Checkout (10th edition – June 2012)

Good enough to eat…

Polpo – new restaurant & cookbook

So not only is Russell Norman opening his sixth restaurant, he’s also created a beautiful cookbook: POLPO: A Venetian Cookbook (Of Sorts). A mammoth book crammed with honest recipes (140 to be precise), we spotted many things we’ve had at Polpo that we’ll (attempt) to recreate, including those amazing meatballs. Just when you think you’re at the end of the book there’s a short guide to some of Venice’s bars and restaurants, a genius idea. Crucially for me, the book has a wonderful exposed spine which means it opens flat on every page, very important that. Some recipes to tempt you here, and a lovely little video they made to go alongside it here.

Back to the restaurant, Polpo Smithfield opens on 30 July “We have always loved the unique character and atmosphere of Clerkenwell and have been looking for the right site for over a year. It is also great to be so close to such an iconic working market as Smithfield.” says Russell. Libby Greenfield, previously of Zucca and then senior sous chef to Florence Knight at Polpetto, has been appointed as head chef. It will feature the same core menu as the others and also a basement Negroni Bar. It shall seat 70 in the main dining room with space for 20 on the terrace outside.

POLPO Smithfield, 2-3 Cowcross Street,
London EC1M 6DR,
Opening hours:
Monday to Saturday: Noon to 11pm, Sunday:  Noon to 5pm
* Reservations are available between noon and 5pm. After that, tables are allocated on a first come, first served basis.
* Dining at the bar will be always be available unreserved to walk-ins.

POLPO: A Venetian Cookbook (Of Sorts) published by Bloomsbury on 5 July 2012.
Pre order at Amazon here


Bigger and better…

From bagels to muffins

The New York Bakery Co famous for their bagels have branched out into muffins. We usually find shop-bought muffins are a bit tasteless and dry but these are actually really good and so moist. Available in double chocolate and blueberry, the flavours are slightly predictable, but then again, why mess with a classic?  The New York Bakery Co said “The New York Bakery sweet muffin range has been created off the back of extensive consumer research which shows a gap in the market for an indulgent product aimed at adults that offers a ‘’coffee shop’’ treat experience. “In response to this, New York Bakery Co Muffins are bigger in size than any other brand’s offering with plentiful visible chocolate chunks.” Now size isn’t always everything, but it certainly helps.

Available in Tesco stores nationwide, £1.69 for a pack of two.


The main bar (not the mini-bar!)

Malmaison refresh their menu

A couple of weeks back we were invited over to sample the new summer menu created by head chef John Woodward at the Malmaison hotel, Smithfield. We were promised some fresh new recipes using only the best (and where possible, locally sourced) ingredients. And we were glad that we accepted the invitation, because they kept their promise on every level. Malmaison is situated in what appears to be a gated residential square, so you get the impression that you’re off to visit a long-lost (and wealthy) relative rather than going to a hotel. It’s also just down the road from The Fox and Anchor, where Saff and I spent my 40th birthday… So the area in and around Smithfield holds many fond, if hazy, memories for us.

The champagne bar… Wonder why it’s called that?

As soon as you walk through the doors you are not met with the reception desk, oh no, but by a champagne bar. Small yet perfectly formed it serves champagne (stating the blooming obvious) and a small selection of cocktails. Very dangerous, if only your luggage could check you in and take itself up to your room then you’d be sorted. The updated bar menu features a new wine list, headed-up by world-renowned sommelier Johnny Walker. Every Malmaison bar also regularly hosts ‘Vino Voyages’ for wine enthusiasts and occasional wine drinkers alike. These events are presented by guest wine producers and include a large sit-down feast matched with various wines.

First a beautifully presented plate of goat’s cheese and beetroot salad was served as what can only be described as a ‘pre-starter’. The sharp yet tangy cheese sat perfectly with the sweet beets.  Starters, proper, were Scotch quail egg & bacon salad, piccalilli vinaigrette £6.95 was a more than substantial serving with cute little scotch eggs, the crispy bacon and piccalilli were a fine accompaniment. The Crab with Avocado Fritter that Ade ordered was delicious and light as was the delicate (both in appearance and taste) herb garnish. The Mal burger 250gm ground beef & with Gruyere cheese & bacon £15.95 was a very different burger to what we usually go for, we are more fans of a less ‘layered’ or ‘tall’ burger, something messy and indulgent, like MEATliquor’s dead hippy. Although the meat in this burger was tasty, the patty was fairly dry. I ended up having to eat it with a knife and fork which is no way to enjoy a burger. Ade on the other hand really enjoyed his, perhaps he appreciated the change. And £16 is a hell of a lot of money for a burger.

Things looked up with dessert, the Valrhona chocolate tart with honeycomb & Chantilly cream £6.95 went down a storm, a beautiful rich tart, the honeycomb a great addition, maybe that’s why Ade’s been craving Crunchie bars since! My Steamed sponge of the day (strawberry) with custard £6.95 was possibly a bit more of a winter dessert, it was a very hot day and I should’ve gone for something lighter. Despite this, it was lovely, hard to go wrong with such a dessert.

Diners can choose from a range of liqueurs and ports with their desserts, Ade opted for his usual, the Espresso Martini £9.50. There is a Mal in Oxford that is set in a converted prison, we have to visit, a trip for our anniversary would have been so appropriate.

The crab had nothing to say despite the huge quote marks hanging about!

Eggs is eggs is eggs…

The famous Mal Burger

Ade’s crunchy cravings started here…
18-21 Charterhouse Square,
London, EC1M 6AH
Telephone 020 7012 3700

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Soup, glorious soup!

Shocking GLORIOUS! soups research

We are fans of GLORIOUS! and it provides an emergency dinner when we’re busy or have over-indulged, particularly the Tuscan chicken and orzo. Far tastier than most of their rivals, they make an award-winning range of soups, sauces and stews developed by in-house chefs. The range currently includes four Meal Soups, five Skinny Soups, three pasta sauces and three stews. Since launching in 2008 GLORIOUS! has won six prestigious awards including the Grocer Food & Drink Awards and the Quality Food Awards. We were sad to hear the results of some research* they conducted which showed 79% of people can no longer detect basic flavours and just 28% savour what they eat.

Staggeringly 93% were unable to discern beef from Chinese pork, 92% couldn’t tell ham from tuna, 82% could not detect Quorn from chicken and 78% could not distinguish pork from chicken. Who are these people?! They are urging people to pay more attention to the food that they eat and have launched the world’s first Flavour Map – an interactive online tool which uses Google Streetview for people to pin, share and search interesting taste and flavour experiences from around the world.

*Lab research conducted by MindLab on behalf of GLORIOUS!, February 2012
National research poll conducted by YourSayPays – 1,000 people, January 2012.


Shiny wine accessories

Fab new wine gadgets from OXO

We’re big fans of the high quality OXO (no, not the stock cubes) Good Grips range, their brand new steel wine accessories include a foil cutter (£9), wine stopper (£7) and wine stopper/pourer (£7), made from sturdy die-cast zinc. Two essential wine accessories in one, the steel wine stopper/pourer pours wine evenly and consistently, reducing spills while aerating wine as it flows through the wide spout. With just one press of a lever it transforms into a stopper to seal the wine for short-term storage (usually about 24 hours in our house). The company has also now extended into the nursery with the launch of OXO Tot, a new design-led collection of award-winning baby equipment including feeding and weaning tools in three bright colours, handy cleaning tools and a super stylish, ultra functional highchair.

Available from Lakeland. For further stockist details, please call 0114 290 1455 or visit


Even Southwark council’s clamping division couldn’t spoil the mood

The Pitt Cue Trailer

We are probably the only bloggers in the country who haven’t written about Pitt Cue. There is no real reason for this, we went once, after waiting for the ‘fuss’ to die down to avoid queuing. It didn’t die down but we persevered one night anyway, very good it was too, not how we’d imagined, but good. Whilst we were there I bet Ade that within six months there would be another. So if by 10 September there is one, he has to buy me dinner. He hasn’t decided what his ‘treat’ will be if he wins the wager!

 It wasn’t until recently that I started thinking about it again and had a huge uncontrollable craving for their food. Luckily at the same time the Pitt Cue trailer popped back up on the Southbank. After the success of their teeny restaurant in Soho they have gone back to their less glamorous roots.

For three months, until Sunday 9th September, the trailer is beneath Hungerford Bridge on The Queen’s Walk, in front of the Royal Festival Hal in front of Wagamama. The food is smoked daily in their new smoker Gertrude at our offsite kitchen close to the Southbank. And like before they’re selling a range of cocktails, beers and shots, including the return of the infamous Pickle Back (possibly the strangest drink I have ever had, still don’t know if I liked it) and the launch of the Trailer Trash Jim Beam Bourbon, Cherry Heering, Coca-Cola, Bitters

Just look at it! Beautiful!

We went down the night before opening on the off-chance they’d be testing it out, they were. My joy at seeing it up and running was xxx, battling gale force winds we sat on some traffic cone type things and got stuck in. I opted for a Pulled pork bun, Ade a Sausage bun, both £7.50. These were joined by the fabulously messy Hot Smoked Wings £5. Simply heaven, honestly I didn’t want it to end and spent the entire weekend thinking about it and remembering the taste in exact detail. Not available at the time were these amazing sounding specials: Trailer Trash Mac n Cheese Burger with Pulled Pork and Pickles £7.50 and The Big Ode – French Dipped; Pulled Pork, Brisket and Sausage Bun, Pickles, Slaw £9. Wow! I keep telling my colleague at work about it insisting she must visit, so this mention is for you Laurie. I know walking from work in Louboutins is a bit of a mission but there are always cabs…

Get down there!

Open daily from 12pm – 9pm (earlier if they run out of food)


Do the spritz…

The Antico Aperol Spritz

Antico is Bermondsey Street’s newest addition, we’ve not made it down yet but stay tuned for our review. Antico is a new Italian restaurant and bar set within a renovated antiques warehouse. It has not long been open and it’s already causing quite a stir and gathered a following. One of their signature drinks is the lovely Aperol Spritz, which is so easy to make!

Fill a large glass, preferably a wine glass, with ice, 175ml Prosecco (must pour in before the Aperol), 50ml Aperol, a dash of soda, add a slice of orange and you’re done!

214 Bermondsey Street, London, SE1 3TQ
Telephone: 020 7407 4682
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So where’s the burdock?

The Stylist guide to foraging

We keep hearing about foraging but haven’t attempted it as we wouldn’t have a clue what to look for and haven’t had the time to invest in looking it up. In this week’s Stylist they’ve done it for us with a fab guide, although if you don’t know what blackberries look like you probably shouldn’t be foraging at all. Click here for the guide.

Go foraging for a copy of Stylist


Look out for our July edition of Checkout

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