The Kitty Hawk, Moorgate

Posted by Krista on February 15, 2017

The area around Moorgate used to be a wasteland of restaurants and bars. Trust me, I worked there for many years. In the old days, your only option for a nice business lunch was Eyre Brothers on Leonard Street or walking all the way over to The Hoxton Hotel. But now South Place has a posh hotel and a new office building and now they’ve got The Kitty Hawk too. The Kitty Hawk bills itself as the “department store of dining.” I’d like to talk to the person/team who came up with this because I don’t entirely get it but I get that it’s a clever marketing ploy so there’s that.

Cook Sister and I were looking for a place for dinner in the city and The Kitty Hawk fit the bill. New, flashy, full of city types on a Friday night. Just like, uh, us.

We had a table downstairs in the spacious formal dining room, tucked into a corner with no one around us. Very bright spot-lighting compensated for the fairly low venue lighting, and the tables were beautifully set. (Almost perhaps too set as it took the staff a few minutes to clear the table once we placed our order.)

We decided to start our meal with steak tartare because that’s the kind of gals we are. I recommend doing the same just for the table-side display. Yup, I’m a sucker for waitstaff preparing my steak tartare for me. We enjoyed this, deeply so. It was a very generous portion and in hindsight, we should have asked for more toast, given how generous a portion it was.

The Kitty Hawk bills itself on its steaks and seafood. We opted for the 10 oz ribeye, medium, along with chunky chips cooked in beef dripping, a side of mac and cheese, and the tomato salad because really, we needed a veg. All of the beef at The Kitty Hawk is Ashdale beef sourced from Alec Jarrett, a West Country family business, founded in 1926 which uses local farmers to rear the best livestock on open farmland. It is dry-aged for 7-10 days and wet-aged for a further 28, resulting in a 35-day aged, tender British steak. We also ordered some sauces on our server’s recommendation: mushroom and mustard (delicious), along with a chimichurri that wasn’t really a chimichurri. (When we pointed this out, it was removed from our tab.)

Cook Sister and I tucked into everything with gusto while solving all of the Internet’s problems and mapping out a plan for making the millions we deserve.  The tomatoes were perhaps the only disappointing part of the meal — they were a tad boring and lackluster in comparison to CHIPS and MAC & CHEESE. In hindsight, I would have ordered mushrooms or root vegetables instead. (I’m never a huge tomato fan in the best of times.)

Our server talked us into the flambe at the end of the meal and boy were we glad he did. It was another table-side display, which I really really am a sucker for. The more I eat, the simpler I want my food to be, so this plate of berries and amaretto cream was absolutely perfect. (OK, I know the very fact that fire is involved makes it more complex. But fire has been around for centuries!)

Service throughout was friendly and fun. We were some of the only customers that evening so we were doted on, in a good way.

The Kitty Hawk is the type of place I wish had been around during my many years working within shouting distances of Moorgate. The bar upstairs makes it a nice place for lunch or a drink during the day (especially in the winter with their fire thing going), and the restaurant downstairs is a convenient venue for a business dinner. Old school table-side displays also make it fun. If you work in the area, it is definitely worth a visit.  Note that prices are “business dinner” territory — our ribeye was £31.95 so we split it between the two of us.

The Kitty Hawk provided me with an £80 voucher for dinner. Our total bill for the evening came to £115.48 and we tipped on the full amount. 

Eating Pizza in Naples with Daniel Young, Part One

Posted by Krista on January 27, 2017

View of Vesuvius from the Grand Hotel Parker

I don’t know what I was expecting in Naples, but Naples wasn’t it. The city is vibrant and teeming with people. Everyone has a small dog, and day and night, you see families strolling the streets together, window shopping (or just plain ole shopping), eating, drinking, and having that all important coffee. There are hills in Naples — steep ones! And it’s a city on the sea! And looming in the distance, there’s a VOLCANO! But most importantly, there is pizza and lots and lots of it. Excellent, excellent pizza, created carefully and with love by pizzaiolos who are often not the first person in their generation to knead the dough and make the sauce. I sort of fell in love — with the pizza AND Naples. And uh, the handsome pizzaiolos.

How did I find myself in Naples? I knew that Daniel Young, the former food critic of the New York Daily News, runs an occasional pizza tour to Naples. I also vaguely knew that he had written a book about pizza called, simply, Where to Eat Pizza. (I know now that this book is the BIBLE of pizza and both Daniel and his book are revered in pizza circles everywhere.) During a brief respite from work, I saw that Daniel had a few spaces free on an upcoming tour and before you know it, I had booked a place and my flight and I was GOING. Done!

I met up with the Daniel and the rest of the group at the Grand Hotel Parker’s, a grande dame of a hotel, towering on a hill above Naples and with a lovely terrace overlooking the sea. The hotel is set to be renovated soon, but I hope they don’t change the marble floors in the public spaces or the crystal chandeliers in the hotel rooms because hotels like this don’t exist anymore.

Enzo Coccia, outside La Notizia, pretending to deliver pizza old school style

We taxied over to our first stop, La Notizia, run by the intensely intense Enzo Coccia, who talked us through the history of pizza and Naples, fed us what felt like 20 pizzas, and then put us to work kneading dough. Kneading dough is not easy, trust me. It requires a tremendous amount of upper body strength and forearm power. Let’s just say I quickly decided that I enjoy eating pizza more than making it myself, but it gave me a new appreciation for pizzaiolos everywhere.

I liked the vibe at La Notizia. It felt like a neighborhood restaurant that would be happy to see you, whenever you walked through the door. This was confirmed by one of our taxi drivers, who explained that he often makes a special trip to La Notizia, just to eat the pizza.

Later that evening, once we had digested a bit, we headed over to 50 Kalo, a pizza joint with a more modern interior design scheme — it was almost as if they were trying to say “This is not a pizza joint.” Even though it is. Here we tried the standard Naples pizza configurations and then a few more creative options. (50 Kalo probably served us the most creative options of our tour, but this may have been more about how they treated our group than the menus at any of the places.)

Ciro Salvo at 50 Kalo

The restaurant was empty when we entered at 7 pm but there was a queue out the door by the time we left — a queue of all generations, a testament to the popularity of pizza AND 50 Kalo. 50 Kalo’s owner and pizzaiolo, the movie star handsome Ciro Salvo is, well, movie star handsome and a third generation pizzaiolo. Let’s just say that he can make me pizza anytime.

I probably ate more pizza this day than I have in the past three year combined — always watching the carbs, my friends — but I didn’t feel that heavy fullness that I get from a New York pizza or (certainly) a Chicago pizza. Pizza in Naples is lighter and airier. The goal seems to be “How can we make this crust as thin as possible, but still hold all this cheese and sauce?” This is the type of goal that we all should have! I have since been applying this mentality to my personal and professional life…a la…”How can I make as much money as possible, but work as little as possible?” I’ll keep you posted on how that’s going.

I slipped into bed that evening completely sated and completely copacetic with Naples and pizza and life in general. There really is no better way to spend a day than by eating pizza ALL DAY. You should try it some time. It’s good for you.

Stay tuned for even more pizza on Day 2, along with some other tips on Naples restaurants and things to do and see.

Buy: Where to Eat Pizza by Daniel Young

Go: Daniel’s Pizza Tours of Naples

My 2016 Highs and Lows

Posted by Krista on January 9, 2017

Happy 2017! How is this possible already? I have no idea. Time flies when you are having fun or, uh, working all the time. Why do we work so hard? Something to ponder in 2017, for sure.

Although I did work more than I expected to this past year, I managed to squeeze in some fun too. Here are my highs from 2016 — note that this is not really food-related — I might do a restaurant post when I’m caught up…

10. Getting upgraded to business class on my London to Austin flight on my birthday!

9. Visiting Venice for the first since since I was 19!

8. Taking a street art tour of Camden with monprixx. I haven’t spent as much time in Camden as I used to in the old days. This tour with monoprixx was awesome and I highly recommend it.

7. Lunch at The Sportsman. Because lunch at The Sportsman.

6. Visiting Sofia Bulgaria (Country #50!) and taking a wine tour of the countryside with Via Vino.

5. Finally making good on my promise (threat?) to visit my friends in Biarritz over the summer. It was such a lovely visit. This needs to be an annual occurrence.

4. Spending two blissful weeks at Kamalaya Koh Samui, reading and spa-ing.

3. Touring Naples with the amazing Daniel Young and eating ALL the pizza. (I’ll write this all up soon.)

2. My first visit to Hong Kong in 18 years: I ate all the dim sum and rode that Star Ferry back and forth across the bay all day long.

1. My all too few days in Chiang Mai. I fell in love with this northern Thai city and all its temples and expat-friendly culture — plus all the delicious food. Future early retirement destination? Possibly!

Lows (In no particular order…)

Working a lot

Having to fly to the US for work on my birthday (but see high re: business class upgrade)

Brexit

Donald Trump

Experiencing colon hydrotherapy (don’t ask)

Getting my UK taxes done (kinda similar to colon hydrotherapy)

The American I met in Bulgaria who told me that I won’t be able to learn anything after 50

The gal who I really think was just trying to be nasty when she said “You don’t look a day over 37.” (Thankfully, I was carded at Waitrose not long after that.)

Spilling a glass of water on my laptop. RIP Lenovo. Then, buying a new HP laptop too quickly without doing enough research. I liked my old Lenovo better. It was light! And it had a touch screen! And it was quiet. Now I have a honker of a laptop. Do you know they’re not making solid state hard drives in large sizes? So if you want 1 TB like I need, you’re screwed. Honker it is. 15.6 inches too! Ack. Also, the world wants you to move everything to The Cloud. I’m not sure how I feel about that.

Onwards…

What will 2017 bring? I’m trying to eat less, exercise more, see more of the world, and make more money off the internet. Also, romance. Let’s hope that all happens! Wish me luck and all the best for 2017!

 

Min Jiang, South Kensington

Posted by Krista on December 10, 2016

img_4299Min Jiang, why haven’t I visited you before?? Maybe because you are in South Ken and I don’t really go west of Marble Arch BUT I may need to start making some exceptions. Because of you! Where else can I hang out with the South African rugby team (apparently they stay at the Royal Garden Hotel whenever they are in town) AND stuff myself with only two of my most favorite things in the world: dim sum and roast duck!

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The views from Min Jiang over Hyde Park were stunning on the day we visited — London at its autumnal finest. In the distance, we could see all of London’s tall buildings. I could have sat in the bar forever, drinking Min Jiang’s excellent Mai Tais, and watching the leaves turn more golden and more brown.

Because the restaurant is a narrow space, it’s hard not to have a table with a view but should you book a table (and you should), make sure to ask for a table by the window because really, the views are that pretty. London, I forget how beautiful you are sometimes. (To be honest, I really don’t forget. But it’s still nice to be reminded.)

We did not choose our own food so you will have to rely on the detailed notes over on London Unattached for a complete list of everything we ate. Fiona very capably got the restaurant staff to point out what was arriving with each dish. I always find it a little odd when restaurants invite people like us in and then don’t provide us with any information about what we’re having and don’t seem to want us to take a menu either.)

Now, although I am slightly scolding Min Jiang for not being as prepared for us social media beings as they should have been, I have to say that I really, really, really loved our slightly omniscient server, who told us later in the meal that he’d been with Min Jiang for five years. He’s a keeper, that one.

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As dim sum should be, our lunch started off with a veritable parade of dim sum.  Soup dumplings, pot stickers, baked char siew puffs (can’t. stop. eating. them.), and an assortment of steamed dumplings. The highlight for me though was the yam croquette with seafood. I remember asking if it was taro and I could swear someone said yes so is taro yam? I had no idea! (LMGTFY…apparently, taro and yam are not exactly the same.)

While we were very happily demolishing all the dim sum, I kept wondering…where is the duck? What will the duck be like? When is the duck coming?

Our lovely server

And it came, along with a very shy chef who wasn’t too keen on having his photo taken. (That’s our server in the photo.) But suffice it to say the shy chef’s carving skills are excellent. The duck was — as duck is supposed to be — beautiful. Crispy skin, and darkly dark flavors.

While our shy chef was carving up the duck, I watched him take small choice bits that he carved from the neck and set them aside. These were presented to us along with a small bowl of sugar. If you’ve never considered dipping your duck in sugar, YOU REALLY SHOULD. It was pretty amazing. Stick a fork in me, I was done.

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But we weren’t done! There was more! Was this one of the best days of my entire life? I wasn’t quite sure, but I was sure that if life on earth had ended at that moment — as it sort of had because the US election and had just happened and now Donald Trump would be the next president of the United States — I would have died a very happy woman. Tiger prawns, a beef dish, and some asparagus with lotus root completed our lunch.

And then they brought us dessert! Flaky egg tarts, cutesy sesame dumplings shaped like mice, and a little dessert wine too.

May all our meals be this delicious, this varied, and this interesting.

The Verdict: Go!

Thanks to  Traverse for inviting me along to lunch. And thanks London Unattached and 2 Food Trippers for the company.

Chick ‘n’ Sours, Covent Garden

Posted by Krista on November 16, 2016

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I have an idea for restaurants everywhere. Maybe, just maybe, you should do some analysis. How long does your average party of two take up a table? Your average party of four? Your tables that make reservations? Your tables that don’t make reservations? If you do this type of analysis, you will avoid treating your customers poorly.

Like Chick ‘n’ Sours did to me when I popped in at 12:20 pm on a Sunday, hoping for a quick lunch. I knew I’d be in and out in 45 minutes. I know myself well. I don’t know if you can believe this, but I’ve been feeding myself for over 40 years! Unless there was a problem in the kitchen — the restaurant’s fault, not  mine — I would be quick. Very quick.

So I walked in off the street and asked for a table at a restaurant that doesn’t really seem like the type of place where you need a booking. I was led downstairs to an empty dining room. I lie. There were maybe two tables seated and it’s a pretty small dining room so it wasn’t empty. The host asked me “Where would you like to sit?”

“Well,” I responded, if you’re not too busy, I’d love a table.” (I prefer not to perch.)

Immediately, she responded. “Well…I don’t know…we have a lot of bookings today…I’ll have to check.”

Restaurants everywhere, don’t ask the question if it’s a false choice. And don’t make a big deal about this if your restaurant is still going to be half empty an hour later when I leave. (And for the record, I’d be the first person to take the bar if the restaurant were full.)

Why do restaurants prefer mysterious unknown **future** business over mysterious unknown business sitting **right in front of them**? Money, I know.  But if they did the analysis I suggest, they would not freak out about these situations. I imagine a world in which they instead think, “Ah party of one. She’ll be done in 45 minutes. We’re usually pretty quiet between 12 and 1 pm. We’ll be fine.” I’ll chalk this one up to inexperience and move on.

I liked my fried chicken at Chick ‘n’ Sours (unphotogenic as it was) although maybe the xian xian spice was a little too subtle. I also REALLY liked my fried aubergine.  And the wall of print blocks from an old printer in Manchester on the wall. And the light fixtures. Hipster central! And the music! I really liked the fun music.

The Verdict: Go, but make a booking and sit where they tell you to if you want to maximize their utility and forget about your own. Even when they are empty.

Mercato Metropolitano, Elephant & Castle

Posted by Krista on November 14, 2016

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Guys, why didn’t we buy flats in Elephant & Castle years ago? We’ve been mocking it all these years BUT…have you been there lately? I think I want to move there. I mean, convenient transport links, a great name, AND a new awesome Italian supermarket with a mostly Italian food court that’s open every day but Monday! Oh, for it to be 2010 again…or maybe 2008 during the financial crisis. Why didn’t I buy property then?? Why???

So yeah, if I lived in Elephant & Castle, I would live at Mercato Metropolitano. It’s like Eataly, but without the bad typography (seriously awful use of white space) and stacks and stacks of panettone.  I was about to ask when London was getting its Eataly when I found this article, that says that Mercato Metropolitano was started by one of the founders of Eataly. Oh, and that the Eataly/Selfridges deal has fallen through. So yey for Mercato Metropolitano! Long may it prosper. Maybe if we go there enough, Eataly will finally open a central London foodhall.

After a short walk from Elephant & Castle tube, I entered through MM’s grocery store, which is a long, narrowish space with seemingly no real place to check out except at the entrance. It’s like they really don’t want to take your money! Very odd. I thought for a moment that this was all Mercato Metropolitano had to offer until I made my way to the back yard and into the warehouse behind it. Oddly, a vegetarian stand, a Vietnamese stand, and an Argentinian grill greeted me. This was not what I expected. And there was no coffee…very very odd. (Although there was a little stand with a guy selling Sicilian pastries.)

I turn the corner again, and there it all it. Aha! Now I get it! There is wine and beer and fried things and cheese and more wine and paninis and all sorts of great things. There’s a stand with nothing but tuna! And they have a fat fresh big tuna with eyes so clear he (or she) must have just been plucked out of the Atlantic that morning. (Or well, have been frozen immediately two weeks ago.) They are sawing the tuna open and I peruse the menu while I watch and well, I want to eat everything but I can’t really so now I have to go back.

I order a pizza because…pizza. It’s the Pizza Fresca, which very clearly says that it has salume on it, but yet is also very clearly labeled as vegetarian. The pizza is a hot, bubbly delight although perhaps a little too much crust for my liking. I wish I had some olive oil or something because crust is just a little bleh otherwise. Also, I can confirm that pizza was definitely not vegetarian, unless laboratories worldwide have made amazingly meaty strides with tofu and seitan. It’s a very good pizza though.

I order a wondrously well-priced (5 quid) glass of white in the Enoteca, and snuggle in for a bit in the wooded Tirolean space. The seat covers are sort of like like those wooly rugs you buy at Ikea, but they will look dank and gray and matted in another three months so please, Enoteca, replace them regularly.

I take another wander around Mercato Metropolitano. I love it here. I want to come back. I will come back. It’s a great addition to London.

The Verdict: Go early and go often!

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