Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan, 330 Ballards Lane, West Finchely N12 0EY

Visited Wednesday 4 January 2012

Azerbaijan was looking like another DIY job when we went to Azeri on Edgware Road in late December, only to find it had shut down. However, a last gasp Google search turned up the Sunrise Cafe on Caledonian Road, a kebab shop with an under-the-counter Azerbaijani menu. So we were all set for that, but then further Googling revealed the expensive-looking Baku in Knightsbridge, and the more affordable Azerbaijan, where we ended up.

Scores

Food: 3/5

Atmosphere: 3/5

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Austria

Tiroler Hut, 27 Westbourne Grove, Bayswater, W2 4UA

Visited Friday 4 November 2011

Massive dumpling, sausage flower garnish

Hilarious. Complete contrast to Australia, which let us down by being tastefully international. There can be no doubting which country Tiroler Hut is representing.
~ Steve

The Tiroler Hut delivered Austria as soon as you stepped through the single, red and white canopied doorway on Westbourne Grove and just kept on delivering all night long. You descend down a narrow stairway and emerge in what appears to be an Austrian alpine hut, complete with a bar selling huge steins of Austrian beer, waiters in lederhosen, wooden beams overhead and mock-up windows which look onto alpine snowscapes full of happy skiers.

The menu is unflinchingly Austrian with sausages and sauerkraut featuring largely. I started off with Ungarische Krautroulade, cabbage rolls stuffed with meat of some variety and followed this with Schweinsbraten mit Semmelknödel und Sauerkraut dazu viel Bratensaft, translation: roast pork with bread dumplings and sauerkraut (that’s pickled cabbage for those who don’t know). Joe was brave and went for pickled herring to start, he claimed it was delicious but I wasn’t tempted to test this statement, followed by Kassler with potatoes and more sauerkraut. Kassler holds a special place in my heart as a food of my childhood. It is a smoked pork joint, a bit like gammon but oh so much better, in fact to compare it to gammon is like comparing a frankfurter with a Cumberland sausage. I lived in Germany as a child and fell in love with it then. It is impossible to come by in the UK although M&S do a smoked pork loin which is as close as you can get this side of the Channel. It was as always mouth-wateringly divine and I regretted deciding to try something new and letting Joe have it in my place.

Steve’s main course was undoubtedly the highlight of the culinary experience – Bauernschmaus, described as a Tyrolean peasant favourite, was a collection of other dishes including my roast pork, kassler, dumplings, sauerkraut and topping it off in true trophy style triumph – a sausage carefully crafted into the shape of a flower and splayed in all it’s glory on a cocktail stick above the plate. Never have I seen so fallic a display atop a dish intended for someone’s consumption.

Dessert was an absolute treat with Apfelstrudel, Kaiserschmarrn – an Austrian pancake with raisins and cream, and the Tiroler Hut special sundae which combined ice cream, chocolate and cherries with lashings of Kirsch and whipped cream.

As if the red and white table clothes, pints of beer and touristy memorabilia around the walls weren’t Austrian enough, the entire evening was raucous and filled with live music. We had yodelling from an elderly gent early on in the evening and from that point on the night became increasingly surreal. Along with the entire soundtrack of the Sound of Music, came a series of well-known pop songs in German, a stuffed toy goat which sang and yodelled, a sing-along version of Eidelweiss and a grand finale played with cow bells. Audience interaction was rife and the noise level several decibels above what was comfortable. The whole thing was cheesy and ridiculously gimmick-packed but it was one of the most enjoyable nights I’ve had in a long while and I came away feeling like I’d disappeared from the streets of London for a few hours on a visit to an Austrian mountain-side.

The food was good and the entertainment hilarious. It is incredibly busy though so if you’re planning on going make sure you book ahead.
~ Sophie

Food: 3/5
Atmosphere: 5/5

Australia

Barossa, 277 New Kings Road, Parsons Green, SW6 4RD

Visited Friday 23 September 2011

For Australia we headed down the New Kings Road to a swish bistro-bar hybrid by the name of Barossa which was disappointingly lacking in Australian character. The food was tasty and the surroundings pleasant but it didn’t say ‘Australia’ and the Kangaroo steak that was shown on the online menu was not on the in-house version.

I had the tea-smoked duck breast with orange segments, fresh blackberries, and an orange emulsion, it was beautifully presented and you could definitely taste the tea. Other starters were pan seared baby squid, chorizo & new potato salad with a suspiciously Moroccan fresh mint & harissa drizzle and salt & pepper prawn skewers with thai style nahm jim dipping sauce. So far so not Australian.

Mains were slightly more on theme with an Australian beef fillet steak with hand cut chips – lets face it the meat may have come from Australia but you can get it here too – and roast chicken supreme with thyme & parmesan polenta and wild mushroom sauce. Dessert was disappointing with the usual trot out of sticky toffee pudding, eton mess and ice cream.

It was a great restaurant for a night out with friends, the food was good and beautifully presented and usually I would have come away happy, but I was looking for something more, something Australian, and on that it failed to deliver. ~ S

Scores

Food: 3/5

Atmosphere: 1/5

Armenia

Erebuni, Bayswater, 36 – 37 Lancaster Gate, W2 3NA.

Visited Friday 2 September 2011

I was dreading going to Erebuni, a small Armenian restaurant in Bayswater, having read Alex Renton’s article in the Times entitled ‘Is this the worst dish in the world?’ which described Armenia’s national delicacy – Khash.

The tale of Khash’s rise to status as a dish of delicacy is dubious. Once upon a time (so the story goes) an Armenian king noticed that his servant’s children were healthier than his own sickly offspring and so inquired as to their diet. The servant explained that when cows were slaughtered the rich took all the meat and the poor were given what was left – the feet. From this they made a soup of cows hooves and bovine brain boiled for 32 hours. So the king ordered that this be served to him and his children and so Khash became the dish of the rich.

It was therefore, with trepidation that I would approach any Armenian restaurant. I was even more anxious when I looked at the website which declared ‘we are waiting for you to join us for Euro 2012 qualifier Republic of Ireland vs. Armenia’ followed by ‘Live music every Friday and Saturday night’. Visions of shouting football fans combined with loud rock/folk music passed through my head. Let’s be honest, I couldn’t be prepared for worse.

My suspicions seemed about to be proven right as we entered the lobby of a fairly seedy Fawlty Towers-esque hotel and were pointed down a small tiled corridor to a service lift which creaked and strained down to the basement level, landed with a jolt and took an ominous minute before finally opening. Down another small corridor lined with lace curtains we entered the restaurant itself. Reminiscent of breakfast rooms in the hotels of continental Europe it is a fairly small pair of rooms with a recessed bar and decked out with authentic Armenian merchanise, from bright oil paintings to woven tapestry panels. With dark wood tables and red hangings  it is recognisably the set of the film Eastern Promises starring Viggo Mortenson. We’d managed to establish from the photographs on the website of the cast and crew with the restaurant owner, that Erebuni had been used in the making of Eastern Promises but were surprised how much smaller the space was than in the film. When we mentioned this to the owner he merely waved his hand around and said, ‘they use computers’.

The restaurant seems to be a family affair, with the father serving drinks behind the bar, spending most of the night chatting to family and friends who arrive throughout the evening, the daughter waitressing and the son, or possibly nephew, providing the live music. This is perhaps the time to mention the live music. Despite my scepticism this was brilliant and made the evening. The setup was small, with an electronic keyboard, laptop, microphone and an amazing electronic violin and the music a mixture of traditional Armenian folk with Armenian mainstream.

The food came not only as a surprise but as a real revelation. All three starters, mains and desserts were superb. I had the Emenbajady as a starter which was a melt-in-your-mouth dish of spiced aubergines, peppers and onion with a tomato sauce. Steve had Basturma, thinly sliced dried beef coated in curried spices which was like nothing I’ve ever tasted before and will definitely be going back to taste again and the Writer took Sekhtorats, a spicy aubergine dish similar to babaganoush.

The mains exceeded the high standard set by the starters. The writer ordered the traditional Dolma-Echmiadzin, vine leaves stuffed with spiced mince lamb and rice with a garlic and yoghurt dip. Steve had the centre piece of rainbow trout, delicately flavoured with an Armenian sauce and I went for the vegetarian dish Hailasan, described as ‘one of the most delicious Armenian vegetarian dishes’, it was a blend of potatoes, red peppers, onions, green beans, courgettes, tomatoes and fresh herbs poached in tomato sauce on a bed of rice. The vegetables and style of cooking is very similar to mediterranean cuisine but the spicing is closer to middle eastern making everything we ate deliciously new and different.

Desserts sounded distinctly unexciting ‘Armenian chocolate cake’ being one of them. However, keen to do the whole experience justice we ordered and were pleased we had when a series of light and delicate patisserie style cakes appeared. The Armenian honey and walnut cake comes highly recommended. We followed this with Armenian coffee, a thick bitter espresso similar to Turkish coffee. You drink half way down the cup before finding the bottom full of thick gritty liquid which quickly solidifies when it meets the air. Not wanting to leave we decided to sample the Armenian cognac, golden and potent it’s worth parting with an extra £5. Full and swaying, lulled by the Armenian folk music, we were greeted by the restaurants owner with the Armenian version of ‘paying-the-bill-mints’ – vodka shots. Harsh Armenian vodka for the men, and flavoured vodka for the ladies. Warm hospitality, great atmosphere, live music, divine food.

Armenia. The best restaurant of the world so far. So take that Alex Renton. ~ S

 

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Argentina

Buenos Aires, 345 Fulham Palace Road, Fulham, SW6 6TD.

Visited Thursday 14 July 2011.

Argentina signals a return to the original premise of ‘restaurants of the world in London’; eating the country’

s cuisine at a London restaurant. We were spoilt for choice for authentic Argentine grub. From the famous wallet-damaging Gaucho to smaller one-off brasseries there are plenty of Argentine restaurants ready to fill you full of grass fed beef and red wine. Having read that Argentina is famed for its beef we were determined to eat great steak.

After some debate we settled for somewhere in the middle, on a Fulham street, a family-run swankily decorated bar-come-restaurant called Buenos Aires.

The staff were Argentine and extremely welcoming. We had a good bottle of red wine and a selection of small starters, including empanadas and stuffed aubergines which were delicious.

The restaurant serves a range of steaks in varying cuts, sizes and breeds, though all Argentine beef. These are accompanied by chips (because you can’t have steak without chips) with the option of several speciality sauces. The mushroom sauce was delicious although no different to good mushroom sauce at other steak restaurants. The Argentine speciality sauce was disappointing. Not because it was badly executed or poorly flavoured but because it was essentially sliced red pepper and onion in a bath of olive oil. More an accompaniment than a sauce.

The steaks were all extremely good, delicious and marbled with thin veins of fat, beautifully cooked, everything in fact that you could want in a steak. I was however, a tiny bit disappointed. Not because of the food, it was good food, but because I was expecting something really special from Argentine beef. You hear people rave about it, my parents friends in particular always rave about the quality of Argentina’s main export. But I was underwhelmed. It was good beef, great beef even, but it wasn’t the best lump of cow I’ve ever tasted. It does not match up to the local Welsh rump steak we buy from the village butcher every year on our summer holiday in Pembrokeshire. Hung until it’s black and cooked with only the most minimal seasoning over a home barbeque, British beef tops the Argentine contribution anytime. I’d go so far as to say that Buenos Aires steak was the best steak I’ve had in a restaurant but it’s not going to beat the British in Britain.

Desserts were interesting twists on classic dishes. I had a dulce de leche crème brulee and the writer had a dulce de leche cheesecake. Both were delicious although slightly marred by the blob of dulce de leche which had been squeezed onto the side to resemble what can only be described as a dog turd. A sad ending for a truly divine national delicacy.

All in all Argentina was a safe success but it packed a rather hollow punch after some of our previous more action-filled culinary adventures.

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Antigua & Barbuda

Cooked Thursday 23 June 2011

Caribbean restaurants are tricky because they are usually just “Caribbean”, without specifying the island(s). So again, we did it ourselves, this time at Sophie’s family home in Woking. Sophie’s starter was brown and lumpy; Joe’s main involved the dreaded pigeon peas; Steve’s dessert was a disgrace of which more will be told soon.

You would think that finding Caribbean cuisine in London would be a synch. And you would be right. But finding a restaurant that specifically cooks food from Antigua and Barbuda is another matter. As you would expect, dear reader, we did our very best to overcome the odds, making desperate phone calls to a wide variety of Caribbean restaurants and asking their confused owners and chefs for their ethnic origin. We hit a brick wall and so Antigua like Angola before it was fated to be a do-it-yourself feast.

The Writer was in charge of the main course on this occasion and his list of ingredients for Pepperpot Stew filled me with dread. Top offender was corned beef. Now, now, I hear you saying, it could be worse, it could be Spam. And yes, you would have a point, it could be Spam but actually nothing fills me with more horror and revulsion than the red, gravel patterned, glistening lump of rectangular flesh that is corned beef, squelching from the can with a wet, mocking, flump. My aversion to corned beef has its roots in the days of school dinners when corned beef fritters were a weekly feature on our canteen blackboard. Bearing in mind I went to an army school in Germany, those were the days when there was no such thing as choice (I don’t think they even had a vegetarian option), you just got whatever they had cooked and quite often that was corned beef fritters. We also had a dictatorial table system – each child was assigned a table according to their age, two of each year group at each table. The tables were lined up in Oliver Twist style rows complete with a year 6 ‘server’ at the head of each table, dishing up the sauerkraut and flaccid grey broccoli. Their job was to see that every last mouthful was eaten by all the children on their table, and if it wasn’t, there was NO PUDDING.

You can imagine then, my hatred of corned beef fritters. As a child who adored puddings there was no other solution than to force every last gobbet of oily, fetid meat down my unwilling gullet. Corned beef fritters are a catch-22. You can either eat them straight away whilst the oil from the batter is still hot enough to burn your tongue and the meat within adheres to the roof of your mouth, or you can wait until they are cold, when the slimy, rubbery rectangle of meat has come away from the greasy wet cardboard of the batter so that if you cut off one end of the batter and tipped the casing upside down the meat would slip out and land with a belly flop on your plate. There is no in between. Now you understand why I hate corned beef.

There were other undesirable ingredients in the Pepperpot Stew, including pigeon peas, a variety of split pea which came in a tin from Atif’s (our local Asian supermarket), grey in colour and smelling like a mixture of clay and vomit, their appearance was not dissimilar to the mushy peas that sometimes accompanied corned beef fritters. Nevertheless, the stew proved to be surprisingly tasty. Once past the faint permeating taste of corned beef which had disintegrated, thereby infiltrating the entire pot, the chunks of pork belly, squash and yam were filling and tasty whilst the sauce was infused with the warmth of scotch bonnet chilli. Whilst Pepperpot can be found throughout the Caribbean the addition of spinach is apparently what makes it uniquely Antiguan.

The black bean cake starter and the pineapple and cherry trifle dessert were cooked by myself and Steve respectively and were both culinary disasters but both extremely delicious. I have included the recipes for both with the adaptations required to (hopefully) rectify the problems. Mine was a disaster because the black bean cakes refused to stick together and so ended up as half-cooked blobs that can only be described as looking like dog turds. Steve’s was a disaster because it involved eight raw eggs which at no point did the recipe require you to cook. Terrified by the thought of poisoning us all he cooked it in the oven, turning it into something resembling bread-and-butter pudding, I think this was actually a culinary triumph against all the odds. I had seconds.

After our three course dinner I discovered that the rum in the liquor cabinet had mysteriously evaporated so we were left to find the next best thing – Tia Maria, which claims to be from Jamaica, and which was bought at the NAAFI store in Germany around the same time as I was being served up corned beef fritters with mushy peas. It’s potent stuff.

Black Bean Cakes

So yer… well it tasted alright

Ingredients

2 cups cooked black beans, ½ cup finely chopped onion, 1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin, 1 tablespoon finely chopped jalapeno chilli, cornstarch, and 2 tablespoons olive oil.

Method

Use a food processor to prepare the black beans, onion, cumin, and jalapeno, pulsing them until smooth. Then add 1 tablespoon of water to help blend. Use salt and pepper to taste. Next, shape the bean paste into small cakes using 2 tablespoons of bean mixture for each. Then, line a baking sheet with plastic wrap and dust with cornstarch to prevent the mixture from sticking.

Now, heat a small amount of oil in a large frying pan before adding the black bean cakes. Cook the cakes to a crispy brown (about 3 minutes per side), then transfer to platter and keep warm.

I suspect that my mixture failed to form into neat cakes due to too much water – this is probably because I used canned black beans. If you are also using canned I suggest leaving out the tbsp of water.

Pepperpot Stew with Fungee

The grey blobs are pigeon peas *shudder*

Ingredients for Pepperpot Stew

1 tin pigeon peas
300g corned beef, cut into 1-inch pieces
500g belly pork
2 tins water
1 large onion, chopped
4 spring onions, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 fresh Scotch bonnet chili, seeded and minced
1 can chopped tomatoes
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 tbsp chopped fresh chives
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 medium aubergine, cut into 1-inch pieces
Half butternut squash (instead of calabaza) cut into 1-inch pieces
230g white yam, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
115g fresh spinach, stemmed, well washed, and coarsely chopped
black pepper to taste.

Method

In a casserole dish, bring the corned beef, pork, and water to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 1 1/2 hours or until the meat is tender. Drain the meat, reserving both the meat and the cooking liquid. Heat the oil in the dish over medium heat. Add the onion, spring onions, garlic, and chilli pepper. Cook, stirring often, until the onion has softened. Stir in the tomatoes, tomato paste, chives, and thyme. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in the aubergine, squash, and white yam and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often. Stir in the reserved cooking liquid and the meat. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring often, until the vegetables are tender. Stir in the cooked pigeon peas and the spinach, and cook for about 5 minutes until the spinach has wilted. Season with the pepper to taste depending on the hotness of the chilli.

The Writer just ignored all of the directions and made a big stew, cooking for 2 hours and then reducing slightly before serving.

Ingredients for Fungee

4 cups water
2 cups corn meal
1 tsp salt to taste
6 okra, cut into small pieces

Method

Place water, okra and salt in a pan. Bring to the boil until the okra are cooked. Remove half the liquid. Stir with a wooden spoon. Add enough cold water to the corn meal to form a pasty batter when mixed. Add the wet corn meal to the okra. Reduce the heat and stir continuously with a wooden spoon until the mixture becomes fairly stiff. When the mixture breaks away cleanly from the pan (i.e it does not stick), the fungee is ready. Butter a bowl, turn the mixture into the bowl, shaking it into the shape of the bowl, then turn it out into a serving dish.

Pineapple and Cherry Trifle/Bread-and-Butter Pudding

Ingredients

Better known as bread-and-butter pudding

2 cups butter
2 cups sugar
1 Pan levi (Angolan cake)
2 medium can of crushed pineapple
1 small jar of cherry

8 eggs
Rum
Vanilla essence

Method

Beat the butter until creamy before adding the sugar a little at a time. Drain the pineapple and cherries and separate the eggs. Reserve the pineapple and cherry juice for later use. Add the pineapple, sliced cherries and egg yolks to the butter and sugar and incorporate. Beat the egg whites well until they thicken and add this to the mixture as well.

Make a syrup with the pineapple and cherry juice, some vanilla and rum. Slices the pan levi into three layers and moisten with the syrup. Spread some of the creamy fruit mixture onto the first layer of the pan levi and sprinkle some syrup over the top. Close with the second layer and repeat. On the top of the cake spread the rest of the cream and syrup. Garnish with pineapple and cherry.

If, like Steve, you are concerned about the quantity of raw eggs in this, pop it into the oven for 20 minutes at 200C and you’ll create something not unlike bread-and-butter pudding.

Scores

Food: 2/5

Angola

Cooked Monday 23 May 2011

After 2 failed attempts to visit the now-defunct Ana’n’Gola in Forest Gate, we gave up and did it ourselves at Steve’s flat in Streatham. Joe’s starter was a portmanteau involving various typical Angolan ingredients; Steve’s main some kind of stew plus gunk called Funge; Sophie’s dessert was sweet and coconutty.

I feel that before I can write anything about forays to London restaurants I had better explain the origins of the ‘Restaurants of the world in London’ challenge.

The challenge was first concocted by my friend Steve who told myself and the Writer about his plan approximately two years ago at which point we thought it was such a brilliant idea that we would jump onboard. The basic concept is to eat the cuisine of every sovereign state of the world at a London restaurant in alphabetical order. For a list of all 193 internationally-recognised sovereign states you can check the internationally-recognised knowledge source known as wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_sovereign_states

So far we have eaten the cuisines of Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria and Andorra. As you can see at an average of one restaurant every 6 months it really will be a challenge to complete Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria and Azerbaijan in just 18.

Since embarking on this culinary journey we have come across a number of obstacles, not least with our latest country – Angola. The quest for an Angolan restaurant has been a long one ending last week. Just before Christmas Steve managed to track down a restaurant called Ana’N’Gola in Forest Gate. Having failed to get through to the restaurant on their stated phone number – it appeared to have been disconnected – he managed to speak to the lady working at the launderette next door who assured us that the restaurant was still there but had unfixed opening hours but, she said, it is almost always open in the evening on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

Having endured a tedious and extensive tube and train journey to reach the outskirts of Forest Gate we arrived one fateful Thursday evening. We strolled down the main Forest Gate road past Club ‘Dhoom’ and about ten African supermarkets until we reached the garish orange sign of Ana’N’Gola, firmly shuttered and definitely closed. At this stage we were tired and incredibly hungry not to say downhearted. We decided that we would have to eat something in Forest Gate and having retraced our steps to the station we entered Spice whose billboard declared they served ‘Indian food with a Moroccan twist’. We munched our way through some fairly average Indian fare surrounded by the Moroccan twist – low carved tables, lanterns and leather pouffes. Whilst eating our meal we became aware of some mysterious comings and goings between the street and the back room of the restaurant. Intrigued by the completely unrelated cuisine and decore and the clientele disappearing through the back entrance, we inquired of the waiter the back-story of the restaurant. After explaining that they had found Moroccan food did not go down well with the locals due to the language barrier with their Moroccan Berber-speaking chef he seemed to have decided we were an alright set of customers and clearly not undercover cops. Looking around him he asked if we would like to see the rest of the decore which was in the room round the back. Slightly fearing for our safety we agreed and passing through a narrow curtained doorway we entered a smoke filled room packed with locals smoking Shisha and watching music videos on a large screen TV. And that was our first attempt to eat Angolan food.

Our second venture down to Forest Gate two months later also ended in tragedy. This time having passed Club Dhoom and arrived at the spot where Ana’N’Gola stood we witnessed the garish orange sign being lowered down to the ground by a man on a step-ladder and replaced by one declaring the opening of a new Ghanain restaurant. At least we’ll know where to go when we get to G.

Having twice failed miserably to eat Angolan food after an overlong journey we settled on the next best thing – making it ourselves. For a starter the Writer made us a modern take on Angolan ingredients, creating a scallop, prawn and peanut stack with a clementine creme-fraiche, using the main Angolan food exports.

Steve made a main course of Chicken Muamba, a hearty stew using squash, okra and traditional palm oil. I made the classic Angolan dessert Cocada Amarela, a Portuguese inspired coconutty custard. If you fancy trying either of these Angolan delicacies try out the recipes below.

Whilst Angola has been the most difficult cuisine to track down it has definitely been the most exciting and if you ever find yourself in Forest Gate don’t forget to check out the back room at Spice for the Moroccan twist.

Chicken Muamba

Make a marinade of 4 crushed garlic cloves, 1 tsp chilli flakes, 1 tbsp lemon juice and some salt and pepper. Marinade 4 large chicken legs for at least an hour. Heat palm oil in a large, deep pan. (Deep is important because the oil spits and is bright orange!) Brown the chicken pieces on all sides and remove. Soften 2 chopped onions and 4 cloves of garlic in the oil, then add 1 tin of tomatoes, chilli flakes to taste, seasoning and cook a little longer. Replace the chicken and add 1 small cubed butternut squash and 14 okra, tops cut off. Add 250ml water and bring to the boil. Turn down heat and simmer for 45 minutes (or cook in oven at 180C for same time). Serve with white rice seasoned with ground cumin and coriander.

Cocada Amarela

Combine the 2 cups sugar, 4 cloves and water in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Continue boiling until syrup reaches 110°C on a candy thermometer. Reduce heat to low, remove the cloves and add 3 cups grated coconut. Mix thoroughly and cook for 10 minutes on a low heat. Remove from the heat and leave to cool. Place 12 egg yolks in a deep bowl and beat for 1 minute with an electric mixer. Stir in 1 cup of the coconut mixture and then pour the egg mixture into the saucepan with the rest of the coconut mix. Cook for a further 10 minutes on a medium heat. Pour into individual dessert dishes and sprinkle with cinnamon. Refrigerate for 2 hours before serving.

Scores

Food: 3/5

Algeria

Azou, 375 King Street, Hammersmith. W6 9NJ

Visited Monday 9 November 2009

Azou came as a very pleasant improvement on Albania and was the top A so far. I don’t remember exactly what we all had, but the atmosphere and decor was very nice, the food was delicious and the Algerian proprietor came out and talked to us and was very informative about which dishes on the menu were more typically Algerian than others. I had Tajine Zitoune, with chicken, olives and preserved lemons.

Recommended.

Scores

Food: 3/5

Atmosphere: 3/5

Albania

Visited 16 September 2009.

Alba Grill, 5 Malvern Road, West Kilburn NW6 5PS.

Finding an Albanian restaurant to represent Albania as a country was more tricky than expected, because the majority of Albanian eateries we found were Kosovan. Eventually, we identified the Alba Grill, a fairly spartan establishment one step up from a simple kebab shop. On arrival we saw that the laminated menu had a paper addendum promising Authentic Albanian Dishes, so we were in the right place.

My recall of the details is sketchy now, but the overriding memory is of meat. Basically what we got was a massive sharing plate piled high with meat of all kinds: sausages of many types, pieces of steak, pork, gammon. There may have been chicken as well but on reflection that probably wouldn’t have been meaty enough. All this served with a suggestion of salad, so little of it that it must have been there to satisfy some EU requirement rather than function as a genuine component of the dish. Other than that, the ony vegetables on display were a number of large green chilis. The meat was certainly very nice, but there was just so much of it. Even after we all ate more than was really sensible, the meat mountain remained merely dented.

So, it seems we are no match for the hearty appetites of Albania. They are welcome to their brawn; bring on the tasting menu. ~SB

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