Thursday, 30 May 2013

Sunday Lunch at The Clocktower, Epping


The Clocktower in Epping (Essex), is a charming little place just off of the high street that serves good, honest food at an affordable price – in short a great spot for a Sunday lunch.

The boyf and I headed there recently and took advantage of their incredibly priced set Sunday lunch which is £14.95 for two courses of £17.95 for three – fantastic value.

I opted for the chicken liver terrine to start which arrived with a couple of slices of very unpretentious toast and an unctuous apple and raisin chutney. It wasn’t the prettiest plate of food but that couldn’t deter from the taste or enjoyment of the dish.

The pâté was smooth, rich, slightly creamy and very meaty and the sharp, fruity chutney complimented the terrine beautifully.  

Glen chose the grilled sardines which came with a genius mango and chilli butter and were served over a bed of rocket. Once again, this was a simple dish, but prepared perfectly and proved to be very satisfying. The tropical and sweet mango butter with the chilli kick running through, worked so, so well with the subtle flesh of the sardines. I think it would work particularly well if prepared on the BBQ with the butter drizzled over. Sardines make for a very economical meal (I’ve picked up six for less than £2.00 at my local fish mongers) and usually I just cook them in a little garlic butter but this fantastic dish has inspired me to try preparing them in a different way.

For our mains, we both chose the roast beef dinner but The Clocktower does offer a few roast options as well as other dishes such as a vegetarian feta and vegetable stuffed aubergine, a haddock dish and a confit duck too.

The roast beef was cooked more than I would choose or prepare at home, however it was still tender, well-seasoned and of high quality so there wasn’t any room for complaint over the lack of mooing on my plate. A rather enormous and tasty Yorkshire pudding, crispy roast potatoes and seasonal vegetables completed the meal and all were good.

Whilst there wasn’t anything remarkable on our plates, it was all prepared well and enjoyable, and for the price it really does offer spectacular value. The staff at The Clocktower are attentive and incredibly friendly and it’s this touch mixed with the genuine, home-style of cooking that made for a really pleasant meal for us.
There is just that almost comfort blanket feeling of a roast dinner that reminds you of home - and in our ever-hectic lifestyles today, the uniform rigidity of having a roast dinner every weekend just doesn’t exist anymore, so eating a roast out, feels like a treat.

We had just the two courses as the mains were rather large and with a couple of glasses of red, a beer and some water we have change from £45 and went home full and content.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

A London Lunch No. 10: Wahaca – Mexican Street Food

So I’m heading to Mexico this weekend for this first time and on a recent holiday retail jaunt to Westfield Stratford with the boyf, we decided to get in the mood for the Mexican cuisine by heading to Wahaca.

The rapidly expanding chain has Thomasina Miers' name to it, and has been a firm casual favourite of mine for a few years – having spent many a lunch hour in the Covent Garden branch. This was the boyfriend’s first time at Wahaca and he has been quickly converted to this style of eating small plates as and when they arrive at the table, according to the varying cooking times.

We ordered some Guacamole with Tortillas and a Citrus Fizz each whilst we mulled over the menu. The guacamole was chunky, flavourful, citrusy and with that all-important chilli kick – absolutely delicious. The Citrus Fizz is like an innocent version of a mojito – sparkling water over crushed mint and lime – utterly refreshing and moreish.

We chose six small dishes – all priced very reasonably under the £4.50 mark. The first is my favourite – I cannot enter Wahaca without ordering it – the Pork Pibil Tacos. You get three mini soft corn tacos topped with the most delicious slow-cooked pork which is in a salty, smoky and meaty juice and topped with sweet, pickled pink onions and zingy coriander. It is completely unpretentious but one of the most satisfying little plates of food. We also had the Chicken Tinga Tacos – these again were topped with shredded, slow-cooked chicken in a barbecue style sauce topped with chilli and crema – and it was sensational.


We tried the Ceviche Tostadas as well, a first for me at Wahaca, and whilst it was pleasant enough, I probably wouldn’t repeat. Fresh and fragrant it was, but having eaten such great alternatives at Ceviche and Lima recently, it just didn’t live up to those standards. There was very little flavour from the scallops which was disappointing – Glen loved it though, so maybe give it a try.

Another first for me was the Potato and Chorizo Quesadilla. This had a lovely smoky taste running through from the chorizo and the melted cheese made it feel quite naughty but very, very nice. I have to say this, like a good slice of pizza, tastes oh so much better if eaten with your hands – it’s one of those kind of dishes.

Our final two dishes were the Marinated Chicken Taquitos and the Green Rice – both of which were good. The taquitos had the most fragrant, moist and tasty chicken inside and were topped with a refreshing citrusy green salad and a generous topping of crumbly and delicious Lancashire cheese – gorgeous. The rice is a beautiful looking little plate; blitzed coriander and onion make for the unmistakable flavours and colours of Mexican cuisine – once again showing that a simple dish can be so, so good. 

‘Simple yet satisfying’ is the mainstay of Wahaca and it never disappoints for me. I have enjoyed many a lunch at the various outposts and I’m sure I will continue to do so. There are tons of Mexican restaurants and burrito bars in London these days and I have tried a good selection, but what Wahaca has above most that I’ve tried, is you don’t come away with that awful bloated feeling and I think this had a lot to do with the quality of the ingredients and the freshness of everything used. Oh and with change from £30 for a very enjoyable and filling lunch for two I just don’t think you can go wrong.

If anybody has any recommendations for foodie or otherwise things to do in Cancun or the Riviera Maya in Mexico please do comment below.

Wahaca on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

A London Lunch No. 9: Pilpel – Falafel heaven

A friend and fellow blogger Leila of Swallower of Lives introduced me to Pilpel last summer and I really should thank her for that!

Falafel and hummus are the stars of the show here – it’s a great example of sticking to a small selection of lunch options and executing them very, very well.

You can either opt for a filled pitta or my preference which is a container, filled with your choice of salads, dressings and either hummus or falafel, or if you are anything like me, both.

The salads include everything from cucumber, pickled cabbage, tomatoes, feta and those Middle-Eastern staples of chickpeas, tabbouleh and an irresistible smoked aubergine that I’ve never tried outside of Pilpel which is frankly divine.

The falafels themselves are fantastic – crispy and with crunch on the outside, but moist on the inside and filled with flavour. The hummus is immense – hence why I never opt for the either/or situation – it just has to be both. They also offer guacamole if you fancy mixing it up as well as labneh which is also incredibly moreish but my preference is a good drizzle of tahini and some chilli sauce for a bit of fire.

Pitta comes with the container option and believe me that it’s always a very filling and satisfying lunch.

Everything is priced around the £5.00 mark so it offers good value for money in the centre of the city too – a definite lunch recommendation.

The Pilpel I visited is located on Brushfield Street just off of Spitalfields Market but has another concession inside the market, as well as a branch at St Pauls.

Pilpel on Urbanspoon