain aux raisins, which for me is the key to a higher plain and ensures peace and goodwill to all men
  • Their wraps are good, particularly the fish one, although it does leave your hands smelling a tad fishy
  • They're not cheap but the service is excellent
  • The owners are keen as mustard, they regularly go up to the punters, ask them what they like or dislike and are genuinely interested in their answers

This is a fantastic lunch time venue.  The earlier issues I had have now been dealt with.  I urge you, if you're in the City and don't want another stodgy mayonnaise laden Pret sandwich then this the place for you.  Especially at the moment as it hasn't really been discovered by the raging lunchtime hordes and so for the time being, it isn't too busy.


The only faults I can find is that the menu isn't brilliant for those of us looking for that vege option, but I appreciate that in the middle of the City, meat sells.  My only other issue is that I feel they could better serve one's cravings:  they need more chocolate at the tills, or carb loaded food to ease along the tequila induced hang-overs.  Minor quibbles really.

One closing word on the pain aux raisins.  Admittedly, this is a bit of a fetish of mine, but the one's at Leon are fantastic, they're buttery with a decent helping of custardy goodness inside.  Crucially, they are baked too perfection.  Some bits are crispy and just shy of burned, other bits are soft and gooey.  If nothing else, one of these during the day ensures all is well with the world.

For those of you berating yourselves for not being near either the West End or City branches, I hear they might well open up in the Knightsbridge neck of the woods.

26 September 2005

Leon (Ludgate Circus)

Small things have large consequences.  None more so, than the decision today to cross the street 100m earlier than I would normally.  The consequence being that I spotted a sign for Leon.  I was very very excited because Leon on Great Marlborough Street is an excellent bar/take-away/sandwich bar/fast food restaurant.  It's so good it won The Observer's New Restaurant of the Year Award earlier this year.

The thing that sets Leon apart is the high quality of food and reasonable price.  They are obsessed by quality and seasonality - the front page of their website is all about what's going on this season and what foods you can eat.  Although I like Pret and others like it, the food's not quite as delicious as the various wraps and salads I've had at Leon in Gt Marlborough St.


As for my serendipitous crossing of the road, it turned out that Leon on Ludgate Circus has only just opened up.  I think that today was its first full day of trading, a view compounded by spotting Katie Derham, ITV anchorwoman and wife of co-owner John Vincent, in the restaurant. 

The Ludgate Circus branch is more of a bar than the West End restaurant.  It's got a different drinks licence which means it is actually a bar and doesn't have to serve food with drinks.  Although, given the usually high quality of food I don't reckon they'll have a problem shifting some plates of fodder as the City boys down their Cruzcampos.  And Cuba is a big theme here.  Whether in the 'old-skool' advertising literature, or the various names of drinks, the owners have clearly tried to inject a bit of Latin flavour into what would otherwise be an everyday bar / lunch joint.

The eagle-eyed will notice that I haven't put any stars up in the title of this post.  That is not because it doesn't warrant any, it is simply because I went on opening day and not everything was as slick as it might have been and I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. 

The falaffel wrap I had didn't really taste of much and the server had no clue how to use the till.  But I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.  I reckon that the swiftness that the manager came over to sort out the till problem is indicative of good things to come.  I think the kitchen needs to find its feet, I also think that as they get busier and food spends less time sitting around, it will all improve.  To that end, this is less a review of the place and more a plea to go and help them sort through these issues and make it a better place for the rest of us (I sound like Bono or Chris Martin, agh).  In order to fulfil my part of the deal, I will have a few more tastings there this week and let you know.  I have high hopes.

Leon, 12 Ludgate Circus, London, EC4M 7LQ, UK
Tel: +44 (0)20 7489 1580

Google Maps
Google Earth (download)

What others think
The Times - Giles Coren wants Leon's kids

Reviews of the Gt Marlborough Street branch
The Independent - A really happy meal
The Guardian - Gloriously civilised...but genuinely is a fast-food operation

22 September 2005

Ding dong cont'd

Here is Pim's far more eloquent take on the whole sordid affair. 

To take on the likes of Michael Ruhlman and Anthony Bourdain, and more importantly Thomas Keller, indicates just how much eG seems to be losing the plot.  Both of these guys are at the top of their game, both of them are respected food writers and both of them are well connected - far better informed than Steve Shaw, with his unclaimed links to Psaltis and his brother. 

Psaltis' continued unwillingness to fully address these pretty serious claims about when and why he really left the French Laundry serves to add further fuel to the fire. This half-hearted attempt on eG is so cursory it's meaningless.  As others have already noted, the chance of him merely slapping away the hand of an intransigent waiter leaning on the pass seem unlikely, if for no other reason than the pass is little more than a waist high table - oh, hold on, maybe it was a particularly short waiter.

In addition to the links for the eG and OA threads I posted earlier, here's the Mouthful thread.

Ding dong

I've always enjoyed eGullet.  In fact, since I started using it last year and became a member in December I've found it invaluable - whether looking for recipes, hearing opinions, getting recommendations.  It is one of the few websites where the pros mingle with the proles.  For example, Anthony Bourdain is regular on the forums.  Sitting in my office in the City of London I'd have no chance of being in the same room as Bourdain, let alone sharing a voice with him, and that's what eG facilitates.  It also provides considerable doses of food porn, notably Varmint's recent pig pickin'.  Now I know I'm kosher but that doesn't mean I can't at least vicariously admire copious quantities of food being planned, bought, prepped and eaten.  Basically I love eG.

Unfortunately, there's been a bit of a to-do recently over a book written by a chef named Doug Psaltis.  I need to be careful not to slip into litigious territory, but basically there has been a vocal disagreement on eG about the book.  Some posters feel that everything Chef Psaltis has written is reasonable and fair, others heartily disagree.  The most contentious point, it would seem, is his time spent at Thomas Keller's French Laundry, his criticisms of the restaurant and the reason he departed.  The other issue appears to be the relationship of Steven Shaw aka Fat Guy aka one of the founders of eGullet and Chef Psaltis, and to what extent Steven has declared his full relationship - including the fact that Steven's literary agent is Chef Psaltis' twin brother.

Whatever the merits or otherwise of Psaltis' book - which I haven't read - and the disclosure or otherwise of relationships, it seems that eG has taken the decision to terminate the discussion on the site.  This morning, they locked the thread.  There's no more discussion, that's it, full stop.  Consequently, it would seem that accusations that Steven Shaw is too personally involved and hasn't separated his relationship with Psaltis from his obligations to eG, do have some foundation.  Personally, I find this a real shame.  The site is excellent and widely read and Steven Shaw is well respected.  This episode seems to raise too many questions, all of which reflect badly on eG.  It is possible to get an alternative point of view on the whole farrago, check out the Opinionated About forum.

20 September 2005

Taking the edge off

I love bread and possibly the crust is the best bit - not, if you're Hovis though. 

Photohovis Hovis2_1

They've come up with the truly inspired idea of making bread without crusts, or as they call it with invisible crusts.  Why do food companies need to keep tinkering with what we eat?  If there was any justice these loaves would be a commercial failure and Hovis will be yanking them from the shelves.  Unfortunately, it has all the hallmarks of a raving success and consequently the food people are willing to buy continues to sink to ever lower depths.

16 September 2005

Menus, menus everywhere

Well, not quite actually and that's half my problem.  There are a few big meals that Silverbrowess and I (read me) are cooking over the next couple of weeks, but at the moment I haven't a clue what I'm going to make. 

I've got a colleague of Silverbrowess and her partner coming for dinner this Monday, I've got my new boss for dinner in two weeks and two days after that it's Rosh Hashanah and I'm making lunch on the second day.

The annoying thing is that I reckon I've got some of the food sorted, but it's in reverse order.  Rosh Hashanah will probably look something like this:

Tuna tartare
Kreplach in broth from bollito misto
Bollito misto served w/ salsa verde & salsa rosso, roast potatoes (I know, it should be boiled)
[No idea for dessert, but it would be nice if it at least was a nod towards seasonal ingredients]

Dinner for the boss is proving a bit more tricky, I was thinking of doing a fish starter, maybe a tartare or ceviche followed by lamb.  I've just found out that Mrs Boss doesn't eat fish so I reckon it will need to be a veggie type starter but stick with the lamb for main course.  I may also serve a light chicken soup/broth after the veggie starter/antipasti.  Maybe a plum tart for dessert - who knows?  Not me.  The other problem I've got with this meal is which wine to serve?  I'm clueless when it comes to the vine, unfortunately the Boss isn't, so obviously I need to impress and brush up quick sharpish.

As for the colleague's dinner, again no clue.  I thought about a starter of spicy corn chowder, a la Bouchon, but Silverbrowess was less than keen, putting the kibosh on that.  As for main course, no idea, I'm blank, ditto with dessert, although the ice-cream machine may come to the rescue. 

For some reason, traipsing through my multitude of cookery books hasn't helped on any of these three meals.  I need to get this sorted over the weekend - well at least I've got something to do while the in-laws are in town.

05 September 2005

A plague on all your houses

I decided for a change to buy myself a yoghurt today.  The shock element to this was that I bought a low fat one.  The packaging assured me that the taste would be just as good.  I decided to check the ingredients, see what crap I was about to eat instead of honest-to-goodness fat.  I was not expecting to see one of the ten plagues.  But as you can see from the fuzzy photo below (sorry, using the camera on my phone) there it is: locust.


I wasn't sure whether to be horrified or eat it.  I decided to eat it.  There were no crunchy legs or wings, just blueberry yoghurt, which if I'm honest was a slight disappointment. 

As it turns out, the ingredient was locust bean paste, not locusts.  I've been unable to find too much out about what exactly LBP is except that it was used to stick the bandages together of mummies in ancient Egypt - nice.