Friday, 24 February 2012

Food/house hunting

The prospect of moving house is always exciting for me. It brings new foodie horizons, new grocery stores, cafes, brunch spots, hidden gems. It's almost exactly two years since we started looking to move to Newington Green, all excited about moving a bit east. We love it here, but we're keen to buy and can't afford the crazy prices around here, so we're looking further east into Hackney. My dream is Lower Clapton, around Chatsworth Road ,and we've been spending more and more time over there, trying out local cafes and shops, cycling the streets and picturing myself living there full time.

Chatsworth Road is an interesting street, higgledy-piggledy Victorian buildings, a mixture of African, Caribbean, Turkish, working class and artsy cafes, shops and take-aways, part run down, part polished up,  views of Canary Wharf at one end and slopes down to the luscious Hackney Marshes at the other. In the Victorian times right through to the mid 90s it held a regular street market, which has been reinvigorated in the last year. I've been a number of times over the past few months, and it promises many delicious eating options - dickensian classics! Japanese street food! Cakes! Artisan cheese and bread!

But the first up I tried out the Moroccan stall outside Epicerie 56, a lovely well-stocked and fairly priced deli. Meat and pastries were sizzling away, and it was a beautiful winter day.

I ordered a chicken bastilla - a thin filo patty, with the most perfumed, aromatic filling you can imagine. Brown chicken meat was mixed with almonds, cinammon, orange blossom and other spices. Just the most exotic and otherworldly taste, but so warm and comforting on a cold day.

We sat on little stools on the street corner and watched families stopping to chat, hipster strumming guitars, kids playing down the side rode. I could definitely live here.

Finger lickin' happiness

I always find it strange when people who know me quite well assume I'm a vegetarian. I mean, I do live close to Stoke Newington, and I am very nice. But have you never heard me rave about meat? I was eating ribs for the second time this week, this time at my desk in the office, and a colleague suggested I might not be keen on them. Obviously they didn't hear me gushing about my trip to Pitt Cue Co on Monday. It was so good that I am going to rave about it here again, and there it is, immortalised on the interwebs.

Pitt Cue Co is the latest in a series of street food type outlets that have been so successful on the streets that they have made it onto permanent premises. MeatLiquor, of course, recently opened in the West End after building up a dedicated following in SE London and elsewhere. Lucky Chip, my personal favourite burger joint, is straddling the gap with a residency in the newly rejuvenated Sebright Arms. And now Pitt Cue Co has opened a dinky little place in a Soho backwater. As with all the best hyped places, demand massively outstrips supply and so getting there early and queueing is absolutely necessary.

We arrived at 6.30 on a Monday and waited about 45 minutes for a table (we could have had a stool after 25). But happily, we were in the cosy bar at ground level and cocktails and craft beers were on the menu. I opted for a delicious New York Sours, expertly mixed. Downstairs there can't be more than 20 seats, all intimately arranged, but enough room to get those elbows out and pick up some sticky ribs.

The menu is simple - there are St Louis ribs, beef ribs, pulled pork and a couple of daily specials. You can have them on a plate with pickles, chipotle slaw, and a side. Or you can have your meat in a roll. And there are other sides, such as spicy chicken wings, or duck hearts with pomegranate. I opted for the St Louis ribs with a side of mash with burnt ends - my dining parnter had a pulled pork roll, and we shared a side of the spicy chicken wings with pickled celery.

My main was just delicious - the ribs were lightly smoky from their long, slow, pitt-smoked cook, and came in a sticky, smoky sauce. The meat was unbelievably tender, and just a little pungent, as ribs should be. The chipotle in the slaw was subtle, but the mash was king of the sides, so so buttery and the burnt ends (the fatty, crispy ends of a smoked brisket) were so so sweet, salty and sticky. Just wonderful.

The wings too were nice - also slightly smoky (hey, they're not cooked on a smoke pit for nothing!) and in a warm, tomato sauce. The pickled celery went well with it.

So you might be thinking we'd be full by this point? I mean, we really ought to be. But you don't wait 45 minutes for a table just for one course. There were two desserts on that day - a snickers mess, and bourbon soaked sticky toffee pudding, with salted caramel sauce and amaretto ice cream. Of course we went for one of each.

The snickers mess was just the ultimate in excess. At the bottom a gooey chocolatey peanut meringue, then with lots of chocolate sauce, cream, caramel sauce, peanut brittle, ice cream. The combined effect was utter artery clogging pleasure. The sticky toffee pudding, more conventional, was equally delicious. The bourbon soaking gave the sponge a nice aromatic richness, perfectly complemented by the salted caramel sauce and the dreamy amaretto ice cream. I'd tell my vegetarian friends to queue up just for desserts. That good.

So Pitt Cue is truly the best meal I've had in 2012 so far. Oh, and did I mention it was about £26 per person all in, with all that food and a cocktail each? I'll be going back for sure. And I recommend you get there early with an empty stomach to make the most of it.