The Foxlow in Balham 4/5

  

My friend invited me out to lunch at the Foxlow Restaurant just around the corner from Balham tube station in south London.
 

The decor has a 1970s Scandinavian feel to it, with lots of wood and chunky fixtures that say practicality as well as style. The staff were also helpful, friendly and knowledgable. 

  

The food menu is unpretentious comfort food – but of very high quality. The chicken sandwich was generous, tasty, comforting and a real treat of contrasting textures. All the meat and fish is carefully chosen from high value and sustainable sources by the way.

  

I don’t normally drink martinis at lunch but when I saw the unusual option at the top of their cocktail menu I had to try it. I was told it involved a honey and Manzanilla olive brine mixture instead of vermouth. If in doubt, I almost always prefer a traditional classic but this sounded like a very individual, striking yet simple variation that I had never seen before so it would have been rude not to order one.

  
I was not disappointed. The oily circle of honey oozed playfully around the surface of the drink until the end while the sweet and briny flavours swirled pleasingly over the stoicism of the dry gin.

If I could recommend any changes I would suggest, as I often do, keeping the gin and glasses in the freezer so that the drink was even colder. I also prefer to drink martinis from a V-shaped martini glass rather than a coupe glass, but these are minor points.

The drink was good value for money for London and I particularly salute the creativity of someone who can take a tried and tested classic, innovate it with a subtle but unique alteration and create something new and pleasing, yet also reassuringly rooted in the classic martini recipe  style.

  
The drink was not served with nibbles (perhaps it could be served with complimentary Manzanilla olives for martini greatness) but the nibbles on offer in the food menu were creative and highly tasty.

We ordered the anchovy, onion and goats cheese served on rounds of crisp bread. They were absolutely delicious, with strong salty and umami punch, finished off with the pungency of the onion.
  
They were a fantastic accompaniment to the martini, although given their strong flavour I would recommend only eating them with someone you are comfortable enough to share anchovy-onion breath with afterwards. If you’re on a date you’d better buy two plates to share – your breaths will hopefully cancel one another’s out if you end  up kissing later – and if you have one or two martinis let’s be honest, there will probably be a fairly good chance of it.

More snacks and nibbles to accompany martinis

Here is another selection of savoury snacks I’ve recently served and eaten with martinis.

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Roasted and salted soy beans.

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Prawns on lettuce with Peking duck sauce and fried spicy broad beans.

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You can get a lot of good stuff in IKEA.

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Fish roe goes well in Swedish croustades.

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Here are some of the filled croustades, as well as some Japanese nuts and seaweed snacks.

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Here are some more croustades with a smidgen of Sås senap and dill (a type of sweet Swedish mustard) topped up with Tångkorn (a salty seaweed extract) with a fleck of lemon peel to garnish.

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I like to keep a selection of things like peanuts, pistachio nuts, Bombay mix etc just in case you need an emergency martini (it happens).

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A simple favourite: Bombay mix and olives stuffed with anchovies.

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MUM’S ROAST BEEF!

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Sushi.

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Sage leaves fried in butter with garlic and walnuts (see here for the recipe).

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Steak. After you cook it, let it rest for about 5 minutes then slice it thinly.

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Scrumptious pieces of grilled Parma ham.

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Olives and squid.

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Elk and pork sausage.


Fried salmon skin.

Fried sage leaves again, but this time with no additions of garlic or nuts.

Ceviche.

Pistachio nuts.

 And finally, happiness is finding an olive (or three) at the bottom of your martini when you’re hungry, said a very wise man.

The Laura Santtini Umami Martini

Laura Santtini is a London-based chef with a recipe book that changed the way I looked at food. She describes herself as the genetic equivalent of a Molotov cocktail: half Italian, quarter Persian, pinch of Sephardic and then an English-Irish mix. Her recipe book is full of things you can prepare in a matter of minutes (ie before your friends get to your home via the tube after work) yet you can present them with a simplistic yet explosive flair that says “oh it’s just something I threw together before you got here” but looks and tastes like restaurant quality cuisine.

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Laura Santtini’s book “Flash Cooking” gave me the confidence to entertain guests at home. Which has had a profound impact on this blog, because it means I can give people martinis, then serve them dinner when they are no longer able to use their legs to walk to a restaurant. Well done Laura, and thank you.

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Ms. Santtini has also produced a very fine condiment: Taste 5 Umami Paste. I usually rub it on food items to marinade them, although one of my friends likes to just eat the stuff for the flavour itself. Praise indeed.

Having previously added Worcestershire Sauce to a martini for a taste of salty umami I thought I might try the same with the Taste 5 Umami paste, not least as an experiment that my aforementioned friend might like. I took a pea-sized globule of the paste and muddled it into a measure of vermouth, then topped it up with gin and stirred.

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I didn’t use a garnish this time round but I could suggest the following as good pairings for the umami flavour:

A twist of lemon
An olive stuffed with garlic
An olive stuffed with anchovy (for double, nay triple umami)
A sprig of Rosemary
Watercress
A slice of cucumber

Disclaimer: the following photograph contains no martini.

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Be sure to rub the sauce on some meat or fish to marinade before you fry it.

An early Christmas present of olives

On the twelfth day of Christmas my true love gave to me…

…Nine million olives and an EU fishing quota’s worth of anchovies.

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When it comes to serving olives with martinis I have two favourites:

Nocellara olives, which I describe here or Manzanillas, especially ones which have been stuffed with anchovies and tinned in brine.

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I would never normally order anchovies but the first time I ate these olives I didn’t know what was in them. I was so taken by the taste that I asked what was in them and was highly surprised. If you don’t think you’re an anchovy fan I would recommend giving these olives a go nonetheless.

I first had them in Duke’s Bar in London but I have since found them stocked in supermarkets all over the place so hopefully you won’t have too much difficulty finding them.

I have bought a large supply to take home for Christmas (you can’t get them where my family live).

The festive season is an ideal time for martinis as you’ve got your family as company. It’s either the perfect time to get together and talk, or it’s the only time you ever see them and you’ll feel it necessary to get very drunk.

Merry Christmas!

(Several days later and we have barely dented this stockpile…)