Spring weekend

It’s been a while since my last post so I thought I would put up a brief update on my nice weekend.

We had the first properly warm weather of the year.

It was warm enough to light the garden fire pit and have a martini outside before dinner.

It’s so nice to get outside again. I took this picture because I thought the lower part of the log resembled sliced shime saba

We also got the chance to go to Calgary beach.

Canadians take note – this was where many islanders took the boat west to settle on your shores during the Highland Clearances.

These images are actually taken from the ruins of one of the abandoned settlements.

Evidently those who once lived here and moved to the New World named one of the more successful Canadian settlements after the bay.

Calgary in Alberta has since grown to a much larger size than the original!

On returning home I prepared some izakaya-style skewers for the barbecue. The above is lamb liver with spring onion, dipped in a sweet soy glaze with garlic and vermouth. Grilled for about 4-5 minutes on each side they went well with a drink, although I need to practise my barbecue skills.

I also wrapped asparagus with prosciutto and grilled for about 2 minutes on each side.

Easy and tasty.

After that it was time for drinks.

And our first sunset of the year enjoyed from the garden.


French meets Japan supper club at Mirey’s Restaurant

My friends Gerry and Ko have set up a popup restaurant in south London, showcasing their creative talent and delicious food.

The event took place in the London Cooking Project, a community-run culinary initiative in Battersea aimed at fostering budding catering talent in the area.

We signed up and were provided with this tantalising menu.

During a fairly manic pre-Christmas week it was lovely to get a chance to relax and enjoy someone else’s cooking – especially given its sophistication. What a treat!

On arrival guests were provided with a glass of French cider blended with a fruit syrup.

Otherwise it was BYOB, although Ko and Gerry brought back a case of sake from a recent trip to Japan and I was highly intent on trying some. 

I chose a dry sake from Hokkaido (where Ko comes from) which went very well with our first course: generously sliced tuna carpaccio with a tongue-tingling garnish of shredded daikon, green apple and fragrant herbs spices. It wasn’t just diverse in terms of its flavours; the inclusion of shiso leaves (perilla) and pink peppercorns turned it into a full-mouth sensation.

Next came a delicious steak tartare, with croutons, edamame, spicy sauce and a raw quail’s egg among other things.

Delicious and light, it was a real treat of contrasting textures, including the croutons which were served inside the tartare.

Next came a delicious lamb dish. Encrusted in pistachio nuts, the cutlets were sat on a bed of aubergine in spicy miso sauce.

A truly international dish, the lime really enhanced and united all of the flavours.

The aubergines were also particularly spicy which I loved.

For dessert we were presented with a trio of sweets. From the left to the right we had a yuzu cheesecake biscuit which was light and refreshing, followed by a matcha green tea Yule log, then sweet adzuki beans with a sweet sake jelly.

The latter was my favourite, with its surprising, light textures.

The atmosphere was also really fun – relaxed and friendly, I made several new friends from Europe and Japan.

I’m very pleased to report that Ko and Gerry will be resident at the Cuckoo pub in Islington from the new year so be sure to check out their food and stay up to date with their work here!

Bar Arabica, Borough Market, 2/5

A relatively pleasant martini was let down by bad service and poor value for money.


It wouldn’t take much to perfect their martini but some of the fundamentally poor elements of the restaurant will be more difficult to rectify.

Nestled under a railway arch in Borough Market, I had high hopes for this Levantine restaurant. However, the service wasn’t particularly attentive, the portions were small and the martini didn’t do it for me.

I was looking forward to a tasty za’tar man’oushe, even though I have regularly been warned that you just can’t get good Lebanese food in London. Sadly it didn’t match my Beiruti experiences. It was a little dry and lacking in fresh ingredients.

Other portions were small and not cheap, although we did like boregi (essentially the same as börek – a spinach and feta pastry) which was crunchy and satisfying.

The atmosphere was pleasant, with the rumble of trains and nice lighting, but some of our dishes were forgotten. Indeed we felt somewhat forgotten on occasion.

When I asked about the gin used in their martini I was told it was a home-made compound gin, but the waiter couldn’t tell me anymore about it.

It arrived chilled but not especially cold, in a coupe glass, with a strip of lemon peel. As always, I feel the need to urge London restaurants serving martinis to keep their gin and glasses (martini glasses, not coupe glasses!) in the freezer.

However, this martini was redeemed by its particular lemon flavour – it was especially citrusy which I like. The gin did not seem especially dry, which was perhaps a blessing considering its temperature, but all in all it wasn’t unpleasant.

So what to do? Larger portions would be nice. If you’ve ever eaten in the Middle East you will realise that it’s rare to leave a meal without feeling utterly stuffed and potentially in pain from your host’s kind and generous hospitality. This was not the feeling I had at this Levantine restaurant.  More generous portions and attentive service would be in order. Then keep the homemade gin in the freezer and serve it in a proper martini glass.