Canim Ciğerim, Istanbul, Turkey (Guest Post)

Flori was my boss at Melrose and Morgan.  Day one as Executive Chef, Flori sat me down and told me what’s what, whose who and how the chain of command was going to go.  Her at the top me expediting her wishes.  I sat through the speech and nodded and wondered how she would take it if I gave her a hug.  A big squeeze that would make her ribs crack.  Although her CV was long and impressive for someone so young; The Fat Duck for 2 years, Cottesbrooke Estate, and the Admirable Crichton she wasn’t in any way mean or rough but sweet and kind.

We became friends.

Now Flori lives in Istanbul with her daughter and her husband (also a chef).  Since these days I consider it an accomplishment if I manage to leave the house for an hour (I optimistically had a reservation at Dock Kitchen on Monday which I had to cancel when Layla showed signs of falling ill after a horror week of the twins being ill).

After some pestering, Flori has written a guest post for me.  Enjoy!  I am a liver fiend so the idea of liver kebab is right up my alley!….

“Anyone for liver ? (ciger) For most people it’s a bad taste memory but here in Turkey, it is some thing that’s sought out. Tiny cubes of lambs liver are grilled on long thin skewers over hardwood coals. The garnishes and the setting add to the experience.  

It’s Thursday night. A balmy turkish evening.  The three of us wait on the tiny cobbled backstreet for a table. No one complains as we all know it’s worth the wait to be seated  at a low table and stool. The choice is easy: liver or meat (no more information is provided about the ‘meat’) .  Read more of this post

Petersham Nurseries, Garden Centre & Restaurant, Petersham-Richmond

IMG_3313The first time I went to Petersham Nurseries was for a Slow Food lunch with the subject of edible flowers. Back then Skye Gyngell had just started to work her magic behind the stove, today she has handed over her wooden spoon (or whatever) to Greg Malouf claiming that receiving a Michelin star has driven her away.I’ve read a substantial amount of grumbling regarding the prices (for example in John Lanchester’s review for The Guardian) which for a la cart is about £50 a head and for the set lunch goes from £28.50 for two courses and £32.50 for three courses. In London and environs that can’t be considered extortionate, surely? Is it because you can also buy pots of lavender that this seems expensive to some? Or because of the bathroom, which reminds me of the composting outhouses from my days at girl scout camp but with running water.The service is faultless. Young british women, wearing flowery blouses and sensible flats. Thick, straight (in spite of the 70% humidity) hair pulled back in ponytails and a sheet of fringe brushing their eyebrows. Their cheeks blushed just like the many heavy-headed roses surrounding us. Our principal waiter is a british man, who looks like he’s come off the set of Chariots of Fire.My sister and I eat outside under a loosely thatched roof, which provides plenty of dappled sunshine. We are close enough to the trickling fountain that it gives us some relief from the sweltering humid heat (what is it with the weather? It can only do 18ºC and raining or 30ºC and humid?).

I am looking forward to seeing what Greg Malouf does with the produce of the garden. And with Middle Eastern food which is still largely unexplored in the west and at its point of origin, very rustic.

I order the 3 course set menu finding it at once good value and a good way to discover the new style of Petersham nurseries. This starts with a fattoush salad, whose usual form is a chopped salad with fried pieces of flat bread but in this incarnation is all manner of greens I don’t recognize and small beets, juicy white radishes, sweet cucumber, even sweeter tomatoes some cherry and some peeled wedges of a larger variety. Instead of deep-fried flat bread, there are crunchy slices of sourdough sprinkled with sumac. Three violet blossoms adorn the salad like a crown. It is beautiful, to behold and to eat.

Read more of this post

Koya, Udon Noodles, Soho-London

NOTE: I am in London until the beginning of October, for Berlin Posts, please visit my Berlin, Favourites page or Places I’ve Eaten In 

You know the best part of having a food / restaurant review blog? The people you meet virtually. Before I had the blog, I would grit my teeth through social engagements. Patiently listening to (ok, trying to) lots of small talk and wondering when I could get to the main event and see if there was going to be synergy in thought or not. With this blog, we skip all that, we can strip down to our tighty whites – metaphorically speaking and get all nerdy about our common favorite subject: food!I get quite a few people writing in asking me where they should eat while in Berlin, for their ‘paid for by the company’ business dinner, their anniversary, cheap eats etc. I do my best because it’s hard to know what a stranger will like, what their budget is and of course, if they are coming from London or New York – Berlin really can’t compete with that scene. (In people terms alone, London has 7.5 million inhabitants compared to Berlin’s 3.5 million).A while back, I had a chef friend of Stephen Williams (former head chef at the Harwood Arms) write to me to ask for recommendations.

I obliged, although most of what I recommended was closed for the Easter weekend.  When I returned to London, I dropped him a quick email to ask where I should go. First on his list – Koya*, just a few doors down from Barrafina on Frith Street. The small shop specializes in Udon noodles, which are made by foot daily. Something I learned from the guy who recommended it. Initially, I took that to be a typo but I googled it and yes – the noodles are kneaded by foot. I don’t know enough about it to understand why this is significant or even necessary. But the huddle of people outside the shop hint that the noodles are indeed something special. Read more of this post

Pbox Eatery, Kifissia-Athens, Greece

In Athens, I regress back to the lazy teenager I once was. Even though it’s May, it’s hot enough that my brain begins to tick into action after the sun has set. Even then, there is only a skeleton crew operating.  It turns out that interminable grey days are boon to productivity rather than the bane of it.

Yesterday, the radiant sunshine was accompanied by a cool breeze.  This coupled with sucking down two ice laden frappés (turns out that frappés are not a quirky habit but an operational necessity in these parts)  in quick succession made me decide to go down to Kifissia and try out PBox.  A diminutive eatery I had earmarked on my last trip but missed when I found them closed for lunch.I suffer from mild bouts of spring fever.  Among the squat bitter orange trees that line the narrow pavements in my mother’s neighborhood of Holargos it’s not too bad but once I get to Kifissia all villas, nestled in verdant gardens, my sneezing takes on the frequency of machine gun fire.  Entirely worth it, I love Kifissia and its lack of high rises tottering on pillars.  You would never see one neighbor talking to another in a wife beater ribbed white undershirt, hairy nipple poking out through the saggy arm holes in Kifissia (something you will see frequently in most neighborhoods).No, in Kifissia, everyone is elegant, coiffed and sunglassed.  The older ladies wear large chunky jewelery perhaps to complement their large hair (I don’t think they every truly said goodbye to Dynasty).  Every female over 10 years old has a flawless mani-pedi with that telltale sheen that speaks of a trip to the salon as opposed to a home job.  10% of the stores are for rent here as opposed to the rest of Athens where I would put the number closer to 60%.

There are lots of ladies (and gentlemen) lunching and plenty of places catering to them.

P Box is an all day eatery that snags a lot of them.  The menu runs along two different veins, Greek or Japanese / Asian / International.   The Greek part is simple fare, cheeses and meats from around Greece, grilled halloumi from Crete for instance and sausage from Lefkada.  And then a faffy aspirational menu, carpaccio, blue cheese tart, something 3 tables away with way too much truffle oil gaining in pungency as the heat got to it- lots of green salads with things on top, say chicken or tuna.  I’m lamenting this lack of conviction to going with local when it occurs to me that most of the tables have ordered the aspirational stuff with a favouring for the large bowls of frilly salad leaves.Criminal really!  The tomatoes here are so fleshy and full of juice that I cut them straight into the bowl I will be eating them from.  From the two tomatoes I cut up for lunch today, I had over a cup of tomato juice to which I added 1/4 cup of organic olive oil from a greek monastery and a shower of oregano that the 80-year-old mother of a friend of my mothers picked herself in Chania.  Such purity and strength of flavour and there they go eating a frilly leaves with overly sweet Dijon mustard dressing. Read more of this post


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