Tasting notes — August 2018

A modern classic

The Modern Pantry in Clerkenwell is ten years old. Which is quite the achievement. I was #hashtagblessedtobeinvited to a celebratory dinner at the beginning of August along with a number of other journo and photo snapper types. The TMP team cooked some of their classics alongside friends and neighbours of the restaurant — and it was quite the feast, with some memorable food from the likes of Jikoni’s Ravinder Bhogal (gorgeous crab shiso things), Chantelle Nicholson of Tredwells (brilliant cauliflower) and The Quality Chop House’s Shaun Searley (mega ribeye and confit pavé spuds). What was most impressive to me though, was that the outstanding dish of the night was Anna Hansen’s classic sugar-cured prawn omelette with smoked chilli sambal. I’m fairly sure it’s been on the menu since day one, and wouldn’t be out of place if the restaurant was only just opening its doors for the first time this year. The guest dishes are on the eclectic all day menu for a few days longer, that omelette for ever more (hopefully).

47-48 St John’s Square, EC1V 4JJ — themodernpantry.co.uk — 020 7553 9210


You have / one has to be cautious with these invites — I like to think I’m a decent judge of a place whether paying or otherwise, but there’s no doubt that generosity tastes good. It was interesting, then, to return as a proper customer to JKS group’s Indian sports bar-come-restaurant Brigadiers, having visited around launch time when the food and drink flowed. The menu is slightly overwhelmingly split between beer snacks, finger bites, rolls and buns, tandoor grills, steaks and chops, things from the wood oven, biryanis breads and sides … and if you order everything that tempts, along with booze, it’ll be really quite expensive. But we went with the number of dishes suggested by our waiter and were neither hungry nor out of pocket at the end. BBQ butter chicken wings are outstanding, I loved the masala beef rib eye steak with bone marrow gravy and wedge salad, and the beef shin and bone marrow biryani is as pleasing as Gymkhana’s muntjac version. There is, as mentioned, perhaps too much choice at Brigadiers (when you have to choose food all by yourself…), and I’d probably opt for Gymkhana, Trishna and Hoppers above it, but this is yet another quality opening from the group that can do no wrong. I’ll return, again happily under my own dollar.

1-5 Bloomberg Arcade, EC4N 8AR — brigadierslondon.com — 020 3319 8140

Deep-fried lunching

I’ve had a run of solo lunches at favourite seats, including St John, Smoking Goat, Monty’s Deli, Black Axe Mangal, Jidori and Roti King. But you know about those (or should). That said, save for Roti King, none of them are ever particularly busy in the middle of the day, whereas one place that’s new to me (at least) was rammed every time I went or walked past through August: Tanakatsu, a katsu and teriyaki specialist to the south of Angel between City and Goswell Roads. The offer is simple. Basically, katsu chicken or pork with rice and salad, rice and curry sauce or rice, salad and teriyaki. All £12.5. No doubt there are better pieces of panko coated, deep-fried, premium iberico pork and wagyu beef pieces out there. But this is really good value and deeply satisfying. The bottomless cabbage salad and ‘Mighty dressing’  is hugely addictive. Apparently their sushi’s pretty good too, but hard to ignore the things coming out of the fryer.

10 Wakley Street, EC1V 7LT — tanakatsu.co.uk

Chick n Sours

On a similarly deep-fried note: good news for those that live east is that the original Kingsland Road branch of Chick n Sours has reopened. There are three Dalston-Korean chicken burgers now, plus the superlative hot sauce chicken wings and a number of zingy fried and non-fried snacks, which make a vaguely balanced meal marginally easier than previously. If you want that. Superlative cracking, shattering batter shrouding buttermilk drenched chicken. Again, very satisfying.

390 Kingsland Road, E8 4AA — chicknsours.co.uk — 020 3620 8728

Sambal Shiok

Finally, as mentioned in previous dispatches, Sambal Shiok is doing a storming trade on the Holloway Road. To continue the theme, their fried chicken’s also very good, but go for the laksa. It’s spicy, sweaty, invigorating stuff. Reservations are available for 4 or more, but otherwise the waiting list / queue is manageable (I hope the nearby Provisions sends a few bottles round to the Sambal Shiok to say thanks for the customers grabbing a drink there while in limbo). Have ‘the Special’, with both types of noodles.

171 Holloway Road — sambalshiok.co.uk