The Riding House Café

It was my mother’s birthday last weekend so I decided to take her out to lunch to celebrate. I’d been wanting to try the Riding House Café for some time, and it seemed the perfect venue. The café had the perfect ambience for the occasion. It was light, open and had a sense of casual sophistication.

After selecting our wine we set about deciding the menu for the afternoon. We were both in the mood for a leisurely meal so agreed to take a staggered approach to ordering. In addition to starters the café offers a range of small plates affording a tapas-style approach to dining. From amongst these we selected the beetroot carpaccio with sheep’s ricotta and the buffalo wings with blue cheese sauce (naturally). We also ordered an entrée-sized chorizo and squid salad with pickled chillies and saffron aïoli.

We started with the buffalo wings. Meat Liquor take note, they were delicious! While I cannot realistically vouch for their authenticity, they certainly adhered to the descriptions of “real” buffalo wings that my ex-Chicagoan had afforded me. The meat of the wings was full of flavour, and the sauce in which they were covered was genuinely spicy, but not overpoweringly so. The blue cheese sauce was just gorgeous! It had that wonderful rich, sweet mustiness of a blue cheese but was still sufficiently subtle to work with, rather than compete against the rest of the flavours. Just to note there were four wings, we just got a bit excited and I forgot to take a photo before we started eating.

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Judging that it would help to cleanse our pallet we progressed to the beetroot carpaccio next. This was a nice dish. Beetroot and goats cheese are of course a wonderful combination and this was no exception. However, I felt that the beetroot lacked flavour so the pleasurable contrast between the sweetness of this element and the sharpness of the cheese wasn’t as apparent as could have been expected.

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Finally we moved onto the chorizo and squid salad. Different elements were really good. I particularly enjoyed the chillies which were beautifully sweet with a nice touch of vinegariness. I also enjoyed the combination of the saffron aïoli with the chorizo. However, the squid was very disappointing. It was incredibly bland, to the point of tasting watery and was effectively redundant within this dish.

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Although we’d already eaten well there was still room for more and we decided to order a main to share. While there were a number of tempting options, we knew from the outset that it would have to be the longhorn beef burger with bone marrow. As soon as it arrived we knew we’d made the right choice. I’m not sure I have the words to describe how phenomenal this burger was. So much flavour. So much deliciousness. This is what beef is supposed to taste like. I’m not even going to attempt to convey this fully, it has to be experienced!

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Now I have to confess I was the one to ask for the dessert menu. I should have known better. Two glasses of wine in and I was having to convince my mother not to have a little lie down on the couch at which we’d been seated. Clearly will power had left our company some time ago. Probably after the first glass of wine. So instead of birthday cake we ended up sharing two desserts. The first was a chocolate fondant with coconut ice-cream. I have to say I wasn’t a fan of the ice-cream, it was just a bit bland. However the fondant was excellent. It had a wonderful richness and intensity but wasn’t excessively sweet enabling us to really savour the flavour of the chocolate. It also had the perfect balance of pudding exterior and gooey centre.

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The second dessert was cinnamon donut balls with a custard centre served with a glass of chocolate sauce and cream. Utterly decadent. Once again the flavours were well balanced so that it wasn’t excessively sweet. I was really pleased to be able to taste all the different elements in each mouthful.

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Ok, we overindulged. But the food was so good that we couldn’t resist it and will certainly return for another helping.

Malaysian by May

I will be the first to admit that I was a latecomer to the Supper Club scene. In case there are others who have yet to discover this phenomenon, I shall explain. Supper Clubs are effectively underground set-menu restaurants hosted in the homes of the cooks/chefs. Diners are treated to several courses and asked to make a recommended donation towards the cost of the meal. The events are BYO.

I originally heard about Supper Clubs through a friend. Intrigued, I trawled the Internet searching for opportunities to attend. Initially I struggled to find information. Eventually it became apparent that Supper Clubs vary considerably in their lavishness and culinary sophistication. So far, I’ve found The London Foodie really helpful in identifying excellent Supper Clubs.

This weekend I attended the Malaysian by May Supper Club. While I have eaten Malaysian food, I don’t have a great depth of knowledge of this type of cuisine. I have a trip to Malaysia at the end of this year so this seemed an excellent opportunity to expand my understanding in preparation.

Upon arrival I was greeted by one of the hosts and presented with a G and T. We were asked to arrive at 7:30pm for 8:00pm, providing ample opportunity to mingle with my co-diners. One of the wonderful aspects of Supper Clubs is that they are very friendly and sociable events. While chatting and sipping our complimentary apératifs, we were offered canapés of waterchestnut and chicken moneybags with sweet chilli dipping sauce. They were beautifully golden and crispy and I greedily indulged in a second one when the opportunity arose.

Just after 8:00pm we were invited to seat ourselves for the begining of our eight-course Malaysian feast. Dining was a communal experience, with groups seated between two large tables. Again, a fantastic way to meet other people with a similar passion for great food.

Dinner started with a gado gado salad. Rather than serving individual portions, each table was provided with a large platter which was passed around for diners to serve themselves with as much as they wished. This gado gado was different from others I’ve tried previously. The eggs, which I’ve always were thought were a fundamental component of the dish, were substituted with boiled potato. As a non-egg eater I saw this as an improvement, although some of my companions found this adjustment to be a little odd. The dish was also composed of cabbage, bean shoots, and green beans. The salad was unmixed, with each element of the dish separated on the platter and the satay sauce poured over the top. The satay was excellent, comprising a strong peanut taste married with a gentle sweetness, an undertone of fishsauce and a little bite of chilli at the end. Personally, I was gratified by its similarity to a satay sauce I made a few months ago. It was a really good starter and I had to resist the urge to take a second helping, knowing there was much more to come.

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When the second course arrived I knew I’d made the right decision. It was pork belly buns and they were amazing! The texture of the bun was outstanding. Beautiful and soft and so flavoursome. The pork belly was succulent and beautifully marinated so that the the natural flavour of the pork was still prominent and enhanced by the additional Malaysian tastes. The buns were also filled with thin slices of cucumber, and a sprinkling of fresh coriander and finely chopped spring onions. If there had been seconds on this course, I wouldn’t have been able to resist!

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Next item was spicy clams in bean sauce. These were served in individual bowls. There was a lot of sauce in each dish and it actually felt more like a soup. The flavours were gentle and earthy and so good I just drank what remained once I’d finished the clams.

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Continuing the seafood theme each table was served with two large bowls of tamarind prawns to share amongst the guests. The prawns were served with heads removed, but unpeeled. This meant the flavour of the prawns was not overpowered by the tamarind dressing. Having said this, the marinade had a very subtle taste, although there was a powerful hit of chilli. While the pork belly was my favourite element of the meal, I was so eager to devour the prawns that I forgot to take a photo.

Finally we reached the main course. Bowls of delicious food were constantly passed up an down the tables as we continued to overindulge. We were treated to:
• coconut rice with pandan leaves and raw peanuts
• sambal eggs
• chicken rendang
• tofu and coconut vegetable stew

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It was good! It was so good I even ate the eggs and enjoyed them. Although I was getting full by this point, I kept picking at the dishes. A morsel of chicken. A little piece of tofu. It was just too good to allow it to go to waste.

Having said that, when we reached dessert I was just too glutted to finish it. It was a shame because it was a nice dish of sago with coconut milk and palm sugar. I made the mistake of stirring mine together and lost the contrast of the different elements. Still I’ve learnt something for next time.

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Overall it was a fantastic meal and I would definitely recommend this Supper Club to others. May and Luiz, bravo!

Meat Liquor

It was a lazy Saturday afternoon and my boyfriend and I finally decided to leave the house and engage with the day. Five minutes later we reached the point of peckishness. It was a choice between a snack and home for a meal later or heading out for an early dinner. My boyfriend suggested going to Meat Liquor. He’d walked past it a couple of times and been tempted by the meaty odour wafting from the entrance. The prospect of a lengthy queue aside (strict no bookings policy you see), we decided to give it a try.

We arrived late afternoon and were already the fifth group in the queue. Through the frosted windows we could see the place was packed. The scent of sizzling grilled beef was tantalising. There was even some light drooling as waited.

By the time we were seated it was 6pm. We were fortunate to be given a space of our own. It was clear that other tables were accommodating more than one group.

In terms of the menu, Meat Liquor certainly lives up to its name. The centrefold consists entirely alcohol. Starters are greasy classics and choice of main is pretty much burger, burger or burger. Well unless you’re prepared to bear the shame of ordering from the “rabbit food” section.

We decided to share a starter of buffalo wings with blue cheese sauce for starters and both went for the “dead hippie” burger, sharing a portion of fries. This burger consists of two patties, lettuce, onions, pickles and american cheese. We were a bit worried that two patties might be too much, but were reassured by the staff that the patties were smaller. More on that later.

I should have mentioned that my boyfriend is American, so can testify to the authenticity of this style of food. Unfortunately in this case the buffalo wings failed completely. Hot buffalo wings they were not, in fact I couldn’t detect any spiciness at all. To be fair though, the meat itself was flavoursome and succulent. Onto the burgers. Here the disappointment really set in. We both took one bite and looked at each other, waiting to see what the other thought. The burger was really greasy. Hours later and having washed my hands several times I could still feel the oil on my hands. We needn’t gave worried about the burgers being too filling, they were surprisingly small. Thank goodness we had starters and fries. And while the flavours were good, they weren’t great and to be honest I thought the burgers were overcooked.

I could talk about the decor, as other reviewers have, but quite frankly I’m far more interested in the food. And to be honest I wasn’t that impressed. Call me crazy, but I wish we’d just gone to Byron where the queues are shorter, the burgers are bigger and better and the chocolate malt milkshake puts a smile on my face every time.