More martini snacks and canapes

I’m just going to leave this here…

  

What could be easier than olives and cheese-stuffed peppers that you picked up at the shops on the way home? I particularly like the colour contrast of these two. Oh and the taste.

You can’t go wrong with the lemony-buttery taste of Nocellara olive flesh, while the soft creamy cheese paired very indulgently with the sweet piccante crunch of the pepper.

  
This one was also a little bit last minute. I threw together some Bombay mix, prosciutto and olives when a friend popped round unexpectedly. The Bombay mix didn’t really go with the other two, but it’s definitely very nice on its own.

  

Here are some nuts, arranged mindlessly while I stared into space sipping my first drink of the night. Salted pistachio nuts are my favourite, although some nice big fat macadamia nuts would go well with a martini too.

  
Simple, easy, light, savoury, Twiglets are an underrated canapé snack. They are the flavour and texture opposite of the martini. Where a martini is cold, smooth, heady, citrusy and ever so slightly sweet, these are light, crunchy, salty and savoury. They don’t look particularly elegant but the flavour contrast really works. They’re a guaranteed winner for marmite fans.

  
This one is a bit more fancy. Asparagus skewers, blini with taramasalata, maki rolls, sigeumchi-namul, crisps, a martini and candles…

  
A simple but slightly more edgy snack, here are some wasabi peas with a simple classic.

  
Extremely simple, but very tasty, here is some lightly pickled baby beetroot. I’m sure we could create some kind of pink-coloured beetroot Gibson Martini, perhaps similar to the Beet Up Vesper Martini at the Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town bar in central London. 


Sea Aster is a seasonal coastal plant that flowers in the summer but is edible in the spring. Wash and eat raw or lightly boil for a minute or two. I got mine at a fish monger’s in Borough Market.


Mum bought these langoustines from Tobermory Main Street while I picked up the samphire on Oban pier on a trip back from London.


There’s a whole world of tapas-style ingredients and food types you could use. Above you can see chorizo, cold roast pork slices, feta cheese, olives, bread, houmous, oil  and duqqah.


You can turn the nibbles into your whole meal and really take your time with the martini. Above you can see crab open sandwiches, nuts, wood ear mushrooms, Korean-style spinach, roasted vegetables, seaweed, manchego cheese, Bombay mix, olives, bread, oil and houmous all to be slowly munched while you sip your cold gin.


Houmous is a relaxed martini accompaniment to have at home with informal company over a drink.


Here it is served with sliced pitta bread and a variety of mostly Mediterranean snacks.


My kind neighbour made me some lovely Middle Eastern sweets which I included in the meal.

The Arabic element of the food was especially good at soaking up some of the alcohol!


Dim sum was a surprisingly good – if slightly unconventional accompaniment.


Oysters are my favourite.


I also love creamy manchego cheese.


Finally though, the most classical martini snack will always remain the pitted green olive. If it’s all you have, you’ll be fine. And you won’t spoil your appetite for dinner.

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A Martini at Yumi, Soho, 4/5

I don’t want to recommend this restaurant.

It’s lovely, tasty, friendly and authentic: the perfect Izakaya in a London setting.
But when I visited, it was rather quiet. And I loved it.

Located in the heart of London’s theatre district, I expected it to be mobbed on a Saturday evening, but there were no other diners when we arrived. We had the undivided attention of the friendly, helpful and funny staff.

I think that once word gets out about this new bar it will almost certainly have a queue. Which, in my opinion, is the worst sort of dining experience in a busy city.
If you’re unfamiliar with izakaya culture you have a treat coming your way. It’s comparable to Spanish tapas, but with a pub feel. 

Imagine a traditional British pub, but where everyone sits, rather than stands. The purpose is to drink and relax, but delectable snacks are served to sustain your drinking and relax your pace as you go. It’s not like a British Sunday lunch pub, nor is it a post-work rapid pint guzzler. It’s somewhere gently in-between and it’s my favourite way to spend an evening out. I’ve blogged about it before here.

When I asked for a martini I received all the reassuring feedback: what gin would I like? Lemon or olive?


The gin and glasses hadn’t been kept in the freezer – I would recommend perhaps keeping one brand of gin (beefeater seems to be the house gin) permanently on ice.
The martini that I was given also had a fairly large “cap ribbon” (ie the gap between the top of the drink and the rim of the glass) so I would also recommend serving them in smaller glasses just so future customers don’t feel short-changed. Izakayas are supposed to have a reputation for ‘over-filling’ glasses for their customers – part of the intimate and generous hospitality of these venues. But at least this martini was in an actual martini glass, not the coupe glasses I am so often disappointed with in this city.
Otherwise the drink was nicely chilled and it went down very quickly. It certainly wasn’t small either, despite the aforementioned gap. At £8 it was also very reasonably priced by central London standards. I will definitely be going back for more.


The atmosphere in Yumi is relaxed and trendy, with lots of soft wooden fixtures and mellow lighting. The music was also modern, fast and ambient. Not über-pretentious or over-imposing.
But now I want to talk about the food. Or rather, just post photos of it and salivate for a moment.


Hot edamame with salt is standard izakaya fare – and for good reason. It goes exceptionally well with cold, crisp lager.


These sweet corn fritter balls were like sex in the mouth. They went really nicely with a soy/vinegar dipping sauce.


The gyoza were simple and delicious. The bar also does several types of yakitori skewers.

Their okonomiyaki was very tasty! This savoury pancake-type dish is made with cabbage, meat and a range of other ingredients. It’s a real comfort dish. And just look at that katsuobushi (dried, matured tuna shavings) dancing on the top. It’s a thin of tasty beauty, although the concept might initially appear somewhat alien to European diners unfamiliar with Japanese food.


The staff also kindly let us try some of their Bloody Mary (part of their bottomless brunch deal). It was sharp, refreshing and hot, with ginger and wasabi added to the mix. Kanpai!


So head on down to Shaftesbury Avenue for a relaxed eating and drinking adventure. For now it’s a haven of taste and tranquility in the middle of one of the largest tourist hubs on earth but it might end up getting very popular – and busy!