Category Archives: American

Pitt Cue. A whole lot of love

I wander about life starring in my own movie (yes, usually Bollywood and almost always a romance). When I am crushing on someone or in a one-sided love affair, my imagination kicks into overdrive and turns every conversation into a 70mm moment. Sometimes it gets to the point that even I find myself ridiculous. And on a day like this, I need to get myself to a place with zero possibility of romantic thought. I needed some Pitt Cue action. Nothing like beautiful chunks of meat to make you not turn your life into a movie.

Pitt Cue is the only food truck-turned-proper restaurant I can recall than has single handedly joined all of London’s food lovers into one big fan club. The only exceptions are either vegetarian or one of Time Out’s new food writers.

Every review of the restaurant will tell you how small it is. It’s even smaller in real life. When I first squeezed into the door, past the crowds that were leaving and into more crowds that were waiting, I couldn’t see any furniture for the number of people in there.  I have never been happier to be a single diner as Lovely Blonde found me a bar stool in a corner. The restaurant also has a dining room downstairs. It’s dark, squashed between the kitchen, a staircase and the loo, and I hope I never have to sit down there.

Pitt Cue is so good I couldn’t believe I got through life so far without tasting such food.  I may have been trying to escape romance this afternoon, but there is no denying the love that has gone into everything they do, say, and feed you.

I ordered a Hair of the Pig (their yummier version of a bloody mary with scratchings, £6.50) and decided I love how easy the menu is to order from. You choose…

–          one meat (I chose the St. Louis Ribs (£9.50); other options are pulled pork, brisket, beef ribs and a daily special that keeps changing)

–          one side (I chose the awesome burnt end mash; there is also baked beans, braised sprout tops, hock and beet salad and vinegar slaw)

… and the good boys of Pitt Cue will put it all on one delicious tray.

There are naughty extras too. I couldn’t resist the hot wings (£4) or the crispy shiitake (£3.50). This is wayyyy too much food for one person but I couldn’t stop.

Lovely Blonde came back and recited the dessert menu and I had to go with a Snickers Mess (£4.50). It’s exactly what it says on the tin.

And if I hadn’t eaten enough reasons to return then there was always their perfectly reasonable bourbon and rye list to lure me back. Woodford Reserve, Four Roses, Rittenhouse Blonde, Eagle Rare, Sazerac…  this is a lot more than a fleeting crush.

And so I come to terms with the thought that even on a day bereft of romance, one can still find love.

-p

Pitt Cue Co on Urbanspoon

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Filed under American, Bar, Bar food, Cocktails, Communal tables, Design, Dessert, Diner, London, Whisky

Joseph Leonard. A fly on the wall of life

I’m in a room bright with candle light, with

The girl who let two men flirt over her

The girl who left her man to smoke

The girl who tried (in vain) to kiss the boy she brought along

The one who had her heart broke

The boy who didn’t let the girl kiss him

The one who spoke to me like I was the only girl in the world

The boy who was gay but didn’t know it yet

The boy the girl left cold

 The bartender who just moved to New York from Paris

The one who made me a drink off the list

The waitress who brought me the dessert menu

The chefs that drank beer at the end of their shift

I’m in a room filled with mirrors

A room bright with candle light

The room has old photos on every wall

This room… I could spend my entire night.

I’m at Joseph Leonard in New York’s West Village. A neighbourhood restaurant that will make you want to move to this neighbourhood, just so you can call it your own. I drank ( Rye Not cocktail with rye, tamarind tea, fresh lemon, bitters at $12) and ate (mussels special in Thai green curry at $14 and ricotta fritters at $7). But also… I lived a little.

-p

Joseph Leonard on Urbanspoon

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Filed under American, Bar, Bar food, Cocktails, New York, Open kitchen

M. Wells. When you just know

There are cities, bigger cities, and then there is New York. I’m a Bombayite learning to be a Londoner but cannot deny how much in awe I am of this most cinematic of any city I have ever visited.

I just knew this was going to be a special trip.

For the first time a charming stranger flirted with me all the way from Heathrow to JFK. For the first time I have a plan. And for the first time ever I have a response for when someone asks me “what is the best thing you’ve ever tasted?

The boss said he was taking me to a diner in Queens. Once I got over the dread of another meal with the boss that day, curiosity took over.  A disastrous dinner at London’s Kopapa aside I have never had a bad meal with the boss. Plus I’d never been to Queens, so…

This is M. Wells; a diner that used to serve as a pit stop for truckers until French Canadian chef Hugue Dufour and his Queens-raised wife Sarah Obraitis took over. They started out serving only breakfast, then brunch, then dinner and still don’t serve every meal every day. The wait for our table was over an hour. We grabbed our free beers (on the house to make up for a busted AC) and sat down outside for some people watching.

One beer turned into a few, as did the diners on the waiting list. M. Wells is a diner, sure, but even a cursory glance at the menu will tell you that you are not going to be served any sloppy sliders here. I haven’t seen oysters and foie gras on too many diner menus, have you? The boss calls their food “kooky”. I’d say its eccentric. Both mean the same thing – it doesn’t belong to any school and you can’t put this chef in a box.

I’m glad I was dissuaded from ordering the ribs. We ordered cocktails and salad and maybe something else too but all that is a blur. All I can remember is the pure pleasure of a BiBiM Wells ($40). No description of mine will do this dish any justice so all I will do is list out the ingredients: oysters, scallops, gravalax, and foie gras on a bed of white rice, topped with a poached egg, avacados, julienne of green apples, carrots and zucchini, drizzled with yam chips and a stunning Korean chilli maple sauce.

This is the best dish I have ever tasted. Ever.

You take a job that changes you forever, walk into a diner and eat the best meal of your life, meet someone – and you just know. You don’t recognize the biggest day of your life until you’re right in the middle of it.

-p

M Wells on Urbanspoon

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Filed under American, Bar, Design, Diner, French, New York, Oysters, Seafood

Spuntino. The one?

I knew Spuntino was the one restaurant I will have a long romance with the second I walked in. I first went there last night with friends and even before we began our meal I couldn’t wait to come back for more.

And so I did.

Spuntino has no telephone and you cannot make reservations, and walking in can be slightly intimidating – I felt like I was crashing someone’s dinner party. But then the tattooed waitress smiled, beckoned and made me feel at home.

Ronnie Self, Louis Jordan, Ray Charles and Django Reinhart gently lull me into the Spuntino spirit and I started with a Negroni (£6) and olives stuffed with parmesan, anchovies and thyme (£4). I literally left the city behind me and wanted nothing else but to be in this place for many hours. You’ll see why so many reviews liken it to a diner in NYC’s Lower East side. Its tiny, cosy, welcoming, yet lets you be all at the same time.

  

Almost every diner at the restaurant ordered the truffled egg toast (£5.50). It is a plate full of decadence and home-cooking all in one mouthful. As is the mac and cheese (£8) that arrives in its own sizzling skillet. Last night we also tried the pulled pork slider (£4.50) – succulent; panzanella (£5.50) – fresh and delicious; softshell crab (£9.50) – dry and avoidable; calamari in squid ink (£8) – delish; and duck ham and pecorino salad (£6) – not so delish. I also highly recommend the eggplant chips with fennel yoghurt (£4) – gorgeous aubergine soldiers with an inspired yoghurt dip.

I don’t usually order dessert, let alone two! The brown sugar cheesecake with grappa prunes (£6) may just well be the best cheesecake I’ve ever had. They also have a cheeky peanut butter and jelly sandwich dessert (£6.50). Look!

  

At Spuntino I feel time stand still. I feel the same way when I think about THE ONE – the one I have been madly in something with for 5 months, 10 days, 2 hours and a few minutes. Now this is a completely one-sided romance, mostly blossoming in my overactive imagination; but I’m not ready to give up just yet. I don’t want to look back and learn from past mistakes, nor move on with life.

Sometimes its not about looking back, or moving forward. Sometimes its just about staying right where you are.

-p

Spuntino on Urbanspoon

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Filed under American, Bar, Bar food, Cocktails, Design, Dessert, Diner, Italian, London, Restaurant, Whisky

Three tables for two

I have just finished reading Gouri Dange’s The Counsel of Strangers, a charming presentation of six stories that come pouring out at one big Indian wedding. Something one of the characters said in the book stayed with me all week. The near-suicidal Nurse Sajani at one point in her story said: “So then, tell me, as the fellow says in his book, When I die, who will cry? But I have a more urgent question. When I am living, who will laugh with me?

The dreariness from the week before has continued to creep into the rest of the month. I’ve been on crap dates, fallen ill, still haven’t found joy in the promotion, and saddest of all, found out that the Coffee Shop Guy is married. I needed a miracle to lift my mood… but thank you Universe for sending me three!

Rahul was in town on business and pulled out a few hours to buy me a Skinny-Dry-Extra-Foam-No-Sugar-Chocolate-on-Top-Cappuccino at my local Pret A Manger. I have known Rahul for as long as he’s been married to my best friend Lina and over the years he and I have developed a tremendous affection and respect for one another. I have heard and experienced too many incidents of “socially acceptable” inflections that quickly escalate into uncomfortable conversations and consequently, the death of friendships. But in the 15 plus years that I have known Rahul, I am relieved that not once has our friendship turned even mildly flirtatious, and not once has my friendship with Lina ever soured. Lina and Rahul, collectively and separately are havens of joy and love and I am grateful for them in my life. That day I laughed a lot with my favourite married man.

It is week one of the grouse season and there was no question that I had to book a restaurant that served grouse. Scott’s in Mayfair, before the refurb was the epitome of traditional elegance. The renovations brought a few naff additions like the art on the walls, a mile high island bar to display their oysters, and way too many diners in grey tee shirts. Fortunately the food is still top-notch and my handsome companion wasted no time devouring the menu. Madison and I settled for 18 oysters – yes, 18, the Roast Grouse for him and a Bannockburn Rib Steak for me. We paired our oysters with a rosé from Sancerre and the mains with reds from France and Argentina. Madison orders with his eyes and so of course we had dessert (that we couldn’t finish) – honeycomb ice cream with chocolate sauce and a scoop of the mint chocolate chip. Date two is with handsome Madison. I have only known him a few years but continue to be joyously surprised by how effortless our times together are. We glide from gossip about ex lovers to Ugly Betty, from developments in the Indian hotel industry to non-political books by daughters of politicians; I cannot remember the last time I had so much to say to a straight man. That day I laughed a lot with one half of my favourite gay couple.

I first met Aditya in 2004. I remember like it was yesterday, an autumn evening when I had a sudden attack of the butterflies. We flirted for years. I dithered, then he did, and at one point we just stopped; flirting and dithering. Today even though there is no hope for a romance, nor a desire for it, Aditya is still my favourite single man because he still gives me butterflies. That night we went to a restaurant he had never been to before. Goodman is a New York steakhouse in the heart of Mayfair and I am delighted to report that no steak lover will ever be disappointed here. Aditya visits London every few months and always, always makes time to meet me. He lets me know that I matter. That night I laughed a lot with my favourite single man.

My three miracles arrived like strapping life guards on a stormy beach. I’ve been reminded of the love that surrounds me… even if not from exactly next door, and all is right in the world again.

-p

Scott's on Urbanspoon

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Filed under American, British, Cafe, Coffee, Date, London, Restaurant