Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The Treble Tile, Colchester

This is an update to my earlier post.

I went here again at the weekend. The owner has moved on to pastures new and taken his chef with him. The menu is similar, but more expensive and there aren't as many veggie options as there were on previous visits. The food was okay, and the creme brullee was still amongst the best I've had. It remains to be seen whether it can keep the reputation that it has built over the years. One change is that you can now reserve tables. If you go there, let me know what its like.

Little Bay, Farringdon

Little Bay
171 Farringdon Rd
London EC1R 3AL


I met up with a friend of mine in the Jerusalem Tavern near the Farringdon tube station. The pub sits unassumingly on Britton Street in Clerkenwell and one could easily walk past it. It is straight out of Victorian London and on a foggy night, you wouldn't be a bit surprised to see Sherlock Holmes or Bill Sykes coming out of the premises.

Inside, the pub does not disappoint with its wooden floors, odd nooks and crannies, balconies and a small bar serving excellent stout and grapefruit beer. I recommend it (both the pub and the beer.)

From there we wandered up the road, past the Guardian building and on to the Little Bay restaurant. My friend described it as looking like MacDonald's gone Greek, but that's probably a bit unkind. The interior is fairly cosy, with the tables fairly close and the decoration is mostly red and gold with many Mediterranean motives (including a huge golden Zeus head) around the walls and ceiling.

Now, onto the important stuff – the food.

There isn't a lot of veggie stuff on the menu – a couple of starters and one main, but what there was, was very nice. As for the prices, we'll come to that later.

For starters I had flat mushrooms, stuffed with spinach & blue cheese. They tasted fine – much like you'd expect really. It was presented really nicely on the centre of a large plate and the surrounded by a drizzle of oil and balsamic vinegar.

For main course I had baked aubergine with grilled vegetables, chick peas and goat's cheese. Again, this was presented really nicely. A long slice of aubergine was laid along the centre of the plate, the grilled vegetables were laid on top along with the chick peas and finally a couple of rounds of goat's cheese were laid on top. It tasted great, the vegetables were cooked just about perfectly and the cheese topped it off nicely.

For dessert I had spiced pears in red wine with vanilla pannacotta which was lovely. The pears were nicely flavoured and the pannacotta was very smooth with a 'melt in your mouth' texture. My friend had the apple cake which I had a taste of and it was divine. I shall have a full portion on my next visit.

So, what would you expect to pay for beautifully presented really tasty food like this? At Little Bay it depends what time you get there. Before 7pm, at the time of writing, starters and desserts are £1.95 and mains are £5.95. After 7pm, the starters and desserts are a pound dearer at £2.95 and the mains are £7.95. My friend and I had three courses plus drinks and coffee for around £20 each. For a London restaurant as good as this, that's amazing!

Little Bay has several restaurants around London in addition to Farringdon, in Battersea, Kilburn, Fulham and Croydon. Looking at the website, the menus in each are subtly different, but the prices are the same. I'm quite keen to give one of the others a go.

Friday, January 27, 2006

A Very Veggie Burns


People always give me funny looks whenever I mention veggie haggis, but I usually find that after they've tried it they really like it, especially when they've turned their nose up at the thought of 'real' haggis.

We've held veggie Burns Suppers for a few years now and they're really good fun. I've no Scottish connections other than having been bought a “Laird title” as a birthday present, but my wife is of Scots descent on her mother's side so we've a bit of a reason to be able to celebrate.

This year we had a few friends round for the evening of the 25th - the anniversary of Robert Burns birth - to have our own version of a Burns Supper.

After a short speech and the Selkirk Grace given in my best Scots accent we began with leek & potato soup, which I like to call pot-a-leekie soup. This was just potatoes and leeks boiled up in a stock with salt, pepper and a couple of bay leaves thrown in.

This makes a fairly chunky soup, reasonably tasty soup that started the Supper off perfectly.

This was then followed by the Address to the Haggis – including the traditional stabbing – followed by the haggis itself served with tatties and neep patties. The patties were made by mashing the potatoes and swede together and then frying them. The haggis was primarily Macsweens, which is my favourite of the veggie haggises available, with a glass of whisky poured over it just before serving. Try it – it makes a huge difference. We also had a Stahly haggis – this comes in a tin, and is a devil to get out – and is also prone to exploding when you cut the skin, so be careful. The Stahly haggis is a lot more sloshy than the Macsweens and doesn't have such a spicy flavour as the Macsweens.

For dessert, we had Tipsy Laird which is essentially a sherry trifle made with sponge soaked in sherry and brandy and then covered in raspberry jam. This was then covered by layers of raspberries, bananas, custard, cream and finally topped with toasted almonds.

The meal was finished off with a cheeseboard that comprised, amongst others Highland Blue and Mull of Kintyre cheddar cheeses with pears and oatcakes.

Once the cheese was polished off we broke out the Scotch and began reading selections of Burns' poems and songs with each reader having to wear a tam-o-shanter that was passed around. The evening finally finished with a rousing version of Auld Lang Syne. Much food was eaten, much wine and Scotch was drunk and a good time was had by all.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Fight Lost

Well I made it to the end of the week - but no more. I seem to have lost about half a stone according to the scales, which is scary in a week, but the last couple of days I've been having bouts of indigestion and, to be honest, I couldn't recommend the food. Bran for breakfast? It's like eating sawdust - not my favourite start to the day, and as for the chocolate energy shake (cocoa, soya protein poweder, peanut butter and water) well, it's as good as it sounds...

I have to say that despite not looking forward to them, the Devilled Eggs were a nice surprise, but the tofu fillets weren't. I found myself dreading the next meal, and that's not the way I want to live.

So I failed. I feel a bit guilty, but to be honest I still can't understand how eating a dozen eggs in a few days can be healthy and this was matched with enormous amouunts of cheese and double cream. I did eat more Tofu this week than I usually eat in six months, so I hope that maybe they mopped up the cholesterol from the eggs. I still have to lose some weight - so I'll go back to the weight-watchers recipe books I have which are wonderful.

On the plus side, I discovered the joy of lettuce once again, so I'll be having more salads, rather than the sandwiches, crisps and chocolate flapjack that I was previously having for lunch, so something good came of it.

But, in my opinion, this is not one of Rose Elliot's better books and may well be heading for a car boot sale in the not too distant future.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Fat Fighters

Having put on a pound or two (or more) at Christmas and still not having shifted an ounce of the weight put on from my visit to the US, I've decided its about time I tried to lose a few pounds.

So, what to do? I've always been a bit jealous of the way the pounds seem to fall off those on the Atkins diet - although I'm not overly sure of the healthiness of it - so when I saw that Rose Elliot had released a book called the Vegetarian Low-Carb Diet promising a "fast, no-hunger weightloss diet for vegetarians" I thought I'd give it a go as I figured a veggie version must be reasonably healthy, bearing in mind that a lot of the protein intake is from nuts, seeds, tofu and eggs rather than the piles of meat that you allegedly have to eat on Atkins.

So, my faithful bloggees over the next week or so I shall regail you of my progress should I manage to keep to the diet for that long.

The idea is to eat less than 20g of Carbs a day for the first two weeks, making sure that your protein input is kept up then gradually increase over the next weeks. I'm going to see how I do over the first two week "Carb Cleanse" and then decide whether to carry on. I've got a Veggie Burns Night to organise on the 25th Jan, so that sort of spoils the continuity a bit.

Anyway, no matter - the next two weeks are given over to Rose and her cookbook - if I can last that long.

It's been two days now and it started fairly well with the first day's breakfast of scrambled egg and sausages. For lunch I had a goats cheese salad with pecan nuts. Both dishes were very nice. For the evening meal I cooked a 'crustless' asparagus and gruyere quiche which I accompanied with stir fried pak choi. It was okay, apart from the usual after effects of asparagus...

For breakfast this morning I had yoghurt with linseed and almond, and for lunch the remainder of the quiche with some salad. After this second helping of the quiche, I can safely say that it is very unlikely that I will be making it again very soon - it's not the most inspiring and tasty dish - I can think of many more ways to have asparagus that are infinitely more to my taste. For my meal tonight I had curried tofu and 'cauliflower' rice. Hmmm... I wasn't sure about the 'rice' either, but it was okay. It consists of finely grated cauliflower which is then either boiled or fried in butter and olive oil. The curry was very dry - there's another one in the book that has more of a sauce with it, so I shall try that. Before that though, I have curry leftovers to finish up.

Tomorrow morning I have scrambled eggs on a portobello mushroom, which I'm looking forward to. This diet does get through an awful lot of eggs - to keep the protein intake up - which is my only worry on the health side of things.

I shall check in again in another few days and let you know whether I've managed to last the week, and whether any flabby bits have disappeared. Wish me luck!