Friday, 30 May 2014

Plaid Boy and Girl Next Shore in Paris: a day of foie & escargot

Plaid Boy and I were in the mood for foie gras. Using our Rough Guide to Paris book, he suggested we find this gem of a place near Arc de Triomphe called Le Hide. It's quite tricky to find if you're a tourist but by this time we've already mastered map reading so we got there in time for lunch service. I like that it's not on the high street, that it's tiny and somewhat intimate despite the touching tables. 

The menu is insane. All your French favourites are listed for a prix fixe of 22€ for two courses and 29€ for three (27/34€ for dinner). I tried to order in French and thought it was going well until I asked for water and the server said something which sounded like "Gateau nougat". I restrained myself from scratching my head and thought they didn't have nougat in any of the desserts... Eventually we switched to English and realised she was asking if we wanted water "with gas or no gas" aka "sparkling or still". #lostintranslation

Complimentary bread basket.

One of the starters we ordered was a tartine of escargot, de-shelled snails served in a rich olive oil and chilli concoction, topped with chopped shallots and garlic. The escargot had a subtle earthy flavour livened by slivers of sundried tomato (which reminded me of Plaid Boy's scallop dish). Served with a brioche bun, I was pleased by how light and delicate the dish was. 

We also had foie gras (5€ supplement) and OH. MY. GOODNESS. ME. It was a big escalope of foie, possibly the biggest I've ever seen, served as a starter. The photo doesn't do the sizing any justice (it came in a big plate) but it was as big as my hand and almost thrice as thick as an iPhone 5. I was so concerned about our arteries and cholesterol level... until Plaid Boy reminded me of the time I ate eight hefty pieces of seared foie for brunch last year in Singapore. #sorrynotsorry

It was every bit indulgent that each forkful of the velvety melt-in-your mouth liver may have riddled us with a tiny bit of guilt. It was, however, so darn delicious that we just couldn't stop. The simple salad of quickly blanched string beans gave it much needed crunch and the simple vinaigrette gave it a tease of a punch. SO YUMMY.

So much for our non-boozy arvo. The foie was so rich, we were compelled to have some sauvignon blanc which always goes well with rich duck liver. (They didn't have Sauternes which would have been perfect). 

Plaid Boy ordered a faux fillet steak for mains with pepper sauce. Served with a gorgeous, buttery mash and garnished with a simple (but stunning) rosti, this was a really hearty meal.

As expected, it was cooked perfectly.

I ordered the sea bass in beurre blanc sauce. They said they were low on sea bass so they'd add monkfish, which actually worked in my favor as I'm not really a huge fan of that boom-badoom-boom-boom-badoom-boom bass (just had to!). Monkfish is also one of my favourite gifts of the sea (shame it's not a pretty fish, haha!)

My dish was so pretty! It was served with half an artichoke which I was extremely happy about, more of that lush mashed potato and that thin rosti, and garnished with creamed spinach and rose petals. 

This dish was something I wish I could recreate and eat at least once a week. Everything was elegantly delicious: the sea bass was cooked and seasoned nicely; the grilled artichoke was tangy and slightly nutty; the beurre blanc was heavy on flavour with the most delicate consistency; the mash was moreish and buttery.

And that monkfish was an absolute stunner in every flake and forkful. I'm in love.

I'm so surprised our bill only came to less than 60€ given the quality and amount of food we had (that foie would have costed a full prix fixe menu in England already). Super plus points: happy belly, happy pockets. 

Le Hide
10 Rue du Général Lanrezac 75017 Paris

After lunch we felt the need to walk of all that glorious food so we headed off to the Musee d'Orsay and enjoyed a bit of art. You can't take photos here, unlike the Louvre.

There was a lot of intense walking and climbing involved. By the time we got into our nth chamber we saw this cool couch with people resting. I so wanted to plop down as well. I was in dire need of a massage.

This museum reminded me of the National Gallery in London except I wasn't as moved with the display. Reckon I was just too tired to really appreciate the display. That said, we managed to get into the Van Gogh exhibit for free so it was actually quite sulit

We were so tired and were still too full for proper dinner so we had just had a light meal of croque monsieur, caesar salad and of course... more escargot. 

All hail the humble snail.

Jolly good day, it was. I think I went to bed thinking we've hit our foie and escargot quota for the duration of the trip. 

Or maybe not. 

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Honest Burgers Brixton Village: where I went down Louisiana way

Let's be honest here. It doesn't take much to make burgers, but it takes a lot of skill to make a GOOD burger. So if you're opening a joint that only sells this year-round classic, then every component has got to be bloody fantastic. 

Honest Burgers started as a festival marquee favourite in 2010. Word about the burger joint spread like wildfire across social and print media, with reviews hailing their fare as some of the best burgers in the city. Naturally, an expansion saw HB joints across London and to date they've set up six shops, the latest opening in Oxford Circus last month.

We visited the mothership in Brixton Village recently. There's a sense of raw honesty emanating from this branch and it will always remind me of humble beginnings.

I was gunning for my favourite Honest (£9.5) but I saw that the Louisiana Special (£10) has made a comeback appearance on the menu so I went for it instead. I missed out on this last year when the joint collaborated with HBO in celebration of the True Blood Season 5 DVD London release. Pretty cool. The choice was a bit of a gamble because it didn't have two of my favourite elements of a burger: bacon and cheese. But hey, it's only around for a limited period so why the heck not.

Cajun-blackened beef patty, fried onions, bloody mary ketchup, beef tomato, red leaf. Served in a toasted brioche bun and heaps of rosemary fries.

 I asked for my patty to be cooked medium, et voila! They did not disappoint.

It definitely has a unique taste. As per usual, the patty is succulent and juicy (at one point I restrained myself from licking some sort of dripping down my forearm and wiped it off with a serviette like proper ladies do) although there was only a wee hint of the promised Cajun seasoning. The bloody mary ketchup was spiced and tangy, somehow giving the flavour of the burger a kick. The only thing I didn't like was my bun, which was quite dry. It's still a pretty decent burger but not as amazing as the Honest.

The apple and beetroot slaw (£2.5) is an okay filler for your five-a-day. The taste is quite subtle but it gives you much needed texture when you're having medium-rare burgers. The side salad's a bit too drenched in oil for me, I'm afraid.

You can wash it down with homemade lemonade (£2.50)

Or my favourite: scotch whiskey + ginger ale. ;)

Brixton Village, Unit 12, SW9 8PR London | +44 (0)20 7733 7963
Average spend pp: £15
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Friday, 23 May 2014

Plaid Boy and Girl Next Shore in Paris: Saint-Germain, Notre Dame & Love Locks

Plaid Boy and I started our second day walking around Saint-Germain while munching on goodies from a local patisserie we spotted down Rue de Rennes. It was the most amazing croissant I've ever had, evidenced by the lack of photo due to speedy consumption.
I love this area of Paris. It boasts of pretty architecture from quintessential French buildings (and their wee little windows) to churches, squares, and universities. There's a great mix of luxury, high street, and artisan shops so shopping is very convenient, and there's a lot of really good (historic) cafés, bistros and brasseries to choose from. It's quite an artsyfartsy place, with a plethora of museums, art galleries, and street artists that won't disappoint your visual appetite.

We visited Our Lady of Paris, more famously known as the Notre Dame. It's such a gorgeous cathedral. The gothic architecture is really breathtakingly amazing and Square Jean XXIII is such a gorgeous spot for al fresco sarnie lunches or for simply just chilling out. 
As lovers visiting Paris would, we went to see Pont de l'archeveche (The Archbishop's Bridge) aka the "love locks" bridge. It's quite a sight to see. Admittedly I was tempted to get Plaid Boy to sacrifice his luggage lock so we can leave our own.

I wondered, while browsing through the millions of locks latched onto the bridge, how many of those lovers have actually kept their promises of forever. My resident cynic said 10% and my secret romantic retaliated with 90%. Whatever the correct percentage is, I hope they've made good memories and took loads of photos.
We didn't leave anything on the bridge, but we left the area with good memories and a commitment to enjoying the rest of our trip (and finding a good place for lunch!) Don't worry Plaid Boy, you can keep your beloved luggage lock. I'm latching onto you.