Sunday, 22 July 2012

Pitt Cue - Barbecue Heaven

Pulled Pork Perfection
So once upon a time a metallic ‘burger van’ style BBQ eaterie, Pitt Cue, sat splendid over by the Southbank, ran by Tom Adams and serving ribs and pulled pork in as magnificent a way as is possible and so the ‘street food’ explosion began and continues.

Now Pitt Cue resides in a small little corner just off of Carnaby St in a restaurant, not so much street food, more diner-style in a very popular Soho location. As with so many venues in the ‘trendy’ food scene at the moment, reservations cannot be made to eat here, one must simply turn up and wait their turn - in a restaurant with only 30 covers this can be a lengthy process. Queues out of the door are a regular sight and I guess as with other similarly no-booking-policy venues, this only adds to the allure and makes the wannabe diner wonder what is so good to make people queue out of the door - and often for quite some time too.

I finally visited recently for the first time since the Newburgh St restaurant opened with my brother Dan, and a tip for not waiting too long is to go after the lunchtime rush and before the early evening stampede. We turned up around 3pm and waited just long enough to down a couple of drinks each, and eat a portion of the fantastic pork scratchings, which were lovely salty, crunchy and delicious things of culinary beauty (see attached image). Obviously pork scratchings are not to be eaten on a regular basis as they are certainly not the healthiest of things, and I’d dread to think of the fat-content, but my word as an occasional treat these were just phenomenal.

The place really is tiny, and when waiting in the bar area I particularly noticed the oddly old-fashioned net curtains, that adorn the windows and that I haven’t seen the like of for about twenty years, I guess this feeds into the Western theme but I can’t see it taking off too much on the London food scene (well I hope not anyway).

The bar serves an array of cocktails, but having been Pisco’d at Ceviche the weekend before, Dan and I opted for a beer and a ginger beer which were both: tasty, reasonable and refreshing.

Once seated in the downstairs area we quickly decided on our meal. You can either choose to have one of the Bun meals which includes the meat of your choice in some bread with pickles, which is the cheaper way to enjoy the food, but we opted for the Meat & a Side option which is also pretty reasonable.

We decided to get two different meals and share so we could try a bit of everything so we had the Pulled Pork and the Beef Rib mains with Bone Marrow Mash and Spicy Slaw as well as the pickles that come with each dish.
Beef Rib & Bone Marrow Mash
I literally don’t know where to start with detailing this food, it was mouth-wateringly delicious, all of it! I literally couldn’t find one single gripe or moan about the place. The pulled-pork, was tender, flavoursome and fell apart at the touch of the fork. The bone marrow mashed potato was creamy, earthy and a little bit on the greasy side, naughty but very, very nice and the spicy slaw was the perfect accompaniment to all as it had that gorgeous crunch with a slightly acidic, vinegary flavour and the beef ribs were just to-die-for. They fell off of the bone and had that charred, BBQ flavouring on the crispy coat, but had clearly been cooked over time to ensure tender, delicate meat. A chunky piece of crusty bread, also charred, came with both and was perfect for soaking up the meat juices.

The meals are served in metallic tins, not unlike the kind you’d imagine a grandparent preparing their roast joint in as a child, well for me anyway.
Pork Scratchings
Pitt Cue is a must for anyone who likes their meat, BBQ style food or just to stay ahead of the foodie pack and ensure you’ve been to all of the latest ‘on-trend’ places. The meal was a treat from my brother and came in at around the £50 mark, with a few drinks each. With the Bun meal options priced at only £6.50 this is a really affordable place to eat, particularly if you’re not drinking, and don’t mind a bit of a wait, although frankly if our meal was anything to go by, the wait, however long, will be worth it.

Pitt Cue Co on Urbanspoon
Square Meal

Apricot Crusted Pork Fillet

Pork fillet when cooked well is one of the most deliciously tender pieces of meat and is one my favourites. Here is a really simple method that I love that combines a little heat from Dijon mustard with the sweetness of apricots.

I usually serve this dish with creamy layered potatoes and seasonal vegetables or as an alternative to a roasting joint with all of the traditional trimmings associated with a Sunday lunchtime meal.

The delicious crusty exterior of this dish is great once baked and gives a great, crunchy but sweet texture to a delicate piece of meat.

A good wine to serve with this is a Moscato and I have paired this with the Barefoot Moscato on several occasions as this has notes of peach and apricot which really complement the pork dish and give me an excuse to indulge in some sweet wine, which I love, but only goes with certain food.

I pork fillet, trimmed and washed
2-3 Tbsp Dijon Mustard
2-3 Slices Bread – I prefer to use ciabatta or a flavoured bread such as tomato bread or olive bread
200g Dried Apricots
Tbsp Fresh Sage
Sea Salt and Pepper to taste

How To:
1.       In a food processer whizz up your bread so it becomes breadcrumbs and add in the sage leaves so these breadcrumbs are nice and herby. If you’re not a fan of sage try this with rosemary or thyme which will also work well with the pork fillet

2.       Chop the apricots into small chunks and throw in with the breadcrumbs and mix with a spoon adding Sea Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

3.       Firstly wash your meat and then pat dry with kitchen towel to ensure all excess moisture is absorbed

4.       Rub a little salt and pepper all over the fillet to flavour the meat

5.       With a pastry brush, cover the fillet with the Dijon mustard and then roll in the breadcrumbs until nicely coated all over

6.       Place the fillet onto an oven-proof dish or tray and place into a pre-heated over for 20-25 minutes, depending on how you like your meat cooked – the crumb should be nice and golden brown in appearance

7.       Remove from the oven, wrap the dish in tinfoil and allow to rest for up to ten minutes before carving and serving with your chosen accompaniments

A Tale of Two Manchester Hotels

Recently I was invited to trial the facilities in the Malmaison Hotel in Manchester for an overnight stay as well as trying a meal at the adjoining Smoak Restaurant.
As I studied English in the city of Manchester, it’s a place I’m extremely fond of, and so was keen to extend this for more than 1 evening. I’ve stayed before in the Midland Hotel and also the Radisson Edwardian and so we decided to give the Macdonald Hotel a try for the second evening.
We arrived on a Sunday evening into Manchester Piccadilly train station to the weather that I became very accustomed to in my three-year stay in Manchester – grey skies and pouring rain. Not a great start but as the hotel is a mere couple of minutes’ walk from the station we didn’t allow it to dampen (excuse the pun) our spirits.

On arrival we took in the modern and opulent d├ęcor of the Malmaison Hotel with delight, this looked very promising indeed. We checked in, had our bags taken to our room and made our way to the bar where we enjoyed a Champagne cocktail each, to toast our arrival for a couple of days of gluttony and enjoyment.

When we made our way up to the room it was to a gorgeously decorated and spacious room made out in luxurious silvery grey fabrics, with a comfortable double bed and chaise lounge with a clean and shiny new bathroom in black marble, fabulous.

With a few hours before dinner, we walked into the city centre and indulged in some retail therapy. When we returned to the hotel, I thought it would be rude not to partake in trying out a treatment at La Petit Spa, which is situated in the basement of the hotel. I booked myself in for an hour-long Deep Tissue Massage which cost £65, and which was frankly worth every penny and more. I was welcomed into the spa, given a fluffy bath-robe, as is the norm, and invited to a beverage. The treatment itself was one of the best massages I’ve had before, and I would gladly pay again for this treatment.  

We enjoyed a fantastic dinner at Smoak Restaurant – which you can read about soon in a further post – and then enjoyed a Bloody Mary or two in the bar before retiring for a very comfortable stay in the room. Breakfast was good with a wide choice of options available that were brought to your table for you as well as a buffet for the more continental options.

Overall our stay at Malmaison Hotel, Manchester was superb. The room was comfortable, luxurious and welcoming as were the communal areas which were full of squishy armchairs and sofas. The hotel manages to balance contemporary style with good old-fashioned comfort to offer a welcome mix to any guest. We were guests of the hotel, however, you can book a room with breakfast for an overnight for two people for £123, which I think offers great value considering the standard of this hotel.

On our second day we checked into the Macdonald Hotel and after such enjoyment at Malmaison Hotel, I was quite sad to leave the place, but was soon reassured as we popped to the Macdonald Hotel early wondering if we could leave our bags there until check-in much later that day. The reception staff asked us to wait a moment and the next minute we were offered early check-in at no extra cost so this was a good start too.

The hotel room was comfortable enough and decorated to a standard which I’ve come to expect at most UK hotels, although basically adorned, it was spotlessly clean and very roomy.

After the opulence and shiny-new feel to the Malmaison Hotel, I must admit the Macdonald Hotel did seem a little bare and under-whelming, however had I came for a stay and not stayed at the Mal the night before, then this wouldn’t have been the case. The Macdonald Hotel was more than adequate and was certainly comfortable enough for an overnight stay.

Once again keen to try out all of the facilities I treated myself to a massage at the Macdonald Hotel Spa. This time I had a Decleor Aroma Ultimate Body Massage which was one hour long and was hour of pure bliss and relaxation – after my massage the day before, I certainly felt relaxed and knot-free by the end of this. This cost £57 and again I would highly recommend it. With tranquil music playing and an incredibly friendly and bubbly therapist who knew when to be quiet (when I’m being massaged I don’t want mindless chit-chat) I thought this offered fantastic value for the level of massage. The only small drawback of this, was that as the Macdonald Hotel l is so vast, I had to walk quite far from our hotel room and up and down lots of stairs to get there, but this is, as I say a minor discrepancy and wouldn’t deter me from enjoying this wonderful treatment again.

The rain continued to pour and so we decided to try our our evening meal in the hotel’s in-house eatery, the Scottish Steak Restaurant, which has Two Rosettes, rather than brave the cold, wet and windy outdoors.  Scottish Steak Restaurant has an open Josper Grill which is in the centre of the restaurant so you can watch all of the kitchen action. Although the atmosphere was great in this restaurant, especially for a Monday evening, the food wasn’t quite up to the standards I would have expected for Two Rosette s, nor for the prices charged. Although the meal we had was more than acceptable, the food was on a par with a good gastro pub, and as such I would have expected the same sort of prices.

Presentation of the evening meal was also interesting – some of the dishes looked superb on the plate, my boyfriend’s main meal of pork fillet and fondant potato for example, but my main, which was a fish fillet with a creamy prawn sauce and mashed potatoes, just didn’t look great and certainly not appetising. The mash also had lumps in it which I wouldn’t expect of any restaurant. It was presented as a big, oval dollop, there are no other words to describe it, and I’ve included an image to demonstrate this.

Breakfast the next morning was actually fantastic – with an excellent array of continental and English fried breakfast foods available at the buffet counter, I enjoyed a full English of my own design which went down well.

We paid £110 for our stay at the hotel which included our breakfast, and once again I think this does offer good value for a city centre hotel and I would highly recommend the spa facilities as these were excellent. Our evening meal with a bottle of wine and two courses was around the £80-£90 mark, and as I mentioned I think this is a little high given the quality of the food, and so I would suggest if staying at the Macdonald Hotel, trying one of the many great restaurants in the city of Manchester rather than opting to try the hotel’s offering.

Scottish Steak Club on Urbanspoon