A Little Plug- Bombay Palace, Colchester.

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Just a quickie, but if you’re local try out Bombay Palace on Magdalen St, Colchester.
The boy and I just attended for a lazy Sunday tea and have filled the buffet gap left by swearing off our ex haunt of choice, House of China.
A la carte is available but we went for the all you can eat option (shock) and were treated to a made to order starter plate of meaty morsels before tucking in to the main event. Three rice, three veg, six curries including a lamb saag to die for and a satisfactory offering for the world’s greatest Korma fan accompanying me. Fab Bombay potatoes and loads of chutney, brill.
Whilst ‘all you can eat’ might never be elegant, it doesn’t have to be skeazy. Decadent decor, immaculate staff and your bill presented in a carved wooden box, this may be the classiest curry in Essex.
Bombay Palace ticks all the boxes and on a Sunday just £8.95 a head. Yes, you read that right. Go check them out.

From my smartphone, sorry for any format bugs

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Thoughts on Galvin

20140615_141753Have you seen that advert for Sky on Demand? You know, where Idris Elba is in a spectacularly tight jumper and goes on about great TV that everyone else is going on about and you have to mutter a comedy grumpy ‘I aven’t seeyn it’? Well that advert is how I have felt for some time about the Galvin brothers and their little culinary empire. There was a dinner that clashed with a wedding a year or so ago, oh we went to Galvin. Ok, never heard of it. Oh it was fantastic was it?

Then there’s a great bit of dinner, where’d you get the recipe? Oh, the Galvin book. No, no I’ve not got it. What’d you get for Christmas? Oh dinner at Galvin. Not been there no. Everyone in the know seems to be reading, making and going to bloody Galvin apart from me. Not that I’m bitter or childish, I just wanted to know! A little hype is a good thing, it interests, it excites but for me too much hype destroys and irritates. I’ll get bored quickly and outraged into unjustified avoidance of anything I’ve heard too much about, especially if people insist that I will enjoy it. Well maybe I wont, just to show you! Anyway, around came Father’s Day and my lucky old man got to indulge in his annual treat of taking his wife and children out for a dinner that he pays for.
He is truly spoiled.
He is also a big fan of the Galvin Phenomenon and decided that we would all celebrate his general Dad skills at La Chapelle in Spitalfields. Oooh. Time to put all these shining reviews to the test, time to see if the hype is worth all the, er, hype and time to see if their famous signature Tart Tartin really is worth writing home about.

Fun fact, my elder sibling came second this year in the Pomme D’Or- an annual tart tartin contest run by the brothers Galvin. He’s met them and swapped selfies and pastry stories and everything, and I am in the corner saying No, I aven’t beeyn yet!

Outrage aside, lets get to the point. Actually first, let’s get everyone caught up: The Galvin set up is a family affair since 2005 headed up by the exotically named brothers Chris and Jeff. They have seven sites in all, most in London with two new spots in lovely Edinburgh. Cuisine is modern, French, and not shy of a Michelin Star. Their own mission statement is a desire to “offer high quality French cuisine, served in luxurious surroundings by warm, hospitable and professional front of house”. They also have a rather lovely looking book, Cook Book de Luxe.

Cut back to the action, it’s Father’s Day, it’s Sunday lunch and it’s La Chapelle, the third Galvin joint to open, situated behind a very unassuming doorway in Spitalfields. Cut to greeting from marvellous welcoming host staff who just managed to be smiley without being sickly. Cut to some quiet, slightly shabby live lounge room Jazz style band banging out unlikely cover versions in the bar. Cut to beautiful, high ceilinged space with ingeniously placed mirrors and resultingly fantastic light. Cut to the menu, let’s cut to the chase.

galvinTo start, a Dorset crab ‘lasagne’, which I was quite insistently guided to by my more experienced companions against my initial lean towards quail, I went with majority recommendation. It’s something of a signature dish, a beautifully light, almost mousse like crab stack served with some thin and silky pasta, pea shoots and sauce. Absolutely fantastic, I could have eaten three of them. The boy had the quail, it looked good but I stand by my choice.

To main, chateaubriand with some veggie bits and quail eggs, some truffley stuff too and two show stealing short rib nibblets. Outstanding. Melt in the mouth beef, gorgeously plated and just wonderful to consume. I just drooled a bit into my keyboard. I’m no stranger to good steak, and this went beyond it. Also nice to see if served in a single portion, a rarity in my experience for this cut, and a welcome one as we don’t always have someone who wants to share.

20140615_161541To dessert, to the inevitable Tart Tartin. Crispy, whisper away from overdone pastry, succulent apples, rich caramel, crème fraiche quenelle. Delightful as expected, but is is as good at Big Bros? I’m not sure I’ll ever tell. The other boy had a chocolate fondant affair which looked pretty amazing too. And if that wasn’t enough, in true French style you can expect some to die for petit fours with your double espresso, a lovely touch to round off things and ensure you leave without the merest space left in your tummy.

So the food gets a tick, as does the wine list. The swish building gets a tick. The shabby jazz cover band get a tick and the service, well. So often service is the great leveller between locations, and not just high end ones. I have recently sworn off ever visiting the best Chinese buffet in my home town due to the excessive levels of vileness of their staff, and will also avoid a certain Smithsfield venue in the future after suffering some pretty naff service on my last two outings there. Good food is one thing, poor treatment outweighs it but great staff make for a brilliant experience and the service at La Chapelle made for a really unrivalled afternoon. My list of positive adjectives runs dry for those guys. Immaculately turned out and unobtrusively attentive but happy to join in with a sigh and a chat when the old boy had to introduce the other boy, the tart making, Pomme d’Or running up boy (I’ve won stuff too you know, competition in a Brownie Guides Cornish Pasty contest is pretty fierce I can tell you). It could have been sycophantic and sickly, and if it isn’t genuine then it is acting of the highest regard from the entire team because they really made the afternoon special, and comfortable. I’m not naive enough to think they work for the warm fuzzy feeling of being good people alone, but plenty of hospitality staff aren’t that hospitable these days and at La Chapelle, their service really is something of an art form, making it stand out as a warm and welcoming experience so much less intimidating or icy than some of it’s Michelin peers. Mission accomplished, Chris & Jeff. Mission accomplished.

20140615_170915At the other end of the check list, it isn’t cheap, but you didn’t really expect it to be and there are set menus and whatnot for the thrifty minded. However my over riding conclusion from this outing is to tell you to damn the expense and go for it, because it’s a massive and worthy treat. You could even pick up a signed book at bargain rates as something to help keep you conscious all the way home on the train (thanks Dad for that!). Hardcore types could even treat themselves to a cheeky one for the road in Cafe a Vin just next door, but just the one. Especially if you have a busy Monday at work on the horizon. Yeah, that hurt.

 

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Tabbouleh

20140416_200852Tabbouleh– a traditional Arabic salad based around bulgar wheat, tomatoes and parsley but you needn’t stop there. Onions, mint, cucumber, chilli, coriander- basically any fresh, flavoursome or crunchy raw ingredients. You can even swap the bulgar for couscous or rice but I don’t know why you would. For me, it’s the firm texture and nutty taste of bulgar that makes this salad so hearty and moreish.

I must say, I bloody love tabbouleh and this bloody love was recently rekindled when I came across Keith Floyd’s version for a celeb chef themed night at Food Club. You don’t see it around very often though- vegetarian restaurants maybe, hipster artsy cafes in galleries. It is a staple summer side on the table when my step mum is cooking/chopping and it got me through many dinners when I first started living alone and opted for making big dishes I could eat all week rather than cook a sad meal for one every night. Times have certainly moved on, but I still love tabbouleh, especially when there’s enough left to scrape into my lunchbox for the next day. Well why do I love it? Let me count the ways:

  1.  It’s fresh, tasty and due to the variation and possibility to add loads of ingredients, every mouthful is a bit different. And by this same philosophy, you have to love it because you can put pretty much anything you want in there.
  2. Bulgar wheat is an underused and yumtastic grain, with a friendly fibre and protein content that just feels good to eat. It’s tasty and savoury and really does flesh out salad ingredients into a satisfying dish for even the hungriest punter.
  3. It’s super quick and super easy to make, as below and as we’ve said before if I can manage it, you certainly can.
  4. As long as you have the basics- bulgar and tomatoes (yeah I don’t favour parsley, sue me) and some kind of dressing you can bang out a tabbouleh-like dish that will suffice.
  5. It is the perfect accompaniment to many of my favourite dinners, namely roasts and BBQs.
  6. It is stupidly diet friendly due to being filling and full of veg. Lower GI and higher protein than a rice option plus bonus iron content. Watch the olive oil and it’s free on Slimming World and some other plans too.
  7. It makes as good a dinner as a lunch as a side dish. I wont rule it out for breakfast on a very hot day either.
  8. It just looks lovely and colourful and will cheer up your plate or buffet table.
  9. It’s vegan and easy to source the constituents organically so should please the fussiest of eaters, unless they are raw types or anti nightshades. And who ever voluntarily cooks for them?
  10. Despite being mega simple it is still a thrilling challenge every time as I strive to one day recreate, or dare I say exceed, my Step Mum’s version. I’m sure she leaves something out when she tells me what she does…..

Not convinced? Go make it yourself then and drop me a line to tell me how totally right I am! My favoured option as below.

Boom Boom Tabbouleh

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Serves 3-4 as a side, 2 as a main course.
Prep time- 40 mins including cooling.

1 cup bulgar wheat
6 large tomatoes
8 spring onions
At least 1/2 cup of fresh corriander
At least 1/4 cup fresh mint
1 large clove of garlic
1tbspn olive oil
1tbspn lemon juice
1/2 tbspn white wine vinegar
Salt & pepper

Start with your bulgar wheat- simply bring 2 cups of water to the boil in a pan, take off the heat, dump in the bulgar wheat, cover, and ignore for 20 minutes. If all the water is absorbed, the bulgar is ready! By rule of thumb it should be tender with a little bite but no discernable crunch. Drain any excess water if needs be- it wont absorb any more after about 25 mins.

I like to spread the still warm bulgar around the bottom of the largest mixing bowl I have to help it cool down.

Now, additions: everything needs to be finely chopped. Not Wednesday-afternoon-I-can’t-be-bothered-really-finely chopped: Proper Finely Chopped. Mere slivers of onion and wee flecks of herbs. Trust me. Start with the mint and stir into the cooling bulgar, I find the residual heat helps to pull out the flavour from the mint. Then, for no real reasons of science I go for the onions then tomatoes and finish with the coriander. Give it all a thorough but gentle mix.
You can make the dressing separately or just throw it in and make adjustments to taste. I like to leave the garlic (minced) to sit in the olive oil for a while before adding to mellow out the flavour a little. If your herbs are fresh it doesn’t need a lot of dressing but the extra crispness from the vinegar and juice make a nice background note, and help it to stay pretty if you aren’t serving straight away. Plenty of black pepper and (Maldon) sea salt and you’re ready to go.

Speaking of serving straight away, this is always my recommendation but if time or company means you are making in advance, cover it well and refrigerate. Same applies to leftovers. Still speaking of serving, serve it with whatever you want but in my house we love it with some roast chicken.

Variations: Abound! Put in lots of parsley if you like it, about half a cup as well as the mint and corriander. Use white or red onions or a mix of all, cherry tomatoes will suffice, add cucumber or peppers or a very finely minced red chilli for some kick. Lose or up the garlic or experiment with sweeter spices such as a dash of cinnamon or even a very slight touch of vanilla (I learned that one by accident).