YEAH! We have had guests!

For the first time we have had GUESTS at home for dinner! That is apart from Kids and Grandkids who have been here on and off , in and out of Lockdown! How lucky are we that they all, now live nearby ! BUT REAL LIVE PEOPLE, came to dinner and how nice was that!

I was rather naughty in giving Himself the job of cooking dinner. I ordered from a company called Banquist. So this was not a Heat up and serve type of dinner, but more “ You have to cook”!

The order arrived the day before, ( all in various types of recyclable packaging) Unpacked, sorted and put into the refrigerator. Himself scanned a barcode in order to watch the required Video.

Dinner came courtesy of Merlin Lebron Johnson. He has worthwhile credentials, good training and Michelin Stars.

The Menu du Jour was

  • Chickpea, Amalfi lemon, rainbow chard, Burrata and Basil.
  • 28 day aged rib eye of Wexford Valley beef, with walnut pesto tropes onions and potato al forno
  • Ewes milk Panna cotta, olive oil crumb, macerated strawberries with lemon thyme

Merlin might be a magician in the kitchen but sorry folks he won’t be the number one hit on YouTube nor on TikTok. For me, watching him was like watching paint dry, however Himself dutifully watched it all.

The starter baffled me, especially when we opened the box, in it were three cans of Chick Peas. Three cans is an awful lot of Chick Peas! And so it was, with the finished dish, there were a LOT of Chick Peas. The Burrata was good, but within the whole dish, too many chick peas, not enough greenery ( we added spinach) and sadly lacked flavour ( we added, some pomegranate molasses). There were only clean plates afterwards, so I guess people liked it, or were they just being polite?

Next up was the main course. This required a fair amount of prep, if not cooking skills. The package came with pickled walnuts fresh Basil, walnuts, Tropea onions potatoes, parsley watercress and beautiful looking ribeye steaks.

Tropea onions look a bit like red shallots. They are from southern Italy are very sweet and have wide uses in Italy, such as raw in salads, on pizza, great for grilling , frittatas, for marmalade and even Ice Cream ! It looks like I will have to make a trip to Borough Market ( London) and find some.

His instructions were to fry the onions cut side down so that they were almost charred. Upon serving they were deconstructed and made to look like petals. The plain walnuts were grilled and finely chopped and mixed with the pickled ones, along with Basil to make a pesto. And the steaks which were supplied by a London butcher HG Walter, were very good indeed.

Dessert, needed much less on hands time, except for hulling and finely chopping the strawberries, otherwise the olive oil crumb was supplied along with the Ewes milk Panna Cotta. The video, showed the chef, using a spoon to make quenelles of the Panna cotta and I suggested that Himself use our Ice Cream scoop. Unfortunately the Panna Cotta, perhaps was not firm enough it was more like a thick custard. However that did not distract from the overall result as the flavours were very good.

From the standpoint of food, ( apart from the chickpea overload) it was good. For Himself, it was good, he obeys the rules and watches the video, without any interference from me. The next challenge is for Himself to plan a menu, do a shopping list, do a work plan and start it all from scratch? Am I asking too much, maybe but little steps!

And finally, a family of swans! Last year they had 10 babies, but the fox took 7, this year they had 8 and still have 8! Go anywhere near or not even near and Daddy swan comes a hissing and a flapping !

Dining Out on the 53 rd Floor

We ventured out into docklands at the weekend, somewhere which is not on our radar. About the only other time was to cheer for my Willowy girls in the London Marathon, as they wove their way round the sky scrappers. This time it was for dinner, a quick leap on the Jubilee Line and we were at Canary Wharf. Now where to go? Thank good ness for Google Maps, it directed us over a foot bridge to The Wardian, on the Isle of Dogs! It was a bit of land surrounded by the river Thames on three sides, it was marsh land and grazing land, land that flooded. Records show it as far back as 1448. It was only in more recent times that it became part of the Dock Lands, in the 1800’s with the building of the West India Docks and then the East India Docks.

During World War Two, the docks were heavily bombed but it was shipping containers that became its downfall. However in the 1980’s the London Docklands Development Corporation began to redevelop the whole are into what it has become today. An area of East London that employs over 93,000 people, in Banks, Offices, Shops and restaurants. It is well served by all forms of transport as well as being a residential community.

And so it was that somehow or other we were going to have dinner in a new residential tower block.

We live in a large block of flats, apartments and penthouses, on the 6 th and 7 th floors, and we have a lift which for the most part is on slow side, therefore, a bit of a revelation to enter a lift that zoomed up to the 53 rd floor in less time than it takes ours to dawdle up 6.

The Wardian describes itself as a residence like no other. Amid the skyscrapers and waterways of Canary Wharf, an immersive sanctuary is revealed. Two iconic towers offer the rare stillness of nature in the heart of the bustling metropolis. ( I suppose that is the Sales Pitch).

So, up on the 53 rd floor we were greeted by a concierge and a barman, cocktail given and out onto the wrap around terrace and Oh ,what views, maybe I could live in a penthouse on the 53 rd floor, but then again, maybe not. Every couple of minutes one could hear a train, be it a real train as in the London Overground, or C2C or Thames Link or the Underground as in the Jubilee Lone, or even the Docklands Light Railway and this is the one that truly trundles between such interesting named places such as Mudchute, Island Gardens, Poplar, or Pontoon Dock, or perhaps one of the River boats and River Taxis that chug up and down from Westminster to Greenwich.

But, we were here to eat dinner, an almost private dinner party, we were just twenty lucky guests all sat at tables of 2.

The chef who was apparently hired to entice us to eat and to buy a flat ! But no one even showed us a brochure. Disappointed? No not really. Alyn Williams was the chef, formerly of the Westbury where he held a Michelin Star for 8 years.

Dinner was nice, not very exciting but the views were amazing, choose for yourselves

Eating Out

We have ventured out a couple of times recently, though we are still not really in the mind set.

Firstly we went with friends to a restaurant called Kricket. This came about as I had read a lot about this small chain and the subsequent cookbook by the same name. A lot of criticism, as the book seemed to have been rushed out without much if any proof reading. For me, half the time it is the inspiration, rather than the exact recipe, but for many, a recipe is followed exactly. Himself is very good, now at following a recipe ( and not too often breaking free and doing his own thing). In cooking breaking Free is fine, after all these recipes are either created by someone being creative or being passed down through generations. Baking, is a different Kettle of Fish, there are rules which need to be followed.

I bought the book on Kindle ( not a massive fan of such books on kindle and am on the lookout for one, on the cheap somewhere.) The first mistake I found on a quick skim was for making Laal Maas, one of favourite Indian dinners. Normally it requires about 3 tablespoon of Ghee for about a kilo of lamb. In Kricket he says 400 grms! This is almost a whole can of ghee!

So off to Kricket we went, which I chose just out of curiosity. We had really nice evening with some indifferent food. Served “Tapas” style, which for me means something along the lines of “ we just cook and serve it, regardless of how the customer would prefer it!”

We had Bhel Puri, which is an Indian Street food, a kind of mixed up salad ( delicious by the way) , Kerala fried Chicken ( read upmarket Kentucky fried chicken) but then it went down hill. Himself ordered Goan sausage with squid , kind of squid wrapped around a sausage ( didn’t work) and I chose some fish dish which was so nondescript that I can’t even remember it’s name!

So from the sublime to the ridiculous, or actually the other way round. Angler restaurant. A Michelin starred venue where we have eaten a couple of times pre pandemic. As it’s name suggests it is a fishy kind of place. The food as usual was lovely and maybe the service was not quiet up to scratch , but nonetheless the good evening.

Willowy daughter took us out to lunch ( well kind of, she forgot her wallet) and I booked it, as somewhere local. I booked because it had a really nice looking terrace only to find out it was Vegan. Judging by it’s name Wolf and Lamb, I was bemused. However I would go again, she and I chose the TexMex salad, which was right up my street, others chose, creamy linguine, served with broccoli , jackfruit hamburger and spicy burger and even young Sam liked his Non Burger burger. So a hit all round.

And finally we headed to Soho, the first time in 18 months. We actually went to a world famous Jazz club, having just recently reopened its doors. Capacity was limited to just 50 %, so the atmosphere was somewhat dampened but what actually amazed us were the people out eating. The streets had been transformed into a huge open air restaurant. Maybe life is returning, I hope so.