Friday, 29 November 2013

7-Up Beef Shin

When I was growing up my Dad owned a freight forwarding business. To a young child this meant very little, and was certainly not as exciting as being able to tell other kid's your father was an astronaut or a lion tamer, but one thing I did enjoy was the exotic trips we got to go on. Due to him primarily working with Garuda Airlines this mostly meant Indonesia and, more specifically, Bali and Lombok. Although I was only young, I still remember the sights and smells - from the baskets of clove cigarettes they gave out on the aeroplane (yes, even to the children), to the hot banana fritters with cold ice cream we'd gorge ourselves on each night.
It was when I struggling to think of what to make with the two large pieces of rolled beef shin in the freezer that the idea of the Indonesian classic, rendang, sprang to mind. Rendang is originally from the Muslim area of Western Sumatra, whereas Bali is a predominately Hindu island, but the smells and the flavours of the dish bubbling away instantly bring me back to those glorious childhood memories, with the scent of lemongrass, aftersun, mozzie spray and incense thick in the air.

The tropical heat on these holidays meant constant stops for cool drinks; at home fizzy drinks were generally frowned upon, but when we were away my parents seemed to make it their sole mission to keep us slathered in sun cream and well hydrated. The swimming pool at the hotel even had a bar in the middle, where you could sit and sit and sip glass bottles of neon green Fanta and frosty cola. Amazing.

It was these memories that lead me to my my own twist on the classic rendang recipe; the addition of lemonade to provide some sweetness and a slight citrus edge. Sprite was always my Dad's favourite, but I always had a spot for 7-Up, with it's bright green bottle and distinctive red logo. As it turned out I had neither when I came to make this, settling for a can of Schweppes instead. Of course you could use a little palm sugar and fresh lemon and lime juice, but this is much more fun.

The dish originated as a way of keeping meat without refrigeration; a properly made rendang contains spices that act as natural preservatives and may be stored for up to four weeks. Although sometimes called a 'curry', rendang is a dry dish that is simmered in coconut milk and other spices until all the liquid has evaporated and the meat begins to fry in the coconut oil and fat from the meat. ('Wet rendang', where the sauce is not so heavily reduced, is known as kalio.)

Usually rendang is most often made from beef, but you also see versions made with buffalo, goat, duck, mutton or liver. Shin is a great cut to use as it's cheap and flavoursome while the slow simmering breaks this tough cut down until it's lovely and soft and sticky. The only accompaniments you will need with this very rich dish are a handful of fresh herbs, some sticky rice and a cold beer. A little lie down afterwards may also be appreciated.

Beef Shin Rendang with 7-up and Lemongrass

1 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp turmeric
5cm piece of root ginger, peeled
3 chillies (seeded if you don't like things too hot)
3 stalks of lemongrass, well trimmed
Juice half lime
3 onions
5 cloves garlic
2 bay leaves

1.5 kg beef shin or braising steak
100g coconut cream
1 tin coconut milk
1 can 7-Up (or another, full sugar, clear lemonade)
250 ml beef stock or water

Toast the coriander, cumin seeds and turmeric in a dry frying pan until lightly toasted, grind in a pestle and mortar or spice grinder until you have a fine powder. (Make sure the spices really are fine, or your rendang may taste gritty, as I have previously discovered.)

Place roughly chopped lemongrass, ginger, garlic, chillies and onions in the food processor, add salt, lime juice and ground spices and pulse into a paste.

Heat the coconut cream in a wok or shallow pan, then add the spice paste and cook out for five minutes. Add the beef, coconut milk and seven up to the pan and simmer gently until the liquid had all evaporated (this should take at least two hours, add more liquid if the pan is getting dry). Towards the end of cooking you will have to keep stirring almost continually to stop the meat catching and burning.

When all the liquid has evaporated the meat will start to fry in the remaining coconut oil. Fry for a few minutes then allow to to rest for a little while, before serving with sticky rice and a scattering of fresh coriander.

This should keep well in the fridge for at least a week and, like most slow cooked dishes, often tastes better after a spending a night or two in the fridge.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Burgers and Booze, Shoreditch

MeatMission - burger purveyors housed in an ex-mission in Hoxton - is the third location of the wildly popular MEAT collective, and, unlike its brethren, is bookable for both lunch and in the early evening if you care about that sort of thing. (You’d think the debate about no reservation restaurants was so 2012, but yet it still rumbles on and on.)

For what it’s worth, I’m not adverse to a bit of queuing (having spent far too many minutes waiting for tables at Hurricanes in Sydney, Tim Ho Wan in Hong Kong and Burger Joint in Manhattan – all worth it) and don’t really mind as long as you can go and get a beer and a call back when your table’s ready, although I usually plan an early visit if I don’t want to hang around. 

I do fully understand why restaurants do it, though, so if you don’t want to wait, then reserve somewhere else and quietly let others freeze their sockless hipster ankles off waiting for a Tayyabs on a Friday night.

Thankfully, MeatMission on a Monday evening was a pretty peaceful prospect, although the walls are loud enough on their own. This place must have one on the most Inatagrammed ceilings in the whole of the Capital and it’s certainly something to behold; with its fluorescent colours that look like the unfortunate result of a burger feast chased down with a few too many of their house grogs.

I kicked off proceedings with a Lagerita, a cunning mix of tequila, lime and beer, served in slushy form. I loved it, the girls, thankfully, not so much, meaning I was left alone to drink it in peace. Luckily, the Ewing was a big fan of her own beverage choice, the Cydercar, a West country twist on the Sidecar. A recommendation from our waitress, this saw Remy Martin combined with Cointreau and lemon, finished off with a cider top.

Stealth with her Tipping the Velvet; 'I don't care what's in it, with that name I'm having it'. It turned out to be a rather jauntily-hued mixture of Remy Martin, lemon juice, raspberry, blackberry,strawberry, palm sugar and Velvet Devil merlot.

Next we moved onto the meat, ordering a trio of their famed burgers - for me the Dead Hippy, for Stealth, the fearsome green chilli; and for the Ewing, the classic cheeseburger. All three were requested, and came, cooked nice and rare; the double patties served with each burger saturated with bloody juices and beefy, greasy funk that dripped into our enamel dishes and ran down our wrists.

The green chilli cheeseburger came heaped with roasted strips of jalapeño, providing a decent slap of smoky heat. For even more meaty version, the red chili burgercomes with a liberal application of the stew we know as ‘con carne’ on these shores; tasty, but even messier, eating. For those with more simple tastes, the Cheesburger is pretty hard to beat; the layer of flimsy gooey plastic cheese being properly fused to each patty; while the bacon cheese features the correct use of the smoked streaky variety.

The infamous Dead Hippy, by now, needs little explanation; two mustard coated patties, grilled on the flat top and served with hippy sauce, lettuce, pickles and chopped white onions. This is, in my limited experience, a better burger than the In’n’Out burger served Animal Style, on which it is loosely approximated; there being less pesky salad in the Dead Hippy for a start. 

I would, in my own private burger heaven, prefer slightly thinner, wider patties, even if it was at the expense of some of that glorious bloody pinkness, but overall this is a masterful burger.

The signature dish at Meat Mission is the monkey fingers. Like a boneless version of their bingo wings, these are battered strips of crispy chicken doused in a vinegar based hot sauce and served with celery, carrot and blue cheese dip. 

Like deep fried goujons of crack, these salty, spicy crunchy morsels were almost impossible to stop feeding into my open maw, and possibly tasted even better when they cooled down a bit, rendering the batter gloriously sticky and soggy.

Fries (not chips) are good; thin, crisp and well salted. Those with a death wish can also have them augmented with molten cheese and meat chilli; crispy grilled onions and Hippy sauce, or as part of a ‘garbage plate’ drenched in roast beef, gravy, cheese, onions and horseradish. 

The ‘Meat’ style of burger is pretty close to my beef in a bun nirvana. While they are on the sloppy and greasy side (the original meatburger, is cooked in butter, after all), the combination of oozy plastic cheese the crisp edges of the griddled meat and a liberal application of pickles and condiments is surely what a good burger is really all about.

Our second round of cocktails included Jamie's Marvellous Medicine Pernod absinthe, fresh raspberry, coconut cream, fresh lemon juice, crushed ice; Donkey Punch a vicious blend of Finlandia, lime juice, ginger beer with an absinthe rinse; and my Game Over, six liquors including vodka, gin, rum, tequila, absinthe, Pisang Ambon and fresh lime juice and topped up with Mountain Dew and limited to two per person. 

While I had clearer photos to illustrate this potent brew, I don’t think I have one better than the one above to illustrate that this is a serious beverage.

A shout out, too, for the staff, especially the two waitresses who served us on our visit. Granted it wasn’t busy, but they were charming and chatty and very helpful, cocking a snook at all the brusque, too cool for school East End Hipster nonsense you constantly hear bandied about (I had taken care to wear my red trousers though, just so I wouldn't stand out too much).

MEATmission on Urbanspoon

Our next stop, Nightjar, sounded, on paper, about as Hipster Hoxton as you can hope to be. While the opposite side of the Old Street roundabout hosts the Nelson’s Retreat, a large, bright, wooden-clad pub offering a menu of all day cheese toasties and a staggering array of florescent shots and alcoholic slush puppies, Nightjar is little more than a hidden door between the chicken shops of City Road at street level.

But, after having your name checked off on the clipboard and the bouncer has radioed down to announce your arrival, you descend into a ‘hidden slice of old school glamour’ that quite belies the grim concrete of the Old Street above.

To be honest, the idea of a hidden prohibition-era speakeasy, complete with rules and reservations, sounds - on paper at least - like one of the least appealing ways to spend an evening. Thankfully, there was an instant a laid-back appeal, devoid of hipster pretension, that made it easy to be charmed by the place.

Our first round of drinks, from the Pre-prohibition section of their menu and accompanied by dishes of spiced popcorn, saw the ladies already plunged into cocktail envy as my hip flask full of Waldorf Gloom Lifter (Auchentoshan 3-wood single malt beeswax infusion, Comte de Lauvia VSOP Armagnac, Nightjar Grenadine, Fresh lemon, Constitution bitters) – adapted from the Waldorf Astoria bar book - came embedded in cherry-studded crushed and dry ice. This is one to sip straight from the flask, although they will provide a clean glass and soda if you want a longer, less potent drink. Waldorf Gloom Lifter 

Stealth chose the spicy Baltimore eggnog (Woodford Reserve bourbon, Hennessy Fine de Conac, Diplomatico Reserva rum Nightjar fortifed wine, Buttermilk, 'Old Tom' clotted cream, Umami foam, spices) the perfect winter warmer, served garnished with a chocolate wafer curl and the Stars and Stripes for an extra dollop of patriotism.

The Ewing had a classic Delicious Sour (Hennessy Fine de Conac, crab apple infusion, Nightjar Umesu, fresh lime, bee pollen syrup and buttered oolong foam) complete with a cute and seasonal toffee crab apple garnish.

Next our waiter suggested I moved from Pre-prohibition to the Nightjar classics with the (Kenko Teki Swizzle - Nikka whiskey from the barrel, green coffee bean infusion, fresh lime, Akashi Tai sake, matcha green tea, buckwheat rice syrup, alfalfa) This came served in a hollowed out bamboo ‘glass’ and had deeply savoury umami notes, amplified by the Marmite rice cracker and wasabi peas served alongside. 

In fact the whole thing had a toasted barley and oat scent that smelt rather like a branch of the Body Shop circa 1994, where my friends and I would buy little hessian sacks of the milk bath soak and pots of face mask that resembled porridge. Luckily it tasted far better.

Stealth had the Naked Lady (Santa Teresa Claro rum, Fresh lemon, Nightjar Umeshu, Nightjar grenadine, egg white) from the prohibition era selection. To be honest, I can’t remember too much about this, other than it came with a garnish of Mini eggs - carefully placed inside a real eggshell - that, along with the pretzels on the Ewing’s Jerez Fizz (Ysabel Regina (Spanish brandy), Harvey's pedro Jimenez, lotus tea infusion, longan and jujube vinegar, fresh squeezed orange and lemon, lime curd and soda), I was not given a chance to sample. 

After making a joking aside to our waiter about the unfairness of sharing my wasabi peas and gaining nothing in return, I soon had my own dish of chocolates and pretzels. Top class, enthusiastic and knowledgeable service (I was even given a great pack of cocktail themed playing cards) that proved cherry on the top of what was already proving a great evening.

We had time for one last drink for the road - this time the Ewing chose the show stopper with the Flaming Painkiller. Anything that come to the table on fire (see the Simpson’s Flaming Moe) has got to be good; just remember to keep flammable items away  from your face(and try not to exhale near by if you’ve already drunk a few). Barrel Aged Painkiller - Virgin Gorda rum, kraken dark rum, wray and Nephew overproof rum, solerno blood orange liqueur, fresh pinaepple juice, sparkling coconut water.

My Sweet Dreams- Appleton estate Rum(cacao butter, Mozart Dry, banana blossom infusion, pineapple juice, coconut yoghurt, coconut blossom sugar, plantain foam) was a little more restrained, although it did come served in a hollow metal chicken. Nice, but I’m not sure fresh mint does it for me in drinks any more, after several too many mojitios binges (Caiprinhas are my new favourite – spirit, sugar and lime; no pesky greenery).

I don’t know if Stealth had any idea about what she was imbibing by this point –it was a Jungle Bird  (Brugal Anejo rum, Ceylon arack curry leaf infusion, Campari, papaya, butternut, cantaloupe juice, coconut blossom sugar, aromatic lime, sarsaparilla root beer), but it seemed to be having the right effect (bar the sporadic outbursts of amusing curmudgeonly-ness).

From the friendly welcome to the comprehensively compiled, decently priced and pleasing strong, drinks menu, to the adorably geeky service, Nightjar was a lot of fun. I can’t say quite the same about getting the night bus home afterwards (the Ewing’s flaming painkiller wasn’t quite true to its word come the morning).

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Noodles and Chocolate Cake

For a London-based blogger, writing about the handmade udon at Koya seems pretty much a pre-requisite. Made onsite from nothing but wheat flour, salt and water, they have had people queuing down Frith Street since the day they opened back in 2010.

While, as usual, I may be well behind the times and can't claim to add anything new or original to all this noodle talk, my ability to eat lots and waffle on remains undiminished. So when a vacancy a couple of doors down from the original saw the opening of the new Koya Bar, providing quick all-day counter dining, I went along for a restorative lunch with the magical Stealth. 

The menu at Koya Bar is split into small plates, udon and donburi, with the addition of a breakfast menu that features Anglo/Japanese mash ups like rice porridge with bacon and eggs, alongside more traditional bowls of curry and noodles. There are also a few Daily Specials on the chalk board, as well as Koya favourites such as fish and chips and cider braised pork belly that have made the short hop down the street. 

Stealth started as she meant to go on, with the Five Points Pale Ale, while I had a pot of, slightly less rock'n'roll Japanese tea. We also shared a plate of the crisp shredded Otsukemono pickles to get the digestive juices going.

While on our visit Koya Bar had some interesting specials, including the spooky Halloween themed Hokkaido kabocha in black sesame sauce and a dandelion leaf and crispy tofu salad, how could we possibly see beyond bowls of the slippery, fat, pale noodles they are famed for

Udon wise, Koya Bar has a number of options: Atsu-Atsu (hot udon in hot broth); Hiya-Atsu (cold udon with hot broth); Zaru Udon (cold udon with cold dipping sauce) or Hiyashi Udon (cold udon with cold sauce to pour).

I chose Buta Miso Hiya-Atsu, cold noodles served with a hot dipping broth flavoured with ground pork and sweet/salty miso. The broth had the kind of magnificent, marmite umami richness that made me reminisce about my mum’s gravy at Christmas; a potent liquor made with all the rich wobbly salty, fatty bits scraped up from the roasting tin.

The advantage of choosing the cold noodles have a slightly different texture to then ones served in the hot broth, a kind of gummy chew that is rather addictive. After managing to convey a few into my mouth this way (despite pretty fair chopstick skills, these buggers are quite something else to attempt to eat elegantly) I added a few to my broth to plump up and soften a bit further.

Stealth, as usual, quickly got her drinks order in in, then delegated ordering duties to me. Thankfully I was well prepared for this and, after checking on her preferred hot/cold broth/noodle combination, ordered her the Kinoko; hot udon noodles served in hot broth with mushrooms and walnut miso. 

This was toasty and autumnal without being at all dank or earthy as she had feared. As we were sitting eating, a large dish of roasted walnuts, looking like autumnal cerebellums, were bought out ready to pulverise into the oily sweet paste that married so well with the fungi.

They also make fresh tempura with a gossamer thin batter encasing huge prawns or delicate pieces of veg. Yes, it cost £12 for the mixed version, but the crustaceans are approaching Jaws like proportions. A word of warning, though, if you don’t want the crunchy cargo served in your soup then order it as a side dish, with udon and cold sauce to dip or donburi (rice bowl) and not with hot broth.

So, Koya Noodle Bar; fabulous udon and Zen like surroundings in the middle of Soho, it does exactly what it says on the tin.

Koya Bar on Urbanspoon

After an hour or two slurping our lunch and (figuratively) chewing the fat in relative calm, we had to dodge the horrors of Oxford Street to get to our next destination. I think the run up to Christmas is the only time this stretch of hell redeems itself , with the gaudy festive baubles looking particularly pretty against the brilliant blue sky.


The walk was worth it, as we had a date with pudding at Paul A Young’s fourth 'chocolate salon' - and the first with a seating area - found tucked inside between Heal’s and Habitat on Tottenham Court Road. As well as a range of brownies, chocolates, biscuits and an exclusive, multi-layered, sea-salt caramel cake, there is also the option to try a variety of hot drinks including various types of hot chocolate and cocoa nib tea.

Stealth warmed her cockles with a mug of the Paul A Young hot chocolate, with chocolate dipped cantuccini biscuits to dunk, while I had a pot of the Henrietta Lovell RAF special blend tea and a cocoa nib and dark chocolate cookie.

The hot chocolate was rich, dark and fabulously unctuous, with the perfect balance of sweet and bitter and a wonderfully clean flavour that comes from the lack of dairy. Extra points for it coming in a decent sized mug, too.

While the cantuccini were a little too refined for my taste, I loved the cocoa nib cookies, which are so friable that they literally do melt in your mouth. The little nuggets of cocoa nib and the dark chocolate coating save things from becoming too sickly, although at £2.50 a pop I haven't had a chance to test how many I could manage in one sitting yet. (The recipe is also in Paul's book, of which the Ewing does have a copy...)

While the obscenely decadent multi-layered salted caramel chocolate cake is the speciality of this new branch, I wasn't sure how a slice would survive a further schelp around London in the depths of my bag, opting instead for a - relatively restrained - sea salted pecan and caramelised milk chocolate brownie, and another cocoa nib cookie, to take away.

As we were preparing to leave the eponymous man himself arrived at the store, donned his white coat and cap, and deftly began began tempering lakes of molten chocolate on the marble bench inside. Although the kitchen area is only very small, there is something rather bewitching about watching a master at work; and while I’m not sure what its final use was, I’m quite sure not much would have made it past my mouth if I was in charge. 

While going inside to settle the bill I was powerless to resist a bar of Mast Brothers chocolate, artisan collection and made in Brooklyn with locally roasted Stumptown coffee beans. The bar also cost a few beans, but if your going to scoff chocolate Why not make it the good stuff (says someone who scoffed all the leftover Halloween mini Bounty Bars in one sitting). If you want to read some more intelligent tasting notes then you should probably just read this review at Candyblog.

Finally the brownie. I often convince myself I'm not really a fan of brownies, thinking of them more as ubiquitous and undercooked cakes that have got above their station (and don't have any icing). Then I eat another Paul A Young brownie, and fall in love all over again. There's not really much more I can say about this, other than stop reading and go and get yourself one.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Come Back to Camden

Under slate grey Victorian sky 
Here you'll find, my heart and I, 
And still we say come back, 
Come back to Camden
And I'll be good, I'll be good, 
I'll be good, I'll be good....

Dear old Camden; its streets thick with danger and the scent of patchouli; its gutters littered with cheap noodles, vomit and regret. I remember it best from the hazy days of my youth, back in the mid 90’s, after my friends and I had tired of the bustle of Oxford Street and the glitz of Covent Garden. We’d go up and hang around the market in our oversized surplus army shirts, bags covered in Tippex and DM boots, or go to gigs at the Barfly or drinking at the Black Cap, rushing for the last tube (or sometimes being lucky enough to blag a lift from a friend’s Dad, who’d wait on the forecourt what is now Morrison’s petrol station to drive a gaggle of hysterical, sweaty teenagers home). 
I even remember a trip en famile, for my 17th birthday, where I slouched about Camden lock while pretending not to know my parents and then blew my birthday money on bootleg Radiohead albums and a copy of Strangeways, Here We Come.
Of course, the excitement soon palled - along with my love of ‘cannabis’ scented joss sticks and bad hippy jewellery - and we quickly moved on to the delights of SoHo and the dingy arches of Charring Cross, only returning back North for gigs at the Koko or revamped Roundhouse in Chalk Farm. And while modern day Camden may be grubby, noisy, smelly, overrun with tourists and full of people trying to sell you knock off t-shirts with Kurt Cobain’s face on them, I, like many who spent their time there during those heady teenage days, still find something inescapably appealing about the place.

First stop was Chin Chin Laboratorists, Camden’s very own nitro ice cream parlour. I had been wanted to visit here for a while, keen to sample some of their crazy-flavoured ice cream that is frozen in front of your eyes by the magic of dry ice.

Thankfully it didn’t disappoint; while ice cream frozen with liquid nitrogen may seem like a lot of bells and whistles just for a bowl of frozen dairy, the rapid cooling of the liquid base means the finished product remains free of large ice crystals, making this some of the smoothest ice cream you can get down your neck.

It also has a pleasing denseness to it, but thanks to the smaller ice crystals the ice cream can also be made with around half the usual fat and sugar than standard products. While fluffy cones of Mr Whippy from the ice cream van have their place this feels ‘proper’ ice cream, with that delicious fudgy ‘bite’, without feeling heavy or greasy in your mouth.

I chose Hay Milk Infused Caramel, made with a caramel base that, surprise surprise, had been made from milk infused with hay. This gave the finished ice cream a nutty, smoky note that encapsulated the nostalgic ideal of harvest time, but without the itching eyes, red nose and fits of sneezing.

The mix ins were also superlative; a little moat of dense and bitter Vahlrona chocolate sauce, and, just to gild the lily, some caramelised white chocolate chunks which had a lovely sweet nuttiness. They also offer further unusual options such as a truffle crunch, made with freeze dried chocolate and porcini mushrooms; candied pretzels; chocolate covered potato chips; and heather honeycomb.

Chin Chin Laboratorists on Urbanspoon

Next stop was Ruby Dock, a café and takeaway from the people behind Lantana in Fitzrovia and Salvation Jane in Shoreditch. Here you can find Square Mile coffee, alongside freshly baked cakes and sandwiches, many with an Antipodean slant. I enjoyed the jolt from my double macchiato, while also picking up a slice of cherry, chocolate and coconut based Cherry Ripe Slice, a take on the ever popular Australian candy bar, to scarf on the train home later.

By the eponymous lock in the market's name is the Global Kitchen area, a huge variety of stalls ranging from the Frenchie, selling huge, butter-slicked, toasted sourdough a cheese toasties - with extra salami if you don't value unblocked arteries too highly - to jerk chicken, to sushi, to fish and chips with a side of deep fried Mars Bar. There's also some more brinks and mortar places to grab some grub, including a bijou branch of Honest Burger; a French and Grace 'hatch' serving wraps stuffed with Middle Eastern goodies; Kim's Vietnamese hut, and a branch of Yumchaa for liquid refreshment.

Sugar and caffeine-fueled and starting to grow giddy with the overwhelming choice and huge crowds at Camden Lock, I walked up the Chalk Farm Road, via the concentric circles of hell, aka the Camden Stables Market. 

If you want to be accosted by flabby slices of pizza for a pound, luminous troughs of radioactive sweet and sour sludge or piles of greasy samosas and spring rolls then you're certainly in the right place. Strangely, like the rest of Camden High Street, it manages to be brash and charmless, yet strangely enticing all at once.

As I reached the fork in the High road, and was ready to cross the bridge over the Regent’s Canal and through Primrose Hill Village, I spied Marathon kebabs; once known for the live music events held in the small backroom restaurant (Jack White once stopped off to play a late-night set on his way home from the Barfly), While the live bands no longer perform, Marathon is still here, providing ballast to the drunken souls of North London.

While I always frequented Marine Ices (now, sadly, taken over by Pontis) for my pre-gig pizza and post-gig ice cream, on this visit Marathon seemed a fitting choice, being that the death of Kadir Nurman, the man credited with inventing the doner kebab, had been reported just the day before.

I can’t remember the last time I ate a kebab, and certainly not sober, but I awaited my illicit parcel, tightly wrapped in fish shop paper and breathed in the scent of hot vinegar and grilling meat I felt strangely nostalgic for the days queuing outside Okabasi of Kent, on Canterbury High Street, after a big night out.

Opting to take my haul away (there are still tables to eat in at the back, and even mid-Sunday afternoon the place was buzzing), I continued my walk up to the top of Primrose Hill, attempting to burn off at least a few of the calories contained in my fatty lamb and chilli sauce-soaked dinner (I did opt for ‘all salad, please’ in a hopeful attempt the vegetables would negate some of the saturated fat).

Marathon Kebab on Urbanspoon

Take a drive to Primrose Hill. It's windy there, and the view's so nice. London ice can freeze your toes, like anyone, I suppose. You’re holding on for tomorrow.

Climbing to the top Primrose Hill on the eve of the St Jude’s storm, while most sensible souls were battening down the hatches, may not have been one of the best ideas I have had (nor the family next to me, who were kindly assisted by a stranger in a fit of bravado when there kite became tangled in a tree). But standing up there, with the whole of London spread out in miniature in front of me, made the wind burn and smarting eyes seem worth it.

It actually turned out to be no more blustery than a normal November afternoon, and once I’d filled my lungs with some of the Big Smoke’s more rarefied air I made my way down the hill, and although my descent wasn’t quite as fun as Damon Alban’s in the Blur video, I did have my kebab to look forward to at the end of it.

And while the doner didn’t taste quite as majestic as it probably would have after 5 pints of lager, the fatty strips of salty meat, chunky pile of salad, fresh and smoky chilli sauce and the bed of half crispy, half soggy pitta made a rather decent late lunch, even if I did garner plenty of unwelcome attention from every dog in Regent’s Park.

With the remains of my congealing kebab abandoned and the taste of garlicky lamb fat still in my mouth, I took one last walk through the leaves on my way to catch the 274 bus from outside London Zoo. Nostalgically reminiscing about how beautiful, yet maudlin an English park feels in autumn.