‘To you’ dinners

My boyfriend’s fast approaching birthday and my recent promotion has got me thinking about celebration dinners and the type of restaurants/venues best suited to such events.

The promotion was celebrated with an impulse decision to drink a good bottle of Rioja and eat authentic southern Spanish tapas dishes in my favourite and incredibly local tapas bar, Pinchito. The tapas in Pinchito is reliably good but it is more the laid back atmosphere, charming service and bar style layout which I love and made this the perfect choice for an impromptu ‘Cheers. To you’ dinner.

Old Street Pinchito

Old Street Pinchito

Latest Pinchito restaurant

Latest Pinchito restaurant

Whilst on the subject of Pinchito, it is worth mentioning that as well as their Brighton and Old Street restaurants, the Pinxito Group has recently opened its newest offering on Tottenham Court Road. I have yet to visit although I have been told it is just as good, if not lacking some of the intimacy of the Old Street one. Definitely worth a visit – recommend the patatas bravas, tortilla and hangar steak (all on the standard menu).

Empty Plates

Empty Plates

Waitors back

Waitors back

Turning my attention to the boyfriend’s birthday dinner however, with a week to decide on and book a restaurant, I am torn between going for an old favourite or attempting to find somewhere new, unusual even. The type of place that will not only offer a menu from which you find it near on impossible to decide because you could eat it all, and the kind of atmosphere which perfectly suits the occasion.

For my last birthday, we went for the unknown option, although it had been recommended by a friend, and really pushed the boat out with a five course taster menu at The Providores Restaurant in Marylebone. It was amazing and a cut above the type of food either of us are used to, although we were reminded of this rather glaringly in the bill! On the downside, although the restaurant is immaculately presented it is a little too starched white linen, and minimal decoration with a clientele to match. As suited and booted as we were we still felt a little out-of-place next to our fellow diners, most of whom were at least twenty years our senior and making polite conversation in their hushed RP accents. The kind of place to get drunk, stand on the table and end up in tears at the passing of anther year it was not. This review by Jay Rayner for the Observer perfectly sums it up although it is from 2001!

So with this in mind, I am looking for a mid-priced establishment, complete with friendly/lively atmosphere, good wine selection and menu which requires some serious deliberation (in a good way)…any suggestions dear readers?

I’ll keep you updated on the search as I’m currently stumped.

Once again, I only remembered to take a picture in Pinchinto at the end of the meal so I’ve included some lovely snaps shamelessly pinched from the Pinchito website.

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Cornwall meets Asia meets the Essex Road

Las month I revisited my childhood holiday destination, Padstow, where many an August fortnight was spent catching crabs on the harbour, watching the Punch and Judy show and going on adventures in search of caves and rock pools – a true British summer holiday.

Although Padstow hasn’t changed a great deal from the image I had as a child – the familiar little fudge shops and seashell shops are still there, along with the aptly named ‘Thoughts’ and ‘After-Thoughts’ (two shops next to each other which don’t look as though the window displays have been changed since the late eighties) – what has changed is the ‘Rick Stein’ effect.

Clearly a huge draw amongst, what my boyfriend and I would describe as ‘poshtards’ (being from Manchester and Wolverhampton), the Rick Stein effect has turned Padstow into a ‘destination town’ removing some of the charm I hold for it.

Nonetheless, whilst there we did have lunch at Rick’s Seafood Restaurant – note lunch at £35 / head, rather than dinner when main courses started at around £25. And it was good, undeniably tasty.

But this is not what I am writing to tell you about. Rather, Rick Stein is currently promoting his Far Eastern Odyssey book and series so his shop was full of oriental fair such as you might find in speciality Chinese supermarkets.

On a whim, we bought a packet of tempura batter, both because we’ve never tried making tempura and also because one of our favourite restaurants, Pham Sushi makes the best ever.

Corgettes and peppers awaiting their fate...

Corgettes and peppers awaiting their fate...

Tempuraing in action

Tempuraing in action

So, on Saturday night, with willing friends in tow and with John and Edward giving a new meaning to ‘Diva Night’ on X Factor, we attempted the tempura.

Sliced corgettes and green peppers accompanied king prawns bought from Steve Hatt fishmonger on Essex Rd (highly recommended) and although they were delicious, the next time I do it I think I would par boil the veg, especially the peppers as they were still a little raw. The prawns were also a little tricky to cook without over doing the batter.

Sticking with the fishy/oriental theme, the main course was tuna steaks (again from Steve Hatt) marinated Asian style, based loosely on this Waitrose recipe. Delicious. Perfectly seared (even if I do say so myself) and served with simple sides of Jasmine rice and rocket salad with cucumber.

Steve Hatt's tuna steaks marinating Asian-style

Steve Hatt's tuna steaks marinating Asian-style

No room left for the rhubarb crumble and custard, so we’re having that tonight!

Pictures are a bit of a let down because in all the excitement, I forgot to take many. However, you can see the deep fat frying process and the tuna marinade which was particularly tasty and very easy to do.

All in all, a good meal. Not done on the cheap as the fish was expensive, but worth it for the quality, and no leftovers for lunch this time…more of that to come.

Now off to have lasagne and watch the X Factor results. Oh the glamour!

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Curry Night

Hopefully it won't look like this

Hopefully it won't look like this

Yes. It’s the first post and yes it’s curry. The nation’s favourite apparently and cooked tonight by our very own Dhrupattie Dhindyaal (friendly fictional character) chez Fassett Square.

Not only will we be gorging ourselves on this generic curry flavoured meal made with authentic pre-mixed spices, we will be calling it ‘Curry Night’ as if this is a regular occurence, weekly even.

A quick search will show you that the ‘Curry Night’ has become a popular turn of phrase used often by ‘cheap and cheerful’ establishments to evoke a sense of fun and excitement in getting together over a bowl of chicken korma and ten pints. One chain of british pub springs to mind. And I won’t disagree – no-one can deny our excitement.

So to Curry Night and to the beginning of the blog – not necessarily defined by niche or theme, although there is clearly a lean towards masticatory pleasures both today and in tomorrow’s lunch box. Dig in and enjoy.

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