Thursday, 16 April 2009

Rowley's 10 things to do with the kids this weekend

1. Take them to Le Café Anglais for the fantastic £7.50 kid’s menu. They paint, draw, wander round Whiteleys, you eat and drink.
2. Take them to Kensington Gardens & then take them back to Le Café Anglais for a whole roast chicken with chips.
3. Take them to the movies and then have an early supper in the bar at Le Café Anglais.
4. Take them to the movies. Leave them there whilst you retire to Le Café Anglais and have a well earned lunch and read the papers.
5. Have an early supper in the bar at Le Café Anglais and then take them to the movies.
6. Take them to brunch on Saturday at Le Café Anglais (they especially like the buttermilk pancakes with bacon and maple syrup) and then take them bowling.
7. Take them skating. They’ll be hungry afterwards.
8. Take them to the Science Museum. Or the Natural History Museum. Or the V & A. A five minute taxi ride (maybe ten) through the park from Le Café Anglais.
9. Bring them to le Café Anglais for Sunday lunch. Let them meet Nick Crown, our resident magician. Watch their jaws drop as he bends cutlery and performs astounding card tricks.
10. Nothing. Get a babysitter & come and have dinner at Le Café Anglais.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Down the River Styx to Hades (a night at the O2 with AC/DC)

As this blog evolves, you will get to know - inevitably - a little bit more about me. This will not always be an improving process for you, dear reader.

Last night is one of those, I fear. At around 6pm I received a late invitation to accompany a very kind American trader friend to witness an antipodean heavy rock happening in Docklands.

Being traders, this involved a large chauffeur-driven Merc from the Oak on Westbourne Park Road to South Bank where we picked up a water taxi (or so I heard it called - see grimy picture above). This seemed a good idea and - when we discovered the bar on board - it became an even better one. Forty-five minutes and several libations later the Dome hove into view.

With post-Orwellian ease (I have seen the future and it is totalitarian, but nevertheless works) we walked straight into the tent of broken political dreams. The gig was sold out, yet at no point did we have to wait or experience any other of the serried inconveniences I associate with mass events. It all WORKS. To mix my authorial references, I felt as if I'd been main-lining Soma.
We were shown to our box. Yes, a box - not very rock 'n' roll. It was full of more friendly, excitable men, a charming butleress - Nadia (left) - who had not heard of AC/DC but likes R&B, some posh modular furniture and - a fully stocked infinity-bar. That means it never runs out. Even the beer. Despite all efforts - ahem.

Also present was a flat-screen TV with Liverpool beating Chelsea on it. Sadly this situation did not endure, but we remained blissfully unaware as the TV went black when the main attraction arrived on stage.

As this is notionally a food blog - though we are, I confess, way off piste just now - I present you with an image (and it is not a pleasant one) of O2 spicy chicken wings in their stylish warming pan.

But to the band. Ever since I saw Pink Floyd from the owner's box at Islander Stadium in New York aged 16 and the view was mostly blocked by an inflatable pig I have been luke-warm about mixing corporate hospitality and rock 'n' roll. There was no pig on this occasion - just a small bell to accompany Hell's - yes - Bells. The last time I had seen AC/DC - twenty years previously - at the Birmingham NEC, they went large on props, including showering the crowd with "Dirty Money" during Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap.

But now that the main source of cash in music is touring, Angus has obviously decided to get back to basics. But what basics they are...even with the sound muffled by our position in the Gods you couldn't fail to be moved - nay thrashed - by one of Metal's great live acts. Although Back in Black and Hell's Bells perhaps underwhelmed slightly there was no arguing with Shoot to Thrill and You Shook Me All Night Long was non pareil. Likewise, Brian may now look like an embarrassing Geordie uncle in a pub karaoke contest but the sheer weirdness of Angus (like Smeagle transforming into Gollum before our very eyes) transports.

Half way through I received a text message from my old friend The Dog, gloating: he was front right, being sweated on by Brian. I was jealous.

Monday, 13 April 2009

Fresh Horseradish and Speck - an Austrian Culinary Moment

I like Austrian mountain food. It's expensive undoubtedly, but is very much itself. Some things are uniquely good in Vorarlberg, the alpine region encompassing St Anton, St Christof, Zurs and Lech.

Such as the pride each mountain refuge takes in its Speckteller. This is generally a large plate of tissue-thin Speck with assorted pates and pickles and topped with what to the unsuspecting closely resembles grated hard cheese. But have a care, dear reader, for this is an artful pile of raw, grated horseradish. On first taste the heat and astringency can over-power but it soon becomes apparent that it is the perfect fresh foil for cured meat. Suffice to say: the Campaign for Fresh Horseradish starts here.

[Speck is a distinctively juniper-flavored ham originally from Tyrol, a historical region that since 1918 partially lies in Austria and partially in Italy. Speck's origins at the intersection of two culinary worlds is reflected in its synthesis of salt-curing and smoking. It translates on menus as Bacon - but bears no resemblance to that word's English meaning, being closer to a smokier Pancetta.]

Unrelated to Speck but no less delicious (and because I have a photograph of it) is the best Strudel of the trip, made from Apple and Rhubarb, from the Mermeli Restaurant in Oberlech.

Above is a buzzard carrying what I suppose is nest material in Vorarlberg while flying over a skilift cable. Tragically I managed to delete my images of Specktellers. Some blogger, eh?

Time permitting, this brief thought will be followed by a blog-tome on Tafelspitz.

Monday, 6 April 2009

Westbridge & Sambrook's - A Love Affair

This very young blog (the flow of which has already been interrupted by the world's most expensive ski holiday in Austria - of which more in next installment) will from time to time contain a commercial break. I promise that said break will be due to news of great momentousness. This is - ahem - one of those moments.

A few months back Sambrook's, a new brewery, opened in SW11 around ten minutes' walk from the Westbridge (not five mins - I have already been done for false advertising on this topic, pace superior blogger Kristainlondon). For those not in the know, The Westbridge is my pub in Battersea and home to fifteen immaculately-sourced and kept draft beers as well as untold numbers of bottled beers and wines. There are also excellent oysters and a more than passable Steak Frites. It's a nice local, some claim. The Standard's Charles Campion said - with, I hope, a dash of deliberate understatement: "This is an agreeable place with good fundamentals...and price tags which do not frighten." Anyway, we at The Westbridge have quickly become firm friends with brewery owner Duncan Sambrook (pictured below pulling at Sambrook's).

We sell a lot of his beer Wandle Ale which we love for the integrity and passion with which he brews it but also for its light, hoppy taste.
Such is our burgeoning love affair that we have formed a partnership whereby The Westbridge is now able to offer special events combining a brewery tour at Sambrook's with beer tastings at The Westbridge. Dinner, oyster-tastings etc are optional extras. The perfect night out, unless you don't like beer. Presumptuously we feel this is an ideal opportunity for credit-crunched companies or individuals to have an amusing night out, learn something and taste some of the world's finest beers:

Option 1 £16.50pp

• Tour of Sambrook’s Brewery
• Sample a Pint of Sambrook’s Wandle Ale at Brewery
• Tasting of 6 x 1/3* Pints of Ale at The Westbridge

Option II £28.50pp

• Tour of Sambrook’s Brewery
• Sample a Pint of Sambrook’s Wandle Ale at Brewery
• Tasting of 6 x 1/3* Pints of Ale at The Westbridge
• ½ Pint Prawns
• Steak and Wandle Ale Pie & Mash

Option III £43.50pp

• Tour of Sambrook’s brewery
• Sample a Pint of Sambrook’s Wandle Ale at Brewery
• Tasting of 6 x 1/3* Pints at The Westbridge
• ½ Pint Prawns
• 4 x Irish Rock Oysters
• 2 x Colchester Native Oysters
• Steak and Wandle Ale Pie & Mash

Minimum group Size - 10

Book through The Westbridge on or by calling 020 7228 6482

*A Word About The Third
By way of explanation of the above, at The Westbridge we celebrate the 1/3 pint. It is a little known fact that there are only three legal measures in which beer can be sold in pubs: the pint, 1/2 and 1/3. An observation from previous tastings is that the 1/3 is the ideal vehicle for beer tasting and learning as (in case you haven't already worked it out) for one pint you get to try three beers.

Westbridge on Urbanspoon