Monday, 31 October 2011

Red Chilli, Leeds (revisited)

On my last visit to Red Chilli it was a little below par. Things that should have been a full on assault on the senses were a little dull, a little mild. A return visit on Saturday found it right back on form, four of us had a corker of a meal.

I was dining with Red Chilli first-timers, attempting to persuade them that a few pints and a Sichuan feast was a fine alternative to a few pints and a curry. Friends duly persuaded. We'll be back.

Stir-fried french beans with chilli and minced pork is one of my all time favourite Chinese dishes. Heat-blistered beans, al dente, dripping in spicy, porky oil and covered in tender little nuggets of salty meat. Lush.

Gong bao diced chicken with peanuts and dried chilli comes doused in a sweet, spicy sauce. The peanuts and chicken provide a wonderful contrast in textures.

The only dish I'd never ordered before, stir fried frog's legs with big Grandma's chilli sauce. Sweet and spicy again, but this time with the inclusion of black beans which gave it a salty, slightly funky fermented edge. Impossible to eat with chopsticks this, fingers were a must. Messy, sticky fun.

The last, but very much not least of the big dishes, spicy hot poached mutton. A huge vat of broth packed with shards of meat, assorted greens, about a bulb of garlic and copious quantities of dried chillies and Sichuan peppercorns. Lip tingling, meaty, more-ish, sweat-inducing deliciousness.

And finally, a couple of plates of dumplings. They make these fresh so they actually turned up after everything else. The boiled ones were Beijing style minced pork and prawn, and were spot on. Perfectly cooked skins and a moist, fragrant filling.

The others were Guotie, Beijing style minced pork fried dumplings. Equally good skins and filling, and they got the crusty fried exterior just right too.

A fantastic meal all round, and great value. Prices on the menu may not look that cheap, but bear in mind everything is served in enormous portions. The mutton alone could probably have fed a family of four. We finished the lot, and stuffed to the gills toddled off to the next pub, where a bottle of wine was ordered due to lack of room for beer.

The bill came to £17 each including a beer apiece and plenty of boiled rice. We threw in £20 each and left it that, as the service was just as good as the food. It can be inconsistent, but on this form Red Chilli deserves all the accolades it gets. Brilliant.


6 Great George Street

Red Chilli on Urbanspoon

La Rocas, Wakefield


I rarely dine out in Wakefield even though that's where I actually live, as it's in such close proximity I never think twice about heading straight into Leeds. That's not to say I wouldn't eat out in Wakefield more often if I found a few places I liked. With that thought in mind an invitation to La Rocas for a night of free tapas sounded like fun.

A small group of six of us went along on Friday and got to sample a fair amount of the menu. We were looked after by Craig (apologies if I have his name wrong, I think it was Craig) who was in charge of front of house for the evening. There was no introduction or little talk from the owners as seems to be the case at many blogger events, but that didn't bother me. It's probably a little ungrateful but I often don't really care about the restaurateurs ethos and vision, I just want to know whether his chefs can cook me a great meal.

I'd love to be able to say we had a great meal, but sadly I'd be lying. Everything we ate was mediocre at best, and some of the dishes were really not very nice at all.

On the plus side, everything on a couple of mixed cold platters was ok, and of the tapas dishes the potatoes were nicely cooked and the pork ribs tender and meaty. Dense, dry meatballs and a jambalaya with overcooked, mushy rice were really a bit grim though.

After dinner we were invited up to the bar to sample a few cocktails. A Long Island iced tea was pretty good, but some of the others contained far too much blue stuff for my taste. Never trust blue food. Or drinks.

The cocktails were a fun end to a night in good company, and we were well looked after by Craig. Thanks to La Rocas for the invitation, I'm just sorry I can't be more positive about the food.

18 Wood Street
West Yorkshire

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Staffordshire Oatcakes

Last weekend a friend reminded me about Staffordshire oatcakes. A conversation over lunch about cheese led on to cheese accompaniments, crackers and oatcakes, and then onto the joys of a Staffordshire oatcake stuffed with bacon, mushrooms and cheese.

If you've never heard of them they're not like the biscuit-y oatcakes you eat with cheese, rather an oat-based pancake. I love oats so I've been wanting to try them for ages, and not having any trips to Stoke planned soon I thought I'd make my own.

I searched the web for recipes, none of which exactly suited the ingredients and time I had available, so I came up with my own hybrid version that turned out very well.

The resulting cakes are thicker than a crepe-style pancake, thinner than an American one, and have a heartier, slightly nutty taste from the oats. They are indeed very good with bacon (or leftover spam, sorry guilty pleasure!), mushrooms and cheese but I also had one for dessert with honey and the leftovers are just about to get warmed up with bacon and beans. They'd work well with anything you'd usually stuff in a pancake.

What you need (makes 6-8 oatcakes):

120g medium oatmeal
120g strong wholemeal flour
250ml milk
250ml water
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sunflower oil
1 x 7g sachet of dried yeast

What to do:

1. Put the milk, water, sugar and yeast in a large bowl and whisk together. Set aside for 5 mins somewhere warm.

2. In another bowl mix together the oatmeal, flour and salt.

3. Pour the dry ingredient mix into the wet, add the tsp of oil and whisk.

4. Put somewhere warm for at least an hour, preferably two.

5. Give the batter a stir and get a frying pan hot. Add a knob of butter to fry them in if you like. It's not necessary in a non-stick pan but as we all know everything is better with butter.

6. Pour a ladle of batter into the pan and roll it round to spread out across the pan surface.

7. When it's gone all bubbly and dried out on the top, flip and fry on the other side.

8. Serve immediately with whatever takes your fancy, or cook a whole batch and pile them up on a plate separated by kitchen paper. They will keep for a couple of days and taste fine warmed up.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

1875 Restaurant, Menston


On Tuesday night I went along to a bloggers event at 1875 restaurant over in Menston. The night was promoted as an authentic Indian masterclass, so given my obsession with Indian food this wasn't an opportunity I was likely to pass up.

Proprietor Manjinder Singh Sarai led the introductions and talked us through the idea behind the restaurant. It's a fairly straightforward premise; serve proper Indian food as you might find in India, and only employ Indian chefs who've been trained in upmarket establishments in India (the Taj hotel group).

The general idea is to do something different to your average Anglo-Indian restaurant that's run by Pakistanis or Bangladeshis and serves dishes invented in Birmingham and Glasgow. Manjinder even went so far as to claim that 1875 is the most authentically Indian restaurant in the North of England. I'm sure there are other claimants to that title (Hansa's and Prashad perhaps?) but there really aren't that many places breaking the mould.

A word on the menu at this stage. Peculiarly given their dedication to proper Indian food, the menu and website describe 1875 as an Anglo-Indian restaurant (which is how I tend to think of all the bog standard curry houses) and go for a sort of 'big up the British Raj' theme. The spiel on the website states that:

'The year is 1875. The British Raj in India is at its highest and Queen Victoria is the first empress to India. The elite-ranking British officers, wherever they are stationed in India, by default got the very best regional authentic Indian food.'

I've no idea whether the bit about the food is true, but I somehow doubt it. If it's true it rather conjures up images of fawning servants (wallahs of various persuasions) fetching and carrying for an enthroned Brit in a military safari suit sipping on a gin and tonic. I'll bet they didn't get the very best regional authentic Indian food, the locals probably kept it for themselves and it was probably too spicy for our Victorian gent anyway. Manjinder did talk about the Anglo-Indian slant, explaining that it's part of differentiating themselves from all of the other Indian restaurants, but it still seems a bit of a strange idea to me.

Slightly dubious empire related theme aside, we were there for the food. If the food is good, then frankly who cares about that other stuff.

Chef Baljit with his spice tin

I'm happy to report that the food was good, some of it very good. For the masterclass part of the evening we donned aprons and attractive blue hairnets and headed to the kitchen with chef Baljit Singh, where we were shown how to make chapattis, naan breads and chicken tikka. It was apparent that everything is cooked from scratch on site as all of the raw ingredients were there; a big tin full of spices including plenty of whole, unground ones, big tubs of minced ginger and garlic, tins of tomatoes and coconut milk, and absolutely no bright red food colouring.

 a morsel of wonderful naan

The breads we cooked were good, the naan a particular highlight. The perfect combination of a light dough resulting in a thin, crisp finish with loads of little charred bubbles.

chicken tikka - fresh from the tandoor

The chicken was also very good, the use of thigh meat a wise choice for flavour and moistness (although the menu actually states that it's chicken breast). I'd love to have my own tandoor to cook food like this at home, but I'd have to spend my entire salary on gas, chicken and marinade ingredients so it's a rather distant fantasy!

from here comes deliciousness - I want one

After the kitchen showcase we returned to the dining room where Manjinder served us a variety of dishes. To start there were chicken samosas and more of the tikka. The samosas were reminiscent of those I used to buy from Mr Riaz' corner shop on Brudenell Road in Hyde Park, which is a big compliment, because they were bloody great.

Next were the vegetable dishes, a mixed vegetable curry that was a little bland for my tastes and a paneer curry that I really enjoyed. The sauce was hot and the paneer creamy and crumbly, not at all like the tasteless rubbery stuff you often get.

Finally we had the meat dishes, a beef masala and a Goan pork vindaloo. The beef masala was good but the vindaloo was excellent, my favourite dish of the evening. The pork (maybe shoulder?) had obviously been cooked long and slow, and fell apart in moist strands. The sauce was intensely flavoured, tangy with a long lingering garlicky aftertaste. Both of the meat curry sauces reminded me in style of those I ate at Delhi Grill earlier in the year, interesting as the chef at 1875 is from Delhi.

the aftermath - note the lack of leftovers

Overall the standard of food was very high, I enjoyed all of it but the vindaloo and naan bread were the highlights. I could happily sit there with a vat of that curry and a pile of breads and just keep on eating. We received excellent service as you'd expect, but if it's anything like as good on a normal night you'll be well looked after. I would gladly return to 1875 and spend my own money on a meal there.

Thanks to Emma at Culture Vultures for organising the event, thanks to the team at 1875, and thanks to everyone else who was there for the great company. You can find some alternative perspectives on the evening, accompanied by some good photos (yes I know mine are rubbish) here and here.

The 1875 Restaurant
Station Road
West Yorkshire
LS29 6JH

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Hinchliffe's Restaurant, Netherton, Huddersfield

Hinchliffe's is one of the new breed of über farm shops appearing in the countryside. Not just a shop selling produce from the farm, but a shop selling produce from the farm, baked goods, beers and wines, expensive pickles and jams of every imaginable variety and all sorts of other posh comestibles. There's also an ice cream counter, a restaurant and an open farm where you can feed the goats and such like.

I'm not sure how I feel about this sort of farm shop. It's a lovely place to visit on a Saturday afternoon, but it's rather removed from what was so great about farm shops in the first place. Namely, the opportunity to buy quality food direct from the producers, cutting out the middle man and all of the other overheads associated with transporting the food, running a nice store to sell it in, marketing it and so forth. This meant you could buy the same food for a far better price than in the regular shops elsewhere.

When the farm shop itself has a large and well appointed store, stocks loads of products made elsewhere and obviously has a not insignificant marketing budget then the prices tend to creep up and not always in line with the quality. We bought cheese, oatcakes and sausages on this visit, all of which were good but not good enough to reflect the premium prices. The oatcakes were a slightly ridiculous £3.25 for an average sized packet.

Things were the same in the restaurant, where all of the food was nice, but no more than that. Hot roast beef and gravy sandwiches were served with dripping fried chips and salad. The beef was served in the keep-the-Yorkshire-pensioners happy style, i.e. very well done but still tender thanks to a good dousing in gravy. Cooked pink would have been far better but I guess that's not what the target audience are after.

The chips were a disappointment because they weren't chips, rather wedges almost veering into roast potato territory. There was a good dripping fried crust, but the innards were a bit mealy as they almost always are when cut so fat. The salad was nicely dressed and was gobbled up rather than being left wilting in the corner of the plate.

I've no idea about anything else on the menu as all four of us ordered the same thing, but the two toddlers with us had sausage and mash which went down a treat judging by the remnants of it all over their mouths, noses, eyebrows and cheeks.

Puddings were ok. A slice of Victoria sponge looked the part but was a little bit dry. The same could be said for a ganache coated chocolate cake with a marmalade filling. A hot chocolate brownie with chocolate sauce and ice cream was the best of the bunch, chocolatey and massive.

On a more positive note, the service was lovely. Friendly, helpful and great with the kids. The food we ate was all rather dull, but maybe there are better things on the menu. I paid around fourteen pounds for the sandwich, cake, a ginger beer, a filter coffee and a tip.


Hinchliffe’s Farm

Netherton Moor Road

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Good things to eat (volume 7): in praise of British fruit

I've been thinking a lot about fruit recently. I've been thinking about all of the wonderful fruits that we grow in Britain, and have come to the conclusion that they're the best in the world.

I think British fruit is often under-rated, playing second fiddle to Mediterranean and tropical imports. Melons, bananas, grapes, pineapples and mangoes to name a few. I love all of these, but I'd be happy for them never to darken these shores again as long as we can keep whatever will grow in our fickle climate.

Photo credit: Wikipedia

We have the finest apples. I'm in no doubt whatsoever about this. Fantastic baked alone or in a pie or crumble, or perhaps with cheese, but I like apples best of all on their own. A Cox's orange pippin in good condition cannot be beaten. Crisp, tart and juicy with a complex flavour, I absolutely love them. Why we import so many dull, one note apples from all corners of the globe is beyond me. I like to take them on walks. Eating a good English apple on a brisk, bright autumn day on open moorland it feels wonderful to be alive. Try the same combination with a guava. It won't work.

We have all of the best berries. Blackberries, strawberries, elderberries, gooseberries, bilberries and my favourite of all, raspberries. Blackberries, elderberries and bilberries grow wild all over the place, so have the added bonus of being completely free.

Bilberries are rather obscure (I've never seen them in the supermarket), but also rather wonderful. They grow on small, scrubby bushes on moorland all over the Pennines. My grandparents used to pick them with the assistance of a special rake-like device for scooping them off the bush, then my Grandma would bake them in pies. The pie would have a very short, sweet pastry crust (probably about 2 parts each butter and sugar to 1 part flour) and an oozing, dark purple filling, the bilberries reduced to a rich fruit mush. This would be served with pouring cream, which mingled with the juices and formed colours from violet through crimson to pink on the plate. Not that I ever paid much attention to the colours, too busy was I shovelling the delicious stuff into my mouth. One of my best and most vivid childhood food memories.

The raspberry, for me, is the finest berry of the lot. I've already featured raspberries on the blog here, so I won't waffle on about them any longer.

Elderberries are good too, and best made into jams or jellies. My Mum has made plenty of these over the years, and they always go down a treat spread on hot buttered toast or stirred through rice pudding.

Photo credit: Blacklands Plants

Blackberries and gooseberries I would lump together with rhubarb in a special category that I'm going to call 'the crumble fruits'. Either alone or alongside apples, each of these is best eaten cooked with a buttery, sugary crumb topping. I can't even decide which is my favourite, although I may be leaning towards the greater acidity of rhubarb or the gooseberry. Any fruit that is borderline inedible due to its mouth-puckering acidity makes a great crumble. Rhubarb deserves a special mention on this blog, because I live right in the Rhubarb Triangle, and also because I love it for being more the stalk of a weed than a fruit in the traditional sense. What tastier weeds are there?

Having said all that, one of the things that got me thinking about fruit was the discovery of a pretender to the throne for 'King of the crumble fruits'. The damson. I found them on Otley farmers market last month, so bought a bag full. The whole lot went in a crumble and wow was it good. As good as anything else I've cooked this year. I guessed how much sugar to use and got lucky. The damsons have a wonderful hint of bitterness to them, with quite a dark, tannin-y fruit flavour. This was offset by just the right amount of sweetness resulting in a taste that sort of reminded me of good quality chocolate, bittersweet yet fruity. The photo doesn't do it justice, it was fantastic.

Photo credit:

Pears. I always think of pears as a sort of sister fruit to apples, but you have a much smaller window of opportunity with a pear. They don't keep for half as long, progressing from rock solid to mealy and horrid before you know it. Catch one at the peak of ripeness though, and they are up there with the best. Almost bursting with sweet, fragrant juice the best way to eat them is also on their own, with a ready supply of tissues.

Photo credit: BBC Good Food

I haven't even mentioned currants yet. Probably because I forgot about them when thinking of berries, which is probably the heading they should come under. Blackcurrants and redcurrants and whitecurrants. Two things spring to mind when thinking of these. Ribena and summer pudding. Summer pudding proves that British fruits other than strawberries are for hot weather too, it's not all crumbles and Autumnal hiking. What better end could you have to a meal eaten outdoors on a warm afternoon than a fat wedge of tart summer pudding leaking crimson juice and a huge dollop of thick cream.

So it tastes good, but some of those exciting tropical upstart fruits taste pretty good too, so what else makes British fruit best? A sense of time and place certainly comes into this. Native foodstuffs just feel right eaten in the landscape and climate in which they grew. To varying degrees this applies to any food, but especially so to fruit. Tomatoes and aubergines are always going to taste better in a Mediterranean country, but I wouldn't want to cook without them in Britain. A good steak suits any climate, it's how you serve it that might differ. Salad and a squeeze of lemon somewhere hot, frites and a peppercorn sauce somewhere cooler. But with fruit local is always better. If I lived on a tropical beach I'm sure coconuts and papayas and pineapples would be my favourite, but I don't so I'm sticking with apples and pears and berries.

Having re-read what I've just written so far it seems there is a third important factor: a tendency to work well in recipes containing lots of butter. There was me thinking I'm writing an unusually healthy post about beautiful, healthy, life-giving fruit, when all along I'm subconsciously thinking of ways to eat more butter. Oh well.

So British fruit is best because it tastes great, because it's the perfect match to our weather and landscapes, and because there are loads of recipes in which it marries perfectly with butter.

What do you think? Is British fruit best? Which is your favourite British fruit? And finally, and of course most importantly, which is the 'King of the crumble fruits'?

Friday, 21 October 2011

José, Bermondsey, London

I arrived in London giddy with anticipation and the joys of an Indian summer. It was a scorching hot day, despite being the first of October, and I was flying off for a fortnights holiday the morning after.

Nothing makes me smile more than good weather and going on holiday. Chuck in some good food, good company and good views and you've got perfection.

The company would have to wait until Gatwick in the morning, but I could attend to the rest there and then. But where to dine? The forthcoming two weeks would be spent in Jordan and Israel, not nations renowned for their love of the pig. Pig was required. Requirement for pig + dining alone + icy cold drinks on a hot day = hot foot it to the nearest tapas bar.

Having heard the chorus of rave reviews it had to be José. It's a classic tapas bar. Hams hung from the ceiling, marble topped bar, small, hot and a miniscule kitchen area churning out top notch food.

A glass of beer and some exemplary padron peppers to begin with. There were a couple of spicy ones in there too which is always a bonus. Filtered and chilled tap water, proffered freely cooled the fire.

My original intention was to keep the bill to a moderate level, mindful of two weeks dining out ahead, so I ordered one of the cheaper piggy options, morcilla iberico with peas and broad beans. The peas and beans were very fresh tasting, still in great nick so late in the season, and a fantastic pairing with the morcilla. This was dense and iron-y, with a very firm texture almost like chorizo.

Bread and grassy, green oil were both great quality. A glass of fino was a fine companion to this and the morcilla.

Sherry goes to my head rapidly on a warm day, so suitably relaxed I then threw caution to the wind and ordered a plate of jamon iberico de bellota and a glass of manzanilla (thought process something along the lines of 'fuck it I'm on holiday').

The jamon was perfect. As good as any I've had anywhere ever. Expertly carved and utterly delicious, each morsel releasing a constant intense savoury-sweet flavour until it dissolves to nothing. I know of nothing else like it. Try it with any other meat, eat it like a boiled sweet rolling it around your mouth and letting it rest on your tongue. Eventually you will be left with nothing but a tasteless chunk of protein. Not with this stuff. It's bloody expensive but it's the meat that keeps on giving.

I remained in ham rapture for a good long while then, still feeling peckish ordered a slice of tortilla to finish things off. Well seasoned and with a soft, almost liquid centre it was very good. A fitting end to the meal.

Service was efficient and amenable, and I accidentally spent £40. Do bear in mind that well over half of that was on sherry and ham, so you can certainly eat here for much less than that.

Good food done, it was back to the good weather and a good view. I meandered up to the South Bank to the little area of parkland just by City Hall, and sat in the sun for a long while looking out over Tower Bridge and the City. Lovely.


104 Bermondsey Street

José on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Northern Food on tour: a week in Israel

Unlike neighbouring Jordan, Israel is rarely out of the news. It's a controversial place, with controversial neighbours and a controversial relationship with them. Visiting this tiny but varied country was a fascinating and informative experience to say the least. I have my views on the various controversies, but I'm not going to go into them here. Instead I'm going to state one incontrovertible fact: The Israelis know how to eat.

We traversed the country from Eilat on the Red Sea coast, to the Dead Sea, Jerusalem, a short trip into the Palestinian territory of the West Bank, north to the coastal city of Haifa then back to Tel Aviv, the party city on the Med and it's neighbouring historic port town, Jaffa. Aside from one crappy pizza we didn't eat a single bad meal.

Israeli cuisine, if there is such a specific thing, is basically Middle Eastern in style. Everything you'd find in Jordan, you'd find here too. Much the same could be said of Palestinian cuisine (the borders of modern day nation states are unhelpful here. Using them to define cuisine is largely pointless. Most Jordanians are Palestinian, as much of Jordan was once the part of Palestine on the far side of the Jordan river, Transjordan as it once was).

There is also much more to Israeli food than that local to the region, thanks to the Jewish diaspora. If it's Jewish food from anywhere in the world, you can find it here. From the sturdy stews of Mitteleuropa to modern American classics such as the Reuben sandwich, they've got it covered. In the manner of the British they have also enthusiastically adopted the food of other nations. Tel Aviv, for example, is a city of sushi eaters.

I've included some reviews below, but we also ate a lot of food casually on the streets and in cafes. Here are some of the highlights.

At breakfast coffee and pastries are a popular choice. The pastries were always good if not quite French standard. The coffee was usually high quality too, and I developed a bit of an iced coffee habit towards the end of the holiday.

At lunch a falafel or shawarma sandwich was always a good option. Always generously proportioned, but always with plentiful fresh salad to lighten the load. It's difficult taking photos of felafel sandwiches, but you get the idea.

There are numerous local takeaway chains, most of which appear to be rather expensive but give them a try and you'll probably find the portions are huge and the quality is high. We had these enormous chicken schnitzel sub sandwiches in Jerusalem. Think Subway but with good bread, good meat and good salad. So not really like Subway at all then come to think of it.

There are fresh juice stands all over the place too, with pomegranate particularly prevalent in Jerusalem. I love the stuff but it's not the most refreshing. It must be packed full of tannins as drinking it gives a dry mouth feel similar to red wine.

The food markets were excellent, we strolled around the Machane Yehuda market in Jerusalem and the Yemenite quarter market in Tel Aviv, and the produce looked outstanding (as it usually does anywhere Mediterranean). Look at those aubergines!

The stalls selling deep fried meaty goodies are worth a look too. Little pasties (sambusas) and rice balls (kubbeh) stuffed with spiced mince made a delicious snack.

On the booze front we drank more than in Jordan, but still not a great deal. The most commonly found beer is Goldstar, a dark lager that's certainly better than your bog standard cooking lager, but still nothing special. It seems the craft beer revolution has reached the shores of Israel though. We found two brewery pubs, the Golan Brewhouse in Jerusalem and LiBira in Haifa. LiBira was the better of the two, we tried their full range and the double pilsner and the bitter were particularly worth checking out.

The local red wine we sampled on a couple of occasions was more than drinkable, and reminiscent of other dark, hot climate Southern Mediterranean reds (think Sicily).

And finally, before I move onto the reviews, I must give an honourable mention to the delights of hairy cheese. Our Israeli friends (of whom more later) assured us we couldn't miss out on this treat. Possibly the most unappetising sounding foodstuff ever, though I have a sneaking suspicion that's not its real name.

It's vermicelli soaked in sugar syrup or honey and wrapped around hard, salty goats cheese. Rather delicious as the savoury tang of the cheese really balances out the cloying sweetness. Try it!

In just one week we barely scratched the surface.

Fortuna, Jerusalem

The best meal of the holiday. A restaurant with a simple concept (we later learned this is common in Israel). For a fixed price you get the full mezze, bread, chips and a choice of grilled meat skewers.

The absolute star of the show were the salads in the mezze. Each one of them (there were ten in total) was superbly seasoned and spiced, and no two were remotely similar. I'm not nerdy enough to take notes when I'm on holiday so the specifics evade me, but I do recall a stand out being a carrot salad with preserved lemons. Sweet, sour, bitter, crunchy and wonderfully refreshing. The houmous was also a rival to Hashem's for best of the trip.

Hanger steak skewers for me. Cooked medium rare as requested it was remarkably tender for the cut, and deeply flavoured. Perhaps a little more charring on the surface would have been nice though. Entrecote across the table was equally good.

The chips were no afterthought. Rustling, salty and lovely. RP couldn't keep his hands out of them long enough for me to take a photo the fat git.


About 100 shekels per head for the meal with beer and service

2 HaArmonim Street
Machane Yehuda

Sima, Jerusalem

A rather extravagant meat fest at the end of a long, hot day. The premise here was the same as at Fortuna, only this time with a choice of sides, loads more meat, and a half bottle of perfectly quaffable local red.

The mixed grill platter comprised a sirloin steak, grilled chicken fillet, beef kofta and grilled chicken innards. The steak was spot on, nice and bloody with a good char, and the chicken innards were a revelation. I use the term innards, because I'm not exactly sure what some of it was. There were definitely kidneys, and liver, and hearts, but also some other unidentified stuff. I'd strongly recommend the hearts, packed with chickeny flavour they were. I have an idea they'd be good deep fried, or perhaps grilled then dropped in a noodle soup. The chicken fillets were boring though, could have given those a miss.

The mezze were all perfectly good, though not up to the standard of Fortuna. The same goes for the sides.


About 100 shekels per head for a huge meal, wine and service

82 Agrippas Street
Machane Yehuda

Julius Meinl Coffee House, Jerusalem

I think Julius Meinl is a chain, but it rates a mention because we had good shakshuka here. A classic breakfast dish in these parts, shakshuka is basically eggs fried up in a tomato sauce then brought to the table sizzling in the pan.

This was a good version with a rich tomatoey sauce, it arrived sizzling like an inferno with an entire loaf of bread apiece to scoop up the goodness. The only downside to that level of heat is that the yolks were cooked through.

Coffee and orange juice included in the set price were good too.


About 35 shekels per head for shakshouka, bread, coffee and orange juice.

Julius Meinl Coffee House
Jaffa Road
New City

Fattoush, Haifa

One thing we didn't eat as much of on this trip as anticipated is shawarma. Kebab stands weren't quite as ubiquitous as expected in either Jordan or Israel, and where we did find them they often only had chicken. Ever since an unpleasant experience in Turkey a few years back I have a deep mistrust of chicken that sits there all day on the spit, intermittently being fired up and sitting there sweating at ambient temperature the rest of the time. It's a recipe for intestinal disaster.

As such I think this was the first shawarma of the holiday. Posh shawarma rather than street shawarma, but it was pretty damn good. Shards of salty meat and onions, a big pile of parsley to freshen things, a pool of nutty tahini and soft bread.

We also had a big bowl of houmous and a whole load more bread that we didn't really need.

And then some beer and wine. I tried a dark beer from the Taybeh brewery, noteworthy as being the only brewery in the West Bank. It was a bit bland and boring though.


Around 50 shekels per head for the meal with soft drinks or a beer or glass of wine

Ben-Gurion Avenue
German Colony

Kanibar, Haifa

It's not clear whether this place is called Kaniburger or Kanibar. The internet thinks Kanibar, but I'm sure it was Kaniburger when we were there. What is clear to me is that the burgers there are bloody brilliant. The best burger I've had this year.

A fat, succulent, well seasoned beef patty (the 220g option, about 8oz), cooked exactly as requested. Medium in case you were wondering. Nice and pink. A good sturdy bun, yielding but strong enough to stay intact for the duration. Lettuce, tomato, gherkin, melty swiss cheese. Ketchup, mustard and mayo at the table to add your own. The chips were average, so I'd just order a huge burger and not bother with them.

Splendid. And all thanks to my Israeli friend Lee, who I met while travelling in Australia years ago, and who I contacted out of the blue on Facebook to say I was coming to Israel and would she like to meet up, and who said yes of course, and who took us out for drinks, and then on a grand day out round the North of the country, introduced us to her friends, and took us to this great burger bar. Thanks Lee, you were a great host!


About 75 shekels for a classy burger, chips, soft drinks and service

Sderot Moriya
Mount Carmel

Said Abu Elafia and Sons, Jaffa

For various reasons we never really got round to eating a restaurant evening meal in Tel Aviv or Jaffa, but we did manage to get sandwiches from Said Abu Elafia and Sons three times in three days. It's a bakery, open 24/7, constantly busy, and with a deli counter making toasted sandwiches.

Apart from tuna, everything is vegetarian, so a sandwich will usually be stuffed with sliced cheese, cream cheese, olives, tomatoes, sweetcorn and whatever else you can persuade them to shove in there. One will serve two people for breakfast, light lunch or a late night snack.


17 shekels for a mucky fat but strangely wholesome toasted sandwich

Said Abu Elafia and Sons
7 Yefet Street

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