Birthday best bits – or, “that time I spent a week eating almost non-stop”

Each year I experience three weight spikes. Holiday. Christmas. Birthday. It’s inevitable, and it’s earned.

True to form, the majority of birthday presents this year revolved around my two main interests, books and food, including what I seem to have decided is called “cocomond and almonut butter”. This year was particularly good, with a parade of meals out – that sounds fancier than it was – and a whole load of new discoveries. We’ll be here forever if I run you through it all, so instead, here’s my best bits. 

Quite incredibly, I managed to take photos of almost none of my birthday highlights. But I will tell you about them, in exquisite detail, and show you some of the runners up.

Best breakfast – Dishoom. Of course.

This was the only breakfast I went out for during that week, but it still wins.

Dishoom’s legendary breakfast dish is the bacon naan roll, which popped up at many, many tables around us throughout, and although I fully intended to go for (refillable!) date and banana porridge, in the end I decided to go the whole way and order the Big Bombay.

And oh boy, was it big. I have a pretty good appetite (*jiggles thigh*) but I still had to give most of the bread to the partner in crime. I did, however, just about manage the masala beans, (really quite) spicy eggs, tomato, mushrooms, sausages, and bacon. The whole lot is exactly what you’re looking for when you’re hoping to splash out on meat when you try not to eat it too often. Just…succulent. Everything about that meal put a smile on my face.

However, it’s still probably not my go-to breakfast place – even on a Friday morning, it was busy, and so maybe not the best vibe if you’re going for a chilled out weekend. My top breakfast place will remain in secret, in case of muggles invading.

The bacon naan may be the favourite, but give the big one a go too. Go on.

SirenCraftBest drink – craft stout that tastes like indulgence

I don’t know what “indulgence” tastes like to you. Maybe it’s oysters, or caviar, or warm garlicky focaccia. To  me, it’s chocolate, coffee, and cream. This stout by Siren had all three of those in its flavours, making it rich but still 100% drinkable. Come payday, I’m gonna be ordering a fair bit of it.

I tried the breakfast stout at a Cannon & Cannon Meat School/Brewdog tasting night. Despite being wildly informative, it was a super relaxed evening and we were lucky to get on a table with two other really friendly couples. At £25 a head, it’s less than you’d spend on a meal out and a lot more fun, not to mention the fact that we kept being given boats of excellent bread too to soak up all that booze. You can check out the menu for what we had here!

Best main – a vegetarian roast in London

The restaurant trade in this country seems to be doing just fine, with the street market scene booming and trickling down into bricks-and-mortar establishments, creating new opportunities for imaginative cooking and cuisines. Why, then, do restaurants seem to struggle so much with vegetarian dishes?

MorganArmsDon’t get me wrong, I like mushrooms, and I like cheese. I like mushrooms and cheese together. But a person cannot live on mushrooms and cheese alone, as restaurants seems to believe. There’s a world of possibilities out there and so often it seems that vegetarian options are an afterthought, when the chef’s put so much thought into cuts and cooking methods for meat. So when there is something on the menu that’s been properly considered and worked on, I’m way more excited.

Which is why it was worth travelling an hour for a roast, this Sunday. The Morgan Arms in Bow does the normal Sunday roast – beef, pork belly, chicken – and a nut roast. So far, so expected, right? The nut roast’s flavours are perfectly balanced, its texture just the right amount of crispy and moist. And then you read the rest of it, and that’s where this roast really shines, because it’s a rainbow on your plate. Deep red beetroot, a flash of orange sweet potato puree, golden potatoes, the green of cabbage and leek. All of it drowned generously in gravy, because that’s the only way a roast should be.

I eat meat, and although the beef looked perfectly pink, I’d still choose the nut roast over all else. I think that probably says it all.

Click here to see the full size image of that there menu.

*Not cooked in duck fat for the veggies!

I didn't take a photo of this lunch because I dived right in, but here's the aftermath of the roast. Yes, you can see where I used my fingers to mop up leftover gravy.

I didn’t take a photo of this lunch because I dived right in, but here’s the aftermath of the roast. Yep, you can see where I used my fingers to mop up leftover gravy. It was all I could do to not lick the plate clean.

Best dessert – Gelato foreva

I love gelato. There’s a whole post to be written about it, and in due time I’ll get to it, but for now I’m still in the “testing” phase that involves visiting a lot of gelaterias. I know, it’s a hard life.

I have a couple of old favourites in the city centre, but strolling about by Chalk Farm we found Marine Ices. A fairly unassuming little shop, I almost walked past it, but thankfully my gelato senses were on high alert and we stopped in. Despite there being a decent range of flavours, there was absolutely no contest what I’d have for my two scoops: cinnamon and honey, and ginger and honey. I was feeling poorly, after all.

And it was proper gelato, not ice cream masquerading using a name it hasn’t earned. There’s nothing more disappointing than being sold gelato and actually finding it hard and crystallised, but there was no disappointment there as it threatened to drip onto my hand. An excellent find.

The runners up and the rest

Of course it doesn’t stop there.

Runner up main: haddock and colcannon at Pharmacy2. That egg! There were a lot of happy noises around the table thanks to the mash pictured too.

The runner up dessert: sticky date pudding at the Morgan Arms. I mean really, say no more.

Have you discovered anywhere astonishing lately? Let me know in the comments!

 

The lady behind The Dinner Bell! I’m that person who doesn’t let you leave their flat without eating something, and will probably press a parcel of cookies or cake into your hands as you head to the door.

I’m a sub-editor by day, avid book-reader by night, and octopus fan always. I live in north London, but little bits of my heart still belong to Norfolk, where I grew up, and Sheffield, where I went to uni and finally lost my bumpkin accent.

Filed under Eating Out & Travel

The lady behind The Dinner Bell! I'm that person who doesn't let you leave their flat without eating something, and will probably press a parcel of cookies or cake into your hands as you head to the door. I’m a sub-editor by day, avid book-reader by night, and octopus fan always. I live in north London, but little bits of my heart still belong to Norfolk, where I grew up, and Sheffield, where I went to uni and finally lost my bumpkin accent.

4 Comments

  1. One day I will make it to Dishoom, but the queues (sadly) really put me off 🙁 There’s a cracking veggie roast in a pub on the outskirts of Manchester that I know of/have enjoyed many a time. If you’re ever up this way let me know and I’ll secretly tell you where it is (also don’t want it ruined! Haha) x

    • Yeah, the queues in the evening are a nightmare! I went again on Thursday for breakfast, and even though I got there ten minutes before it opened, getting a table was a bit touch and go because most people had made reservations! If you ever decide to go in the evening down here and need to make up numbers so you can make a reservation, let me know 😉 I think I saw somewhere that Dishoom is scouting out places in Manchester too, so that may be the way forward.

      I’ve been meaning to head up there for ages so I’m sure I’ll be in touch when I get round to it!

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