Tag Archives: Soho

Bocca di Lupo. About time

A man I love very much said to me, “If you were 30, I would give our relationship a go. But you’re 37 – if I go out with you, you will start expecting marriage soon.

I still haven’t found the words to respond to this, but I did add him to a long list of my people obsessed with age. Nobody I know seems to want to be their age at the moment – through mind-numbing food plans, bad hair dye jobs, inappropriate sexapades, and best-selling alter egos, I have found myself in the midst of a lot of people’s age-crisis. So it wasn’t quite by accident that I was drawn to the New Year Day release of The Theory of Everything – a film about Stephen Hawking and his theories of time. Hawking writes an equation to prove that there was a beginning of time. He then proposes the end of time. We go about our lives quietly accepting beginnings and ends of sunrises and sunsets, of days and meals, of relationships and jobs; and yet, we get so sensitive about our age. We fight it – everyday.

As I wandered around Soho and pondered my people’s preoccupation with age, I walked past a restaurant, I’ve always enjoyed visiting. Bocca di Lupo has a chef-owner who has written a wonderful book on pasta through the ages – The Geometry of Pasta. A book that was born of a preoccupation of a more delicious kind – of the Italian’s obsession with the right shape of pasta for the right sauce.

I love a little time travel as much as the next person. Especially if I can taste my way through the travel, as I did tonight.

Agnolotti dal plin

AgnolottiLike all interesting food history, the origin of the agnolotti, a semi-circle stuffed pasta from Piedmont, is attributed to several legends. Some say it’s name comes from the tool that was used to cut the pasta – the anolot. Other stories give credit to its stuffing – agnello (lamb). Or perhaps it was named after the chef, Angeloto, who first made these to celebrate the end of a siege? The version I ate – Agnolotti dal plin (£9) was pinched into delicate pleats and stuffed with pork and veal. Not the best bowl of pasta I have ever had, but tonight I wasn’t after excellence. Instead, reading about its history added texture to my meal – about how this pasta used to be made mainly for festive occasions, given the dainty pleating; or in the winter, when “housewives had to fill long winter evenings with some sort of activity.”

Wine: Lacrima di Morro d’Alba, 2012 (£7.70)

Pappardelle with venison ragú

Pappardelle“They are best served with a chunky, flavoursome, oily sauce in Tuscany; with a chicken liver or hare ragú, in the Veneto and Romagna with a pigeon one.” I had mine with a venison ragú (£9) – a wholesome sauce that lovingly attached itself to luscious ribbons of hand made pappardelle. The book talks about how this pasta has been around since the medieval times “when they were cooked in a game broth, thickened by blood.”

Wine: Primitivo Fatalone, 2010 (£7.50)

KitchenAs I watched 4 chefs cook traditional recipes for a 100 diners, I had to wonder if they ever stopped to think about how old they were. Working in unspoken conversations, the only place they could be was in the moment.

In this moment, it is exactly the time it is. We are exactly the age we are.

-p

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Filed under Italian, London, Pasta, Soho London

Koya Bar. Living in is-ness

I left London three months ago; in as much as I could leave a city that had become part of me over the seven years I lived there. As I began to map my two weeks back, around meals and friends I would eat them with, I realised that I have spent a lot of my life going back. Back to the same cities, back to favourite restaurants, back to old lovers. It’s never the same though.

The city doesn’t change, a favourite meal still tastes good, and old lovers are just as happy to see me – but it’s never the same. I remember London as picture perfect, sans the years of lonely meals and freezing walks in the rain. I am excited about dinner with a lover, having clearly forgotten his refusal to commit any feelings. I order cocktails in my favourite bar, and then…. reality kicks in.

The truth is that today rarely matches up to my airbrushed memory of its yesterday. And yet, I spend so much time trying to recreate perfect experiences; seldom focusing instead, on what is.

On a day when London was especially bleak, I abandoned the temptation of puncturing the memory of a comfortable old favourite with its reality. Not convinced I could revisit a place without “going back”, I chose somewhere new. I walked into Koya Bar – a cosy collection of 24 low stools arranged around an open kitchen. The noodle bar almost forces you to eat in the moment, urging you to leave your baggage at the door.

I started with Otsukemono (homemade pickles), £2.90 and a delicious Kakuni (cider braised pork belly), £6.90 washed down with a chilled Kirin, £4.60. Then I waited patiently as the chef decided on the right moment to serve me Kinoko Atsu-Atsu (mushroom with walnut miso in hot broth), £11.60. The beautiful bowl arrived with hot udon noodles that are made in the traditional manner, dough kneaded by foot. “This is such a leisurely dish,” I said to myself several times as I mixed the large lump of walnut miso into the broth. After my first slurp I was lost in the dish, coming up for air only when the last mushroom had disappeared.

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Each dish is layered with complexity, but presented with such an effortless style, that you can’t help but pay attention to what is. This spirit of is-ness comes from the kitchen and its attention to detail. The dashi would not be as fresh and their umami-rich stock would not have the power to cleanse away your worries if the chefs were somewhere else in spirit.

I left inspired. Determined to not let would-ness and was-ness from taking over the is-ness of my life.

-p

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Filed under Communal tables, Japanese, London, Noodles, Open kitchen, Soho London

Bone Daddies. Food for thought

Except for a trip to the hospital and a short hobble across the street, a sprained ankle ensured I did not leave my apartment for over two weeks. This was the longest period of time I have spent in a small space, mostly on my own. And in this quiet, silent place I realised that there are many things I don’t say even to myself because I’m afraid of what they would say about me.

I am envious of her success.
I don’t have a single original idea.
I cheated on my first boyfriend.

The noise in my head was deafening and I had to leave for somewhere so loud that I would not be able to hear myself think. London’s Soho is exactly that. An area I would never venture into by choice on a Saturday night, today this tourist hell provided just the comfort I needed. After several hours wandering streets where frozen yoghurt parlours and cupcake shops fight for the same footfall as sex shops and The Pleasure Lounge, I finally got hungry.

Bones Daddies isn’t exactly new but London has been noodle-mad for over half a year and this ramen star by ex-Nobu & Zuma chef Ross Shonhan was still rammed. The best part about being a table for one is that even when a restaurant has queues around the block, they will always find a seat to squeeze me into.

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Thanks to almost every London restaurant reviewer and food blogger having already waxed eloquent about Bone Daddies, I knew exactly what I was goin to eat even before I was seated. I skipped the starters (soft shell crab and fried chicken have most votes) and went straight for the Tantanmen ramen (£11) and Pickles (£3) (It says homemade pickles on the menu, but that term looks ridiculous on restaurant menus. Urr… whose home exactly?)

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I started with the pickles (eight different kinds and all yum) and a Maiken-Me cocktail (£7.80) of shochu, umeshu and watermelon. It was more mandarin-y than watermelon-y and a bit too sweet for me. In anticipation of my ramen I reached for the bottle of rubber bands to pull my hair back (a genius idea apparently imported from Japanese izakayas). The table also has other cute extras like a garlic crusher and a sesame grinder.

You can choose from seven different broths and I recommend you begin with the chicken-stock based Tantanmen. When the bowl arrived, it looked too glorious to disturb with a spoon and chopsticks, A few seconds of that, and it was too glorious for me not to attack with a spoon and chopsticks. The broth is fragrant with sesame and so delicious that I could not slurp/chew fast enough. The pork was juicy and while it could have done with a little more chilli one wasn’t complaining. I really do prefer this to the more common Tonkotsu broth. The purists say the ramen is better elsewhere, but I’m no noodle expert and in this instance, taste trumped truth.

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My excellent waiter suggested a black sesame soft serve to end, and even though it was exactly what my heart needed… I had to listen to the tummy this once.

There is nothing subtle about Bone Daddies. But even the luscious meal and pounding rock and roll soundtrack couldn’t drown out my thoughts forever. So as I reluctantly leave, I wonder…

Am I curious enough?
Will I ever be good enough? (For what?)
Sometimes, can just love be enough?

-p

Bone Daddies on Urbanspoon

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Filed under Cocktails, Communal tables, Japanese, London, Noodles, Soho London